Graduate and Post-doctoral Research Opportunities at the POB
The POB provides a unique opportunity for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows interested in pursuing a research experience that exposes them to a translational research environment. This dynamic setting enables students/fellows to learn basic pathophysiology of pediatric solid tumors and leukemias as well as exposure to emerging clinical therapies and experimental approaches for the treatment of children with cancer. The NIH campus provides access to investigators utilizing basic model systems (yeast, bacteria and drosophila to name a few), the latest genomic interrogative systems as well as a vibrant translational research environment all poised to decipher and understand the pathophysiology of human disease.
The NIH has partnered with a number of institutions in the greater metropolitan DC area as well as around the country (see GPP https://www.training.nih.gov/programs/gpp/) and increasingly around the world with the NIH-Oxford-Cambridge Program (http://oxcam.gpp.nih.gov/) or the NIH-Karolinska Program to provide graduate programs for student matriculating for a PhD. In addition, a number of Medical Schools have programs that enable students earning their MD to stop the MD clock and study and research for their PhD. Finally, Pediatric-Hematology Oncology Fellows during their Fellowship training can also study for their PhD. The POB has had a number of students who have successfully defended their PhD thesis research.
Martin Mendoza, Doctoral Student
Martin’s first research experience was at the NIH as a high school intern in the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), mapping part of Human Chromosome 7 for the Human Genome Project. After graduating from the University of Maryland at Baltimore County in 2002, he undertook a 1-year post-baccalaureate fellowship at NHGRI, after which he was accepted into the NIH-Johns Hopkins University PhD program. His thesis research has been conducted in the Tumor & Metastasis Biology Section of the Pediatric Oncology Branch, and is focused on understanding the interaction between the linker protein Ezrin and CLIC4 to unravel the relationship between cell stress and metastasis.
He reports: “The most important skills I have learned during my graduate studies have been the ability to work independently and to be self-motivated. Because of the unique environment of the NIH, I realized early on that these two skills are crucial to succeed in an environment that lacked the traditional infrastructure a graduate student typically has at a university. By being independent and self-motivated, I learned early on how to collaborate and how to utilize the resources at my disposal, which I believe has helped me during my graduate career and will be of great assistance in my next position.
Martin plans to defend his thesis in the Fall of 2010 and pursue post-doctoral studies in the science policy area. Martin felt that his time at the POB is special because “…….the close ties the POB has with the patient community has helped to keep the 'big picture' in focus for me as it is sometimes easy to get lost in the details and lose focus on why we are doing this research.”
Jerry Jaboin MD, PhD
After 2 years in medical school Jerry Jaboin joined the Cell & Molecular Biology Section of the POB in 1998 to “see” if he was really interested in research. He had never worked in a biomedical research lab. He was a natural. After 1 year, he applied and was accepted into Howard University’s Medical Science Training Program. He spent 3 years at the bench and published 5 papers that served as the backbone of his thesis at Howard University. He received his MD and PhD in 2004.
When asked, “What was the most important thing you learned during your PhD studies?" Jerry replied “Organization, organization, organization… This was my mentor’s mantra, and it is the single most important lesson I’ve taken to heart from my doctoral studies. With this approach, you maximize efficiency, effort and research results.”
Jerry completed his residency at Vanderbilt University in Radiation Oncology and is currently an Asst Prof. of Radiation Oncology at Washington University, St. Louis. When he looked back on his experience at the POB/NCI, Jerry reminisced, “My time at POB/NCI greatly impacted my research career and trajectory. In the POB/NCI, there were sources of mentorship and guidance everywhere. There were clinicians, clinician-scientists, scientists, technicians and every form of trainee imaginable, and so, every example of “success in science” was represented. In addition, there were continually programs bringing great scientific minds to the campus to discuss their research, and share advice for our future development. I look back fondly on those days at the NCI, and will take what I have learned at the POB with me for the span of my career.”
Aerang Kim MD, PhD
Aerang Kim received her MD from the University of Illinois at Chicago and after residency training in Pediatrics at New York University, enrolled in the NIH-Johns Hopkins University Joint Fellowship in Pediatric Hematology Oncology. After completing the first year of her fellowship, Aerang joined the Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (PET) section and focused on a research project in developmental therapeutics. At this time she enrolled in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Graduate Training Program in Clinical Investigation to study for a PhD.
