Research picture

Research Training Programs



Our goal is to educate and train post-doctoral investigators to become productive, independent scientists who contribute significantly to the science of mental and behavioral health.  The training programs within the Department of Psychiatry emphasize comprehensiveness, balance, and integration of relevant scientific approaches and systems (e.g., clinical neuroscience, molecular, psychosocial, health services). The programs foster collaborative relationships, while overcoming interdisciplinary barriers and embracing the contributions of all disciplines for the understanding, treatment, and prevention of mental and addictive disorders.  We especially encourage novelty in the scientific endeavor in the pursuit of: 1) uncovering etiologic mechanisms underlying mental health disorders and substance abuse and 2) delivering effective care to individuals affected by psychiatric distress.

The Department is home to eight federally-sponsored research training programs, focusing on the following scientific areas:

Transitioning to an Independent Investigator. The Department offers post-doctoral trainees extensive training and support to optimize their chances of success in launching and maintaining a research career including:

  • Career and Research Development Seminar for Postdoctoral Trainees: The Department of Psychiatry supports the postdoctoral training programs by offering a weekly seminar series (September through May) to promote professional, career development and grantsmanship skills. Led by seminar co-directors, Robert Sweet, MD and Brooke Molina, PhD, a major focus is on activities leading to a successful first faculty appointment and NIH grant application. Participants are postdoctoral scholars and associates within the Department of Psychiatry who may be supported by one of our training grants, their own grant or funds provided by their mentor. By including trainees working in methodologies and disciplines ranging from basic science to health services research, the seminar promotes the development of knowledge and skills in transdisciplinary collaboration, and thus translational, science. It further provides “critical mass” for practical tasks such as peer review of research proposals, and for development of effective peer-support networks. The seminar also supports training in the Responsible Conduct of Research.

    Drs. Robert Sweet and Brooke Molina

    With Drs. Sweet and Molina, the seminar is co-taught by accomplished early stage and mid-career faculty to enhance trainee access to faculty throughout the continuum of career development trajectories. The seminar includes both didactic and activity-based learning experiences. Resources and materials for each class are posted on an intranet SharePoint site.

    The course is currently organized into alternating blocks of plenary and smaller workgroup sessions. The curriculum is adapted each year to meet the needs and interests of the current participants.   Early plenary sessions cover topics pertaining to the launching of a research career, such as the timing of selected activities early in the career trajectory (manuscripts, collaborations, grant writing activities).  Special attention is given to discussion of funding opportunities and fit with career goals.  Later plenary sessions focus on topics related to enhancing professional and personal skills (e.g., improving scientific writing skills, developing skills in negotiation) and to grantsmanship (e.g., discussing NIH grant mechanisms, applications, and the review process; conducting a mock NIH review). For the smaller workgroup sessions, postdocs are divided into thematically related groups of trainees who are preparing applications for funding. Led by 2-3 faculty each, these small groups provide extensive review of evolving drafts and thereby hands-on tutoring in grant writing.  The course begins with 8 plenary sessions and is followed by alternating workgroup and plenary sessions. The curriculum is adapted each year to meet the needs and interests of the participants.  Importantly, members of the course are encouraged to participate in the annual Department of Psychiatry Research Day, which highlights the research accomplishments of the Department’s trainees, and exposes the trainees to additional faculty in our large transdisciplinary department.

  • Support for Proposal Development.  This tiered, review process often begins within the post-doctoral seminar small working groups.  Career development award applications are initially developed as proposals to the Department Chair after being discussed in the small working groups.  If approved by the chair, a special career development award committee is assigned in which several rounds of reviews are provided as the grant application is refined and finalized for submission.  For other types of funding applications the Department of Psychiatry requires review by an assigned multidisciplinary Department of Psychiatry Research Review Committee.  For post-doctoral trainees, these review processes provide an intensive level of professional feedback and support that assists trainees and their mentors with preparing highly competitive applications.

  • Post-Award Technical Assistance.  An important component of career development is to prepare trainees and junior investigators to meet both the scientific and administrative responsibilities of an independent investigator. The Department’s Office of Grants and Contracts conducts training and support sessions with funding applicants to familiarize them with all aspects of preparation for the fiscal aspects of grant application preparation, activation, and management.  These sessions have been specifically developed to support new investigators.