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Updates from the OGE

Spring 2023

OGE staff. The OGE is led by a team of outstanding directors, staff and faculty. We welcomed faculty Dr. Scott Williams as Assistant Dean for Graduate Education and Dr. Christiann Gaines as Assistant Director for Doctoral Diversity and Success in Graduate Education.

Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program (BBSP). The BBSP welcomed a new class of 101 students for the 2022-2023 academic year. This current first-year class is 63% female, 24% from groups historically underrepresented in the biomedical sciences, and 12% non-US Residents. The BBSP first-year curriculum is led by director Dr. Dave McDonald and faculty Dr. Lisa Tarantino. In the fall, they completed their fall lab rotations and presented their research projects at the joint BBSP/PREP poster session, before embarking on their winter rotations. BBSP students are currently in their spring lab rotations.

Recruitment for the next academic year began in the fall with committee selection of candidates for interviews. Notably, 113 faculty – a record number! – participated in our 6 admissions committees. BBSP recruitment is led by director Jeff Steinbach and faculty Dr. Rob Nicholas, with help from faculty Dr. Scott Williams. Virtual interviews were held in January and February, and in-person campus visits for admitted candidates will occur in March.

OGE training programs to promote diversity in the biomedical workforce. Our NIH-funded IMSD (Initiative for Maximizing Student Development) program is a community of over 110 PhD graduate students largely from ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds traditionally under-represented in the sciences. In 2022, 28 IMSD students defended their dissertations, and at least 14 received fellowships or were appointed to T32 training grants. This successful program is led by director Dr. Ashalla Freeman, assistant director Dr. Christiann Gaines, and grant principal investigators Dr. Jean Cook, Dr. Rita Tamayo, and Dr. Tom Kash. The leadership team successfully submitted an NIH T32 grant to continue funding for this successful program.

The UNC PREP (Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program) is in its 13th year. Under the leadership of Dr. LaKeya Hardy (program director), Dr. Jose Rodriguez-Romaguera and Dr. Donita Robinson (grant principal investigators), nine PREP scholars presented their research projects at the joint BBSP/PREP poster session and at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scholars (ABRCMS) national meeting in Anaheim, CA. The PREP scholars applied and are currently interviewing at top biomedical graduate programs in their respective fields. In January, UNC PREP leadership successfully submitted a R25 grant renewal application with the NIH to continue support of this program at UNC.

Career programming. The Training Initiatives in Biomedical & Biological Sciences (TIBBS) program, led by OGE directors Dr. Patrick Brandt and Dr. Beka Layton, serves the career exploration and professional development needs of SOM trainees.  TIBBS supports Career Cohorts for graduate students and postdocs to explore and prepare for various career paths, as well as Affinity Groups to support holistic student development across a number of social identities. Together these groups plan dozens of career development events throughout the year. For example, TIBBS and the Graduate Business and Consulting Club recently hosted the Accelerate to Industry (A2i) Consulting Bootcamp, a skill building series co-sponsored a local life science consulting firm, Triangle Insights Group. More than two dozen students and postdocs from UNC, Duke, and other local institutions, gained valuable career skills and advice on this popular career path for PhDs. The popular ImPACT internship program will place its 200th intern during the 2023 cycle; this innovative program is a national model for an innovative academic-industry partnership returns significant benefits for trainees, UNC PhD programs, and local life science employers.

OGE scholarship. OGE Directors actively collect and analyze data on graduate education and career outcomes, then disseminate it through peer-reviewed and other publications. Directors Dr. Beka Layton, Dr. Patrick Brandt, and faculty Dr. Pat Brennwald are principle investigators on an NIH R01 to examine the role of three critical components of graduate training in determining successful outcomes: a) professional development, b) mental health and wellness of trainees, and c) mentor-mentee match. Check out our recent publications on the OGE Innovations & Impact webpage.

Mentor Training in Biomedical Research. As part of the OGE mission to support graduate students, the OGE invests resources to support a positive and productive training environment. Director Dr. Dave McDonald led a 10-hour mentor training for faculty and postdoctoral fellows who work with graduate students, increasing the total number of faculty and postdocs trained by OGE to 224. He also held mentor trainings for graduate/postdoctoral peer mentors and bench mentors for summer students. Dr. Dave McDonald, Dr. Ashalla Freeman and collaborators completed development of new mentor training video-based modules (funded by an NIH supplement to the IMSD R25 grant) and trained the first cohort of faculty/staff facilitators to deliver the workshop.