Aerang felt, “My PhD studies gave me a strong foundation in biostatistics, research ethics, study design and conduct-- and basically the methodological tools necessary to conduct effective clinical research. My studies complemented my research activities in the PET section/POB every step of the way from investigating and analyzing retrospective data, to background and rationale to developing and implementing a clinical protocol and subsequent analysis, to the writing of manuscripts and grants.”
Aerang received a Children’s Tumor Foundation Clinical Trial Award for the Phase I testing of sorafenib in pediatric NF1-related plexiform neruofibromas and an NIH Bench to Bedside award for the Preclinical testing of targeted agents for clinical development in NF-1. In December 2009, Aerang defended her thesis, “Development of Sorafenib for Children with Neurofibromatosis Type 1 and Plexiform Neurofibromas.” Aerang’s has accepted a position as Assistant Professor, George Washington University and an Attending Physician at the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC.
Medical or Research graduates holding a doctoral degree can elect to continue their education as post-doctoral fellows through Cancer Research Training Awards or as post-doctoral fellows funded by private organizations. The office of Intramural Training & Education (OITE)( https://www.training.nih.gov/about) works with the NCI-CCR training office (http://ccr.nci.nih.gov/careers/OfficeEducation.aspx ) to offer a number of services to enhance the educational opportunities of NIH/NCI postdoctoral trainees that can be found in the Postdoc Handbook (https://www.training.nih.gov/trainees/postdocs). At the POB, the majority of research fellows are in post-doctoral training.
Martin Guimond PhD, Asst. Prof. U. Montreal
Martin received his PhD from the U. Montreal. Following the completion of his first post-doc experience in Human Cancer Genetics in the lab of Dr. Michael Caligiuri at Ohio State University, he came to the NIH to continue his studies in Immunology Section with Dr. Crystal Mackall. Martin’s ground breaking research published in Nature Immunology identified the critical role that IL7/IL-7Ra signaling on dendritic cells played in regulating T-cell homeostasis. He also played a key role in a number of studies that dealt with issues related to immune reconstitution and its role in the treatment of disease.
Martin was also active in improving the opportunities for trainees at the NCI. First as a steering committee member and later as the Vice-chair of the NCI-CCR Fellows and Young Investigators Association (NCI-CCR FYI), Martin represented the NCI fellows at the National Postdoctoral Association. The NCI-CCR Fellow and Young Investigators Association “enhances the intramural training program, fosters communication among fellows and the CCR community, and serves as a liaison to administration programs that affect the training experience (http://ccr.cancer.gov/careers/fellows/default.aspx)”.
Dr. Guimond’s varied experiences at NCI led to some interesting reflections when asked “What was the most important thing you learned during your postdoctoral studies?” Martin imparted the following words of wisdom for postdoctoral trainees.
With regard to Science in General: It is easier to prove something is wrong than to prove something is right…essentially something is right until you prove otherwise”.
With regard to: Dealing with Failures: Sometime experiments are not working, hypotheses are wrong; you have negative results or results are not what you expected. When science gives you lemons, press them and make lemonade with them. Eventually success will come and most of the time a small success is sometime enough to put one back on track.”
The postdoctoral period ushers in a period of maturation as a scientist and thus forces the young investigator to “know thyself”. With regard to: “Dealing with my Strengths and Weaknesses: NCI is a fertile ground for brilliant minds. You should not envy them but learn from them. It is impossible to be good in everything. As an independent investigator today, it is clear that knowing about your weakness is a strength in science.”
Martin also felt it was important to “Remain Humble. You teach to other post-docs, undergraduate and graduate students, and as they become better than you, you learn to take a small part of their success rather than to envy them. When they fail, I usually agree to take the bigger part of the blame.”
Today Martin is a tenure-track, Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Microbiology-Immunology in the Hematology-Oncology Section of the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospitial at the University of Montreal in Canada.
When asked how the POB/CCR/NCI impacted his research experience or future career directions, Martin replied, “My experience at NCI has definitely impacted my career direction. I must say that I have been greatly inspired and encouraged by my colleagues within the POB branch to pursue a career in the academia. The support I received from my mentor was also very important for choosing an academic position.”