Helping Minority Ph.D.’s in STEM: Something’s Working

By Lee Gardner

Samuel Attoh, dean of the Graduate School at Loyola U. Chicago, created dissertation boot camps for Ph.D. candidates and set aside grant funds specifically for students who are close to completing their degrees but who are running out of money.

Earning a Ph.D. in a STEM field is meant to be challenging, but data has shown it can be especially so for minority students. While universities have had some success in diversifying their STEM graduate ranks in recent years, completion rates for Ph.D. candidates who are African-American, Latino, Native American, or Alaska Native have lagged behind those of their white counterparts.

A report released on Tuesday by the Council of Graduate Schools offers some good news: Seven-year Ph.D. completion rates for minority students at institutions surveyed rose by 5 percent from 1996 to 2005, the most recent cohort it examined. That means that something the universities are doing is working.

Read more.

[Posted April 14, 2015]

The Department of Radiology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University invites applications for a clinical faculty position in Body Imaging. Position requires fellowship or comparable experience in body imaging (chest, abdomen, pelvis, and vascular imaging) and board certification or eligibility in diagnostic radiology. Salary and academic rank will be commensurate with experience and qualifications.

Read more

[Posted 3/27/2015]

The Department of Radiology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University Medical Center invites applications for a clinically experienced medical physicist in diagnostic imaging physics. Salary and academic rank will be commensurate with qualifications and experience. Responsibilities will include acceptance testing; quality assurance survey; calibration measurements on all types of radiological equipment; new equipment specification and evaluation; image quality assurance; radiation safety operations; radiation dosimetry; and computerized data analysis. The position primarily involves clinical medical physics support of diagnostic x-ray imaging modalities to maintain compliance with regulatory and accreditation requirements. This position may also involve some resident teaching as well as healthcare staff training and education.

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[Posted 3/27/2015]

Gates – Simons Foundation: Faculty Scholar awards for early career scientists –

Deadline July 28

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Simons Foundation would like to call your attention to a joint national competition for grants to outstanding early career scientists as Faculty Scholars. Awardees will receive a five-year, non-renewable grant whose size will be based on several factors, including the amount of external funding the scientist has at the time of the grant. The grants will range from $100,000 to $400,000 per year for direct costs. There are no limits on the number of applicants or awardees from any eligible institution, and candidates apply directly without an institutional nomination. Both basic researchers and physician scientists are welcome in this open competition. HHMI, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Simons Foundation encourage applications from women and minorities under-represented in the biomedical and biological sciences. For more information, including eligibility criteria, see

We appreciate your help in distributing this announcement to departmental colleagues and others at your institution to whom this may be of interest. Please direct questions to

For more information:

[Posted: 3/24/2015]

Feb 052015

The Office of Extramural Research has just released a Request for Information” (RFI) to solicit input from the research community on development of an “emeritus award.” They want to explore how senior investigators can contribute and “hand off” their skills in the form of mentorship, partnerships, skills development, etc. to junior and other investigators.

Please see a brief description of the idea in Rock Talk and the RFI here.

Responses are due by March 6.

Keystone Symposia is offering scholarships to Students and Postdoctoral Fellows in the life sciences from underrepresented backgrounds. These scholarships, of up to $1,200 USD each, are to be used to help defray the expenses associated with conference attendance, including meeting registration fee, abstract fee, airfare (restrictions may apply based on funding source), ground transportation and lodging costs. Receipts will be required to receive reimbursement for travel expenses other than registration fees. Keystone Symposia strongly encourages those with disabilities to apply for these scholarships (for more information, visit Keystone Symposia Policy on Accessibility). Upcoming Keystone Symposia meetings open for NIH MARC T36 scholarship applications are those taking place in January and February 2015.  The application deadline for the last eligible meeting (Hematopoiesis B6 – February 22-27, 2015) is October 22, 2014.  There are 21 Keystone Symposia meetings (January and February 2015) that are eligible for UR Trainee Scholarships. The application deadline varies with each meeting; each deadline can be found on the Keystone Symposia website. Determination of awardees is made by the meeting organizer based on the abstract submitted.

