Training grant office and its partners set up UW–Madison for success in supporting graduate students and postdoctoral trainees
The University of Wisconsin–Madison is recognized for world class research and an important part of that success is cutting-edge research training grant opportunities provided to its graduate students and postdoctoral trainees.
The Office of Training Grant Support (OTGS) is the campus resource for training grants such as the Ruth L. Kirstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) training grant, also known as the T32 Program, administered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
Training grants are different from fellowships, which generally provide stipends for individuals who are selected by the agency.
UW–Madison’s OTGS was created in spring of 2019 by the School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH).
“The SMPH created the OTGS to serve as a centralized resource for its many new and continuing training grants and to establish institutional practices that will aid all UW–Madison training grants,” says Jim Keck, associate dean for basic research training in SMPH.
The office targets new areas for program development through resources and relevant expertise. Additionally, the office supports the application process for the highly sought-after training grants, which require information such as historical data about the success of trainees and faculty mentors. Other resources include providing the expertise to enable units to more easily administer these grants.
“Participating in research is a hallmark of graduate education at UW–Madison. The OTGS has been an important partner with the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education in enhancing and expanding research training opportunities,” says Steve Ackerman, vice chancellor for research and graduate education. “To remain successful, and grow our legacy of research training opportunities in this highly competitive research space and to meet our commitment to the Wisconsin Idea, we need to ensure a diverse pool of highly trained scientists is available to address the state and nation’s biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research needs. These grants are an important tool to help us accomplish these goals.”
To further grow its success in securing and administering these grants from NIH, UW–Madison also recently joined Emory University, Georgetown University and Northwestern University to form the National Training Grant Community of Practice (NTGCOP). The organization provides a network of university professionals from 32 institutions with an outlet to discuss NIH guidelines, share resources, network and establish best practices in training grant administration.
“It’s exciting to have UW–Madison at the forefront of an organization that brings together a national network of training grant support leaders,” says Mallory Musolf, associate director of the OTGS. “UW–Madison has a tremendous training grant legacy and NTGCOP will help us build on this success.”
Campus efforts to support training grant applications have had substantial impact.
UW–Madison is currently home to 38 training grant programs that together support 306 trainees. That breaks down to 193 predoctoral trainees, 89 postdoctoral trainees and 24 short-term trainees. The 38 training grants reside in five schools/colleges/divisions: College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, College of Letters and Science, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (OVCRGE), SMPH and Veterinary Medicine
There are 667 faculty trainers across the UW–Madison training grant programs participating in mentorship training and in delivery of other important training such as Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR).
T32 grants are usually sponsored by a department or institute, which administers the grant, recruits trainees and prepares progress report. Each grant is directed by a faculty member (program director) or team of faculty and involves a pool of faculty that have thematically related research programs. Training grant components are organized into three categories: trainee costs such as a stipend, trainee-related expenses and trainee travel. The NIH also pays a portion of predoctoral tuition.
The OVCRGE focuses on training grants that support technical, operational and professional training to enhance the development of individuals interested in careers in areas such as biomedical, behavioral and clinical research. Required components of training include such areas as RCR, design for rigor and reproducibility in research, and training for mentors and mentees.
“These training grants provide the faculty preceptors the ability to offer enhanced training and educational opportunities to their laboratory team and are a mark of quality and distinction, which enhances recruitment of high-quality trainees, demands diversity in the trainees and provides the trainee with the opportunity to acknowledge this funding on their curriculum vitae,” explains William J. Karpus, dean of the Graduate School. “Selection to an institutional training grant position is highly competitive and can serve to launch pre- and postdoctoral trainees on a positive career trajectory as independent scientists.”
One training grant success story at the UW comes from the Department of Biochemistry, which has a T32 Predoctoral Training Grant from the NIH. This grant, the Biotechnology Training Program (BTP), has been around for 32 years and while housed in Biochemistry, is a collaboration spanning four schools and colleges over 30 departments and degree programs. The program is led by Brian Fox, associate vice chancellor for research policy and integrity and chair of the Department of Biochemistry, and Beth Meyerand, vice provost for faculty and staff affairs, and currently supports 20 doctoral students. A highlight of this training grant is support for an industrial internship supported by NIH.
A T32 funded program that received funding more recently, in May of 2021, is the Integrated Program in Endocrinology Translational Postdoctoral Training Program (iPEnd). The principal investigators are Ian Bird, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and Jon Levine, director of the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. iPEnd brings together a unique grouping of general and reproductive endocrinology researchers in order to better understand not only the effects of general endocrinology and reproductive endocrinology on human health, but also the fetal origins of adult onset diseases. Specifically, many of the diseases beginning in pregnancy that limit fetal development are now known to manifest themselves in adulthood as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and renal failure.
The third example of a training grant program at UW–Madison is the University of Wisconsin Voice Research Training Program, which is designed to foster the development of translational research skills in future leaders in the field of voice science to help advance understanding and treatment options for this population. This program is the only of its kind in the field of voice science. With training grant program support from the NIH, the program offers predoctoral students and postdoctoral trainees a unique research experience not found in typical research training. Susan Thibeault, professor of surgery and medical director of Speech & Hearing Services at UW Health, is the T32 Director of the UW Voice Research Training Program.
For further details about the OTGS or the NTGCOP, contact Mallory Musolf, at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more detailed information on training grant programs, including associated faculty and additional administrative program roles, refer to the Training Grant Directory. To access the directory, you must login with UW NetID.
— By Natasha Kassulke, email@example.com, (608) 219-8042