Public Release: 

Boston University receives NIH 'BEST' grant to promote biomedical careers beyond academia

Boston University Medical Center

(Boston)--Boston University (BU) is one of seven institutions to receive the prestigious Broadening Experience in Scientific Training (BEST) award by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The five-year, $1.8 million award will provide biomedical research trainees from across the University with enhanced training to help PhD students and postdoctoral trainees prepare for careers beyond conventional academic research.

"NIH recognizes that there are many ways in which biomedical PhD graduates can meaningfully contribute to the biomedical research enterprise," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. "The future of biomedical research depends upon a sustainable and robust workforce, in which talented, well-trained scientists are best prepared to make significant contributions in academia, industry, government, business and other venues."

Approximately $3.7 million was set aside by the NIH's Common Fund to invest in these programs to enhance training opportunities for graduate and postdoctoral trainees and prepare them for a host of scientific careers.

BU's BEST program will involve trainees throughout the university's schools and colleges engaged in biomedical research, including the School of Medicine (BUSM), the School of Public Health and the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine. BUSM's Division of Graduate Medical Sciences (GMS) is home to more than 850 students and approximately 400 post-doctoral trainees that will benefit from the BEST program.

"In order to maintain the nation's scientific competitiveness, it is critical to attract, prepare and engage a well-trained workforce. Our goal is to re-engineer the training pipeline," explained Linda Hyman, PhD, associate provost for the Division of GMS at BUSM and one of the principal investigators of BU's BEST program. "Using analysis of the job market as the driver of professional development programming, BU's BEST will enable trainees to fulfill the needs, not only of the current market, but also the future biomedical workforce," she added.

According to Barbara Schreiber, PhD, director of Graduate Studies in the department of biochemistry at BUSM and BEST co-investigator, BU's BEST will utilize innovative tools and resources to analyze workforce data with input from key stakeholders to guide and evolve curriculum design. "State-of-the-art software will identify biomedical workforce jobs, job trends and skills required for various career pathways. With strong advising/mentoring, trainees will be exposed to a curriculum of foundational/professional skills and career options via coursework, workshops, career panels as well as hybrid online modules."

Graduate students and postdoctoral researchers will be able to enhance their interests through a wealth of options via existing and planned coursework, and participation in shadowing experiences with a network of faculty, administrators, alumni and industry partners. Finally, trainees will have opportunities to further develop their interests by participation in internships, teaching and/or formal academic training (certificate or MA/MS degrees). "BU's BEST program looks forward to developing a novel paradigm for expanded and targeted training in the biomedical sciences which will ultimately be fully transferable to other institutions," added William Cruikshank, PhD, director of the Molecular and Translational Medicine Graduate Program at BUSM and a BEST co-investigator.

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