Eligible Meetings

A1 – Precision Genome Engineering and Synthetic Biology – January 11—16, 2015 in Big Sky, Montana

A2 – Viral Immunity – January 11—16, 2015 in Breckenridge, Colorado

F1 – The Biological Code of Cell Signaling: A Tribute to Tony Pawson – January 11—16, 2015 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

J1 – Integrating Metabolism and Tumor Biology – January 13—18, 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

J2 – PI 3-Kinase Signaling Pathways in Disease – January 13—18, 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

A3 – Immunity to Veterinary Pathogens: Informing Vaccine Development – January 20—25, 2015 in Keystone, Colorado

J3 – Host Response in Tuberculosis – January 22—27, 2015 in Santa Fe, New Mexico

J4 – Granulomas in Infectious and Non-Infectious Diseases – January 22—27, 2015 in Santa Fe, New Mexico

A4 – Epigenetics and Cancer – January 25—30, 2015 in Keystone, Colorado

A5 – Neuroinflammation in Diseases of the Central Nervous System – January 25—30, 2015 in Taos, New Mexico

J5 – Mitochondria, Metabolism and Heart Failure – January 27—February 1, 2015 in Santa Fe, New Mexico

J6 – Diabetes and Metabolic Dysfunction – January 27—February 1, 2015 in Santa Fe, New Mexico

B1 – Autoimmunity and Tolerance – February 3—8, 2015 in Keystone, Colorado

B2 – Endoderm Lineages in Development and Disease – February 8—13, 2015 in Keystone, Colorado

B3 – Plant Receptor Kinases: From Molecules to Environment – February 8—13, 2015 in Taos, New Mexico

J7 – Tumor Immunology – Multidisciplinary Science Driving Combination Therapy – February 8—13, 2015 in Banff, Alberta, Canada

J8 – Antibodies as Drugs: Immunological Scaffolds as Therapeutics – February 8—13, 2015 in Banff, Alberta, Canada

B4 – Systems Biology of Lipid Metabolism – February 9—13, 2015 in Breckenridge, Colorado

G1 – RNA Silencing in Plants – February 17—22, 2015 in Keystone, Colorado

B5 – Neuroepigenetics – February 22—26, 2015 in Santa Fe, New Mexico

B6 – Hematopoiesis – February 22—27, 2015 in Keystone, Colorado


To be eligible for an Underrepresented Trainee Scholarship, you must be:

·         United States Citizen or United States Permanent Resident

·         A graduate student or postdoctoral fellow currently enrolled in an academic program at the start of the meeting for which you are applying

·         From one of the following federally designated underrepresented backgrounds listed below:
(If you have a disability, please contact for instructions to complete the application):

o    Hispanic American

o    African American

o    Native American or Alaska Native

o    Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander

o    Bicultural (claims parental heritage to one of the above populations in the United States)

·         An applicant is eligible to receive one award per meeting year (July 1st – June 30th)

Application Process

If you are eligible and wish to be considered for a scholarship, you should complete the following by the scholarship deadline for the meeting you wish to attend.

It is recommended you begin these steps in advance of the deadline date to ensure completion.

·         Complete the Underrepresented Trainee application on the Keystone Symposia website (

·         Submit an abstract for the meeting to which you are applying (with paid abstract fee)

·         Have your mentor submit a letter via our website to verify your status as a student or postdoc


Contact: Jeff Lehman, Scholarship Coordinator

Posted Date: 09/23/2014

Careers - Graduate student with Baby

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

When Your Graduate Students Have Babies: Should advisers keep silent or raise the family issue early on?

By Leonard Cassuto

More than two dozen doctoral students have chosen me as their dissertation adviser over the years, but only one ever interviewed me for the job. Let’s call her Diana. She and I knew each other already, of course. She had taken one of my courses and done wonderfully well. I was excited at the prospect of working with her.

One moment stands out from our conversation. I was telling Diana that she would be the CEO of her own dissertation—and of her whole graduate education—and that I would do my best to support her and guide her through the decisions that she would have to make over the coming years. “You may choose to start a family while you’re in graduate school,” I said to Diana, “or you may not. Whatever your decision, my job will be to support you and help you reach your goals.”

