The UAB Office of Postdoctoral Education (OPE) was established in 1999 and was one of the first Postdoctoral offices in the country. Since its inception, the OPE has been instrumental in establishing and maintaining competitive terms, benefits and training programs for all postdoctoral fellows. At UAB, approximately 250 postdoctoral fellows are training currently in a variety of disciplines, including biomedical sciences, dentistry, engineering, health professions, clinical medicine, natural sciences and mathematics, public health, optometry, and social and behavioral sciences. The demographics of this postdoctoral community are 55% US citizen or permanent resident, including 55% female, and 19% underrepresented minority. Because of its commitment to the success of postdoctoral fellows, UAB ranks consistently as one of the top ten locations among US academic institutions for training postdoctoral scholars. In 2013, the final year of the survey, The Scientist ranked UAB firstamong all academic institutions nationwide.

Orientation: All new postdocs at UAB are required to attend a Postdoc Orientation during their first year; orientations are offered twice a year. Orientation includes information from UAB administrators in the offices of the OPE, Institutional Review Board, Conflict of Interest Review Board, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, Occupational Health and Safety Office, Grants and Contracts Administration, among others. In addition, the orientation includes sessions on the responsible conduct of research, institutional compliance, and individual development plan (IDP) training.

Instruction in the responsible conduct of research. In addition to the ethics training included during the required orientation session, the following opportunities and resources are available for additional research ethics instruction.

a. written materials: All postdoctoral scholars receive copies of the following ethics resources: 1) "On Being a Scientist" published by the National Academy of Sciences; and 2) the UAB misconduct policy.

b. seminars and symposia: Established in 1998 by the University of Alabama Trustees, the UAB Center for Ethics and Values in Science offers seminars and symposia that discuss issues related to scientific integrity and research ethics training. The Center seeks to be a focal point both on campus and nationally for discussion of value issues in science. Recent symposia hosted by the Center have examined the topics of scientific misconduct, fraud, and ethics involving information communication in science as well as the bioethics of health disparities. Postdoctoral scholars and their mentors will be encouraged to attend and/or participate in the training opportunities offered through the Center.

c. optional research ethics training: Postdoctoral scholars may also choose to take systematic instruction about the responsible conduct of science via a series of formal courses including:

  • IRB training: Postdoctoral scholars who will perform research on human subjects will complete an approved training course on human subjects protection and will update their training annually. There are a number of avenues for fulfilling this training requirement, including on-line opportunities and seminars. For example, scholars may fulfill this requirement via completion of the web based training program Collaborative IRB Training Initiative (CITI). The CITI Program includes courses in the ‘Protection of Human Research Subjects for Biomedical as well as for Social/Behavioral Research’.  Each training module focuses on different aspects of bio-ethics and human subjects research.
  • IACUC training: Postdoctoral scholars who will be involved in research that utilizes animals will complete IACUC training via on-line coursework combined with individualized instruction from IACUC veterinarians. Specifically, IACUC training will review the humane use of animals in research together with related ethical issues. In addition, scholars will receive species-specific direction in the appropriate techniques of drug administration, specimen collection, and surgery.
  • Principles of Scientific Integrity (GRD 717). A survey of ethical issues and principles in the practice of science. Topics include the nature, extent and causes of fraud in science; UAB policies on fraud; ideals of good science; responsibilities of authorship and peer review; bias and sloppy practices; responsible use of the press; potential problems raised by the commercialization of research; scientists as public policy advisors; and ethical issues involved in animal experimentation and in clinical trials.

Professional skills development. Throughout the research training component, postdoctoral scholars will be encouraged to receive training in new skills that differ from and/or complement those that they learned as graduate students. Each postdoctoral scholar will also be encouraged to interact with the mentor’s research team, including other postdoctoral scholars, graduate students, and collaborators, through laboratory meetings, journal clubs, and departmental seminar series. In addition, each scholar will be provided with opportunities to develop professional skills, including presentation and publication skills; these opportunities are described below.

a. ‘Personal Research Skills Development Plan’: At the start of the research training component, each postdoctoral scholar will formulate a ‘Personal Research Skills Development Plan’ together with his/her research mentor. The purpose of this plan is to initiate a discussion between the scholar and mentor regarding the goals for the research project and the development of research-related professional skills.

b. scientific seminars and journal clubs: There are a number of seminar series and journal clubs that will be available to postdoctoral scholars. Weekly seminar series, which host scientists from other universities as well as showcase the work of UAB faculty, are sponsored by departments and research centers across the UAB campus. On-going journal clubs in both clinical and basic science research offer trainees the opportunity to discuss and debate current literature in a small group format.

c. presentation of research at local and national meetings: Postdoctoral scholars are encouraged to present their research work at several research venues both at UAB and nationally.

d. postdoctoral curriculum in professional skills: The OPE offers a variety of workshops, seminars, and opportunities that promote the development of professional skills. Past and on-going topics / opportunities include ‘Transition to Independence Seminar Series’ and ‘Job Fair’; each of these events present information regarding career opportunities and job skills for the biomedical field.  The OPE also offers the “How do you manage” workshop to all postdoctoral trainees. This workshop provides self-assessment tools for the improvement of management and leadership skills. In addition to these events, the OPE provides the following training opportunities:

  • ‘Grant Writing Course for Postdoctoral Scholars’ – This course, which is offered by the OPE, introduces every aspect of grant writing, including selecting funding mechanisms, writing individual grant sections and understanding administrative policies, to postdoctoral scholars. In addition, this course provides each postdoctoral scholar with the opportunity to write a grant and have it reviewed through a ‘mock-study section’ with faculty who evaluate trainee applications for the NIH.
  • ‘Laboratory Management Course for Postdoctoral Scholars’ - This course introduces every aspect of laboratory management, including hiring staff, managing start-up budgets, and practicing safe laboratory practices, to postdoctoral scholars in any discipline. Throughout the course, participants are expected to: i) attend each class; ii) participate in class discussions; and iii) present a laboratory management plan.

 

  • ‘Translational Science for Postdoctoral Scholars’ – This course introduces postdoctoral scholars to major aspects of preparing a translational science research program, including program design, data analysis, and regulatory requirements. The Clinical and Translational Science: Principles of Human Research text, by David Robertson and Gordon Williams, will be utilized. Throughout the course, participants are expected to: i) attend each class; ii) participate in class discussions; and iii) develop a proposal for a translational science project in a team-based approach.
  • ‘Jobs Skills Course’ - This course introduces every aspect of preparing for and completing a job search, including career options, preparing CVs and resumes, and interviewing skills. Participants will have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a career services specialist.
  • Mentored Experiences in Research, Instruction, and Teaching (MERIT) Program - The primary goal of this program is to provide postdoctoral scholars with outstanding research and teaching experiences while improving the recruitment of underrepresented minorities into the field of biomedical research. It includes 3 years of concurrent research training and teaching instruction and is facilitated in partnership with Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, AL.
  • Business Certificate Program in Life Sciences Entrepreneurship - The mission of this program is to provide knowledge in the areas of business and entrepreneurship to UAB trainees, to further cross-institutional collaborations among UAB schools, and to promote interactions between UAB and the Birmingham business community. The program includes three required courses in business planning, understanding the biotech industry, and innovation.
  • Certificate Program in Technology Transfer – The purpose of this program, which is facilitated in partnership with the UAB Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is to provide information and experience in the area of technology transfer. The program includes a blended training forum with online materials, case-studies and technology transfer projects.
  • Experiences Program - The goal of this program, which is funded by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, is to provide pre- and post-doctoral trainees in the biomedical sciences with innovative experiential learning activities to educate them about careers in business and entrepreneurship, public policy, research administration, and science communication. The program includes a blended program of self-assessments, boot-camp sessions, and immersion experiences.
  • tuition payment for professional classes – The OPE provides tuition monies to all postdoctoral scholars for up to 6 credit hours of course work per year. Eligible course work includes Professional Development courses, such as grant and professional writing, English as a 2nd language, and presentation skills, that are designed to enhance career development.
  • ‘Postdoctoral Research Day’ – Each Spring, all postdoctoral scholars are invited to participate in ‘Postdoctoral Research Day’ through the oral presentation of their studies’ results. Presentations are judged by UAB faculty members; cash awards are given for 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-place finishes.
  • ‘Career Day’ – The UAB OPE, in partnership with the UAB Graduate Student Association, hosts a job fair showcasing biomedical career opportunities for both postdoctoral scholars and graduate students.
  • ‘Career Enhancement Awards’ -  These competitive awards are available to all postdoctoral scholars and provide up to $1,500 for collaborative research with other universities, attendance at  workshops or courses to learn new skills, or performance of science-related internships.
  • ‘Travel Awards’ - These competitive awards are available to all postdoctoral scholars and provide up to $500 for travel to national or international scientific meetings for the purpose of giving a poster or oral presentation.
  • ‘Internship Awards’ - These competitive awards are available to all postdoctoral scholars and will fund up to 3 awards per year in the amount of $5000 each to aid scholars in their performance of internships within or outside of UAB. Internships may be performed in an industrial, administrative, or academic setting.
  • ‘Grant Incentive Awards’ - These competitive awards are available to all postdoctoral scholars and provide up to $1,000 as a financial incentive designed to encourage Scholars to apply for individual Scholarships. Awarded monies may be utilized to enhance the Scholar’s training respective to the funded grant.

Career Advising. Ms. Jami Armbrester, Associate Director of Career and Professional Development Services, serves as Career Advisor for the OPE. Ms. Armbrester has expertise in both the business and academic fields combined with broad set of internship experiences; as such, she is well equipped to provide career counseling to both postdocs as well as graduate students. Through these efforts, she will aid trainees directly in job searches, crafting resumes and curriculum vita, networking, and negotiating.

 Recruitment process. Postdoctoral scholars are recruited to apply through a multi-pronged approach that includes advertisements in scientific journals, web postings, and attendance at recruitment fairs. Specifically, advertisements are listed in scientific journals, including The Scientist, Science, and Nature. Web postings are targeted toward academic career-related websites, including Science Careers and FASEB Minority Access to Research Careers. To enhance recruitment of minorities, OPE representatives attend postdoctoral recruitment fairs, such as the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students and the National Conference of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, to increase awareness of UAB’s postdoctoral training programs.

 

Last updated October 2015