I saw that comment register on Diana’s face. A few days later, she officially chose me as her adviser.

Diana told me a few years later that my willingness to raise the question of children had helped her make up her mind. I try to initiate that sort of honest exchange with advisees from the start because I believe that I have to. The length of graduate school, coupled with where it usually falls in students’ lives, makes raising the issue a necessity. Average time-to-degree for a Ph.D. in the humanities stands at about nine years in the United States. That’s a staggering and disgraceful span, but it’s also a reality. If someone starts graduate school right after college—which I do not recommend, by the way—then she will finish in her 30s. People have important life decisions to make during that time, and it’s artificial to pretend otherwise, not to mention ethically questionable.

There has been much salutary discussion recently about how graduate students who want to have families should confront those logistical difficulties and do what’s right for themselves. Amen to that. But that conversation—started, I should note, by graduate students—generally avoids the question of what the adviser should do when graduate students face those life questions. It’s as if there’s an implicit assumption that advisers, acting out of either malice or ignorance, will sabotage their students’ best-laid family plans.

For my own part, I believe that most advisers mean well. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they know what to do.

The life decisions that my advisees face, including whether (or when) to have children, ought not to be any of my business. That’s essentially what I told Diana. Of course, I could have said nothing at all about it. One might argue that keeping silent would have been the best way to show that such things are not my affair. But such a passive approach seems wrong, and the reason has a lot to do with the shape of the adviser-student relationship.

I chose to speak up because, like it or not, I play a role in my graduate students’ whole lives, not just the dissertation part. Diana depended on me in a way that was professional and personal at the same time. Her thesis—and her long preparation for the job market, including the familiar decisions about what to publish and how to balance article and dissertation writing—took up a large chunk of her time. So my actions as her dissertation director affected her whole life, not just her thesis.

Acknowledging that fact is part of my job as a student’s adviser. Just as second-wave feminists recognized that the personal and the political could not be separated, graduate advisers should likewise accept the inextricability of the personal and the professional. If I fail to recognize that personal decisions are marbled together with professional ones (by, for example, saying nothing about the possibility of children), I’m not making those personal issues go away. I’m just avoiding them. Moreover, students like Diana wouldn’t know the reason for my silence, and so questions would still hang suspended between us.

Thus a paradox: Even though Diana’s decision about whether to have children was none of my business, I had to make it my business to tell her so. That’s because my support is important to her emotional well-being and therefore to her professional progress. It’s a sorry statement about the professional world of graduate school that I have to go out of my way to state something about someone else’s personal life that ought to be obvious, but the situation is hardly unique. Other professions in the United States are likewise unevolved. The only difference may be that we professors think that we’re more progressive than we actually are, at least in this area.

Diana later described my statement of support as “contractual.” That may sound dry and businesslike, but it’s exactly what I’m looking for. My professional commitment to support Diana’s personal decisions cements the relationship between us in a way that is both professional and personal.

Diana went on to have two children, one on each side of a dissertation fellowship that she won. This past summer she defended her excellent thesis, one of the best I’ve advised. She plans to test the academic job market this fall. Her story isn’t over, of course, nor is my part in it. But I believe that neither of us harbors any significant regrets about how we’ve together shaped the professional—and personal—arc she’s chosen.

The choices now before Diana—and many other graduate students—are polarized in ways that most of us take for granted. The world of professors’ jobs is split between “serious,” all-consuming, tenure-track jobs and poorly paid, contingent adjunct work.

That split is thoroughly gendered. The recent and already influential book Do Babies Matter?, by Mary Ann Mason, Nicholas H. Wolfinger, and Marc Goulden (Rutgers, 2013), unveils a disturbing picture of gender and family in the ivory tower. The authors found that women make up a majority of adjunct and other part-time faculty members, and that mothers of young children tend to remain locked in second-­tier positions or leave academe altogether. Those who aspire to tenure-track jobs are statistically very likely to be passed over. Thus, fewer women than men occupy the tenure-track ranks, and the women are less likely than their male colleagues to be married and to have children. In effect, men get rewarded economically for having children, while women pay a price. Consequently, even though women make up a majority of the faculty in many fields (including Diana’s and mine), the implicit professorial stereotype continues to be a man with children and a wife at home to care for them.

Professors mostly lean left, so I doubt that many of us are comfortable supporting a retrograde system that treats our graduate students so badly, but we do. We have to change it not only administratively but also at the ground level of the adviser-­student relationship itself.

“Meet your students where they are” may be a pedagogical cliché, but it applies here. You don’t have to teach or advise graduate students to know that they don’t all have the same talents. That’s obvious. But they don’t all have the same professional aims, either, and that’s less obvious because most graduate education is designed as though they did. Not all graduate students want to be professors. And some of those who do also want to become parents.

There’s plenty that advisers can do to help graduate students who decide to become parents. Telling them that it’s OK, however silly it may feel to say so out loud, is important. But it’s only a first step. Advisers can also help by alerting students to any university benefits available to them, such as parental leave. (You might think that students would be aware of such things, but that’s not always the case. I recently delighted a pregnant graduate student—not Diana—simply by alerting her to the possibility of maternity leave. It hadn’t occurred to her because neither the program nor the university did enough to make her aware of such entitlements. And the authors of Do Babies Matter? make clear that such scenarios are typical.)

Graduate students make life-altering decisions and balance competing responsibilities on the long road to their degrees. Advisers need to be aware of those personal pressures and make a point of raising them, even if—perhaps especially if—their advisees don’t. Parenting is only a case in point. The larger point is that graduate education needs to shed its one-mold-fits-all design. And advising, if it’s to be worthy of the name, must avoid the dogmatic form that follows such inflexible design.

Treat graduate students as adults with lives, suggests Bruce M. Shore in his valuable new book, The Graduate Advisor Handbook (Chicago, 2014). Advisers who don’t acknowledge the personal aspects of their students’ lives are (and here’s that paradox again) acting unprofessionally. We need to support our students as they seek their own kinds of lives—and the best way to help them take the measure of their whole lives is to reconcile the personal and the professional.

Leonard Cassuto, a professor of English at Fordham University, writes regularly about graduate education in this space. He welcomes comments, suggestions, and stories at Now on Twitter: @LCassuto.

Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education

[Posted: 09/25/2014]

PRIDE BSM Alumna Dr. Lisa Lewis.
Credit: University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

Dr. Gbenga Ogedegbe from the New York University School of Medicine is sitting in his parked car in the garage of his home in New Jersey. It is 5:30 p.m. on a Thursday evening and he is eager to join his wife and three sons for dinner. But first, he picks up his cell phone to return a call from his mentee, Dr. Lisa Lewis. Dr. Lewis is panicked because her grant resubmission is due tomorrow and she’s unsure how to address the expert reviewer’s comments. For the next hour, Dr. Ogedegbe walks Lisa through every line of the reviewer’s comments and together they determine how best to respond. “I have never before received this level of commitment from a mentor,” says Dr. Lewis.

Dr. Girardin Jean-Louis, co-principal investigator of the PRIDE Behavioral Medicine and Sleep Disorders Summer Instituteexternal link icon along with Dr. Ogedegbe, believes it is interactions like the one detailed above that make the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)-sponsored PRIDEexternal link icon (Programs to Increase Diversity among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research) program unique. He said that Dr. Ogedegbe’s thorough and timely response to his mentee is typical of PRIDE mentors, who are extremely passionate about and committed to nurturing the next generation of minority scientists.

In 2010, NHLBI established the PRIDE program. “PRIDE addresses the need for increasing the diversity of the biomedical research workforce by nurturing the next generation of minority scientists in the areas of heart, lung, blood, and sleep research,” explains Dr. Josephine Boyington, the NHLBI Project Officer.

Junior scientists with backgrounds currently under-represented in biomedical research applyexternal link icon to participate in the PRIDE program, which includes mentoring; hands-on practical training; grant-writing skills training and coaching; a mid-year meeting; and an annual conference in Bethesda, Maryland.

Each scientist also participates in one of the six NHLBI-funded PRIDE Summer Institute Training Programsexternal link icon, which forms the backbone of the PRIDE program:

During two consecutive summers, at the all-expenses-paid two-week Summer Institutes, junior scientists further develop their research skills and gain experience in advanced methods and experimental approaches in basic and applied sciences relevant to heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders. PRIDE participants receive advice on research design, skills and methodologies, strategies to prepare research grants, and tips for success in obtaining research funding.

To maximize the career and professional development opportunities beyond what is learned during the Summer Institutes, every PRIDE participant is matched with a team of mentors that includes an NIH program staff member with expertise in their area of research. By working together, this team of mentors helps the mentee enhance and develop all aspects of his or her research career throughout the two-year program.

PRIDE mentor Dr. Karina Davidson from Columbia University says that what makes the program unique is consistent mentoring. At the first Summer Institute, the PRIDE participant is paired with a mentor who is a recognized expert from his or her research field. This expert joins with a team of mentors who work together synergistically to enhance the success of participants. The team includes a career coach, who helps the mentee develop a resume, learn how to network, and practice job interview skills.

PRIDE MRL Alumna Dr. Carmela Alcántara/td>

Dr. Carmela Alcántara from Columbia University Medical Center took full advantage of the PRIDE team mentor approach. Working closely with her PRIDE mentors gave her the boost she needed to excel in her career as an academic researcher by helping her build her research competency and grant writing skills, and by providing invaluable networking opportunities.

After applying to become an affiliated investigator, Dr. Alcántara gained access to large research networks such as the NHLBI-supported Hispanic Community Health Study (HCHS/SOL), related ancillary studies (HCHS/SOL Sociocultural and HCHS/SOL Sueño), and the MESA Sleep study.

Access to data from these multi-center studies paved the way for Dr. Alcántara to further develop her research program on sleep and cardiovascular health disparities and publish multiple manuscripts on this topic. She also credits the program with helping her develop meaningful relationships that have allowed her to submit several federal grant applications that include PIs from these studies as co-investigators.

“The PIs I have met are eager to work with junior researchers like myself who are motivated to contribute, and this participation has helped me to excel as a researcher focused on Latino health disparities,” she added.

PRIDE mentee Dr. Lisa Lewis, whose evening call with Dr. Ogedegbe led to the acceptance of her grant resubmission, agrees about the value of participating in the program. She credits her recent major accomplishments –promotion with tenure at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and receiving her first R01 grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research – with the training and mentoring she received from the PRIDE program.

“PRIDE has provided me with a cohort of like-minded people and strong mentors to help me stay focused and motivated even when my grant submissions are rejected,” explained Dr. Lewis.

During the next five years, Dr. Lewis plans to expand her research on hypertension-related health disparities by developing and testing interventions for hypertensive African Americans in community settings. Her decision to continue down this research path was reinforced by her participation in the PRIDE program summer institutes where she saw, first-hand, the meaningful work other researchers were doing in this space. She said she’s counting on the PRIDE program for support in these and other future endeavors.

“I plan to keep my PRIDE family close at hand throughout my career,” she added.

[Posted : 07/10/2014]

NHLBI Notice:

  • Notice of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Participation in RFA-LM-15-002 “NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) Initiative Research Education: Open Educational Resources for Sharing, Annotating and Curating Biomedical Big Data (R25)”
    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
  • Notice of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Participation in RFA-LM-15-001 “NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) Initiative Research Education: Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Data Management for Biomedical Big Data (R25)”
    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
  • Biomedical Data Science Training Coordination Center (U24)
    Application Receipt Date(s): March 17, 2015

  • [Posted: 1/5/2015]

    Association of                                                 Black Cardiologists,                                                 Inc.

    Register Today!

    JANUARY 26

    The Association of Black Cardiologists and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood
    Institute (NHLBI) invite you to a free one-day seminar:

    Demystifying NIH
    Federal Grants and Funding for Cardiovascular Research

    [Posted: 1/12/2015]


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