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PSTP Trainee Requirements

The new, competency-based Pharmacological Sciences Training Grant (PSTP) curriculum has been redesigned not only to provide trainees with a strong foundational understanding of the pharmacological sciences, but also to provide training in the performance of rigorous and reproducible research. The program also provides career development, teamwork and leadership training.

Trainees will select classes and experiential learning opportunities in collaboration with their mentor and PSTP Executive Committee to help the trainee attain the skills required by the PSTP for graduation and achieve their individual career goals.


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Program Requirements

Trainees explore research opportunities throughout their 1st year of graduate school, choose a mentor and then apply to PSTP.

PSTP Year 1 (Junior Trainee): Trainees appointed to the PSTP as Junior Trainees (PSTP Year 1) will attend a Mentoring Workshop with their mentor and identify a dissertation committee and a committee Co-Chair from the PSTP faculty. The mentor and mentee will work together to develop an individualized Trainee Mentoring Plan that will guide the trainee in coursework, scientific training opportunities, and experiential learning to acquire the core competencies necessary for long-term success in any career path. Trainee progress will be evaluated formally by the PSTP Executive Committee on an annual basis.

Also in the 2nd year of graduate training (Year 1 of the PSTP), PSTP Junior Trainees will complete the PSTP Core Curriculum and, following successful completion of qualifying examinations in their home Departments, will be advanced to candidacy. Junior Trainees will interview with the Executive Committee for reappointment to the PSTP at the end of their 2nd year.

PSTP Year 2 (Junior Trainee): In the 3rd year of graduate training (Year 2 of the PSTP), PSTP Junior Trainees may choose to take additional courses, depending on their needs/level of proficiency assessments. The remaining 2-3 years of candidate training are primarily concerned with career development and the completion and defense of a dissertation project.

PSTP Year 3 & 4 (Senior Trainee): In the 4th and subsequent years of graduate training, PSTP trainees - who will have all received formal training in grant writing by this point - will be required to submit fellowships to seek other funding sources. While primarily focusing on their research, Senior Trainees are an integral part of the PSTP, serving as peer mentors to Junior Trainees and remaining engaged with PSTP career development, leadership development, collaboration, and networking opportunities.

Trainees who enter the PSTP must make a commitment to complete all of the requirements of the PSTP prior to graduation, including making a substantive contribution to a primary research article that results in new knowledge and that has been submitted, preferably accepted, for publication. While a first author publication is not required by the Departments, it is strongly encouraged by the PSTP. A public defense of the dissertation will be presented at the completion of graduate training.

The PSTP Executive Committee will assess the needs of each new junior trainee by evaluating their academic record, life experiences, faculty evaluations from 1st year laboratory rotations, and the trainee’s long-term career goals and interests. Based on this initial assessment, trainees in collaboration with their mentor and the PSTP PI/Director or co- PI/co-Director, will formulate a Trainee Mentoring Plan. This document will represent an agreement reached between the mentor-trainee pair regarding expectations, the structure of the working relationship, and training.

This requirement is intended to promote transparent communication and intentional strategy around skill development. It will include a plan for regular one-on-one meetings, participation in research group meetings, academic milestones, tentative topics for papers on which the student will be an author, the student’s role on project(s), professional meetings the student will attend, opportunities to present research, and other areas of understanding. Formulation of the mentoring plan will include the formal classes as well as activities and experiences to fulfill the PSTP core competencies and to make progress toward the trainee’s long-term goals. During their first year on the PSTP, each mentor/mentee team will be required to attend a mentoring workshop together to expand the trainee mentoring plan.

In addition to the mentorship provided by their advisor, trainees will also benefit from peer-to-peer mentoring. Senior Trainees will serve as peer mentors to Junior Trainees. Junior-Senior mentoring pairs will be self-selected and monitored by the PSTP Director and Co-Director.

The Dissertation Committee will be appointed after admission to candidacy and consist of at least four members, including a Chair (student’s thesis adviser, who must be a PSTP faculty member), a cognate member, and at least one additional member of the PSTP faculty to serve as Dissertation Committee Co-Chair. The Co-Chair is responsible for assessing the mentor-mentee relationship, evaluating rigor, reproducibility, and ethical conduct of the trainee’s research, and reporting any issues to the PSTP Director/Co-Director. The cognate is a U-M faculty member with related research expertise, but from outside the student’s Department. Committee members are an important resource for mentoring and advice, and students are encouraged to meet with members at any time. Often, committee members provide students with additional access to techniques and equipment. Trainees should submit their PSTP Dissertation Committee form to the PSTP Director for approval by no later than December 1 of their 3rd year (2nd year of PSTP).

Starting in their 3rd year, trainees are required to meet with their dissertation committee by no later than May 31st, each year. Following their annual meeting, trainees should submit the signed Annual Committee Meeting form, along with a copy of their project summary/timeline to the PSTP Director. A trainee who has not completed their yearly Dissertation Committee Meeting by May 31 will not be considered in good standing in the program. The function of the committee meetings is to guide and support students throughout their research and writing. Committee meetings are more important when things are not working than when they are. Regular committee meetings can serve to reduce the time to degree.

Trainees should initiate the PSTP Individual Development Plan (IDP) at the beginning of their first year in the training program. This plan is intended to help students monitor progress towards completion of their graduate training, including identifying skills and strengths, but also areas for improvement as well as helping make decisions about possible career paths. The IDP process also provides a mechanism for students to communicate ideas or problems with their mentors in a neutral setting. Trainees in their first year should complete their initial IDP document by December 1 of their first year in the program. As a part of the IDP, trainees and their advisor(s) will complete each complete their respective part of the Mentor/Trainee Checklist. All trainees will be required to complete an update of their IDP and Mentor/Trainee Checklist by May 31 each year.

All trainees (Junior and Senior) must also complete the Personal Accountability Self-Assessment each year by September 1. Junior Trainees must also complete the PSTP Competency Assessment by the same deadline. The purpose of the Competency Assessment Tool is to document progress in the core competencies over the course of training in the PSTP and identify areas for growth.

Each PSTP trainee will build an electronic portfolio using M-Box. Portfolios will include the Trainee Mentoring Plan, annual Assessment Forms including an annual self-evaluation of personal accountability, IDP, specialized documentation of competencies (teaching evaluations, teaching philosophy statement, publications, and other scholarly works), transcripts, a curriculum vitae, documentation of participation in Graduate Certificate Programs, professional organizations, or Diversity & Inclusion activities, and other relevant materials. The annual interview of the trainee by the Executive Committee will include a discussion of the portfolio contents and PHARM 604 (see below) will include updating the portfolio as an assignment.

PSTP trainees at all levels are required to participate in career development opportunities including:

Annual PSTP Symposium: PSTP Trainees are charged with organizing an annual Graduate Student Research Symposium in the Pharmacological Sciences, which has been highly regarded by the U-M research community for over 40 years. The event includes two guest lectures, trainee oral and poster presentations, and networking opportunities. Trainees select and invite the guest lecturers: an outstanding investigator in the pharmacological sciences is chosen to deliver the keynote address, and a (usually local) expert delivers a special presentation on Integrity and Ethics in Research. All PSTP trainees and mentors are required to attend. All trainees (Junior and Senior) must present their research annually with at least one oral presentation. All oral and poster presenters receive formal evaluation by faculty judges.

Leadership Training: PSTP trainees are provided with a number of opportunities to develop their leadership skills through with Program. In all PSTP activities, including in the PHARM 604 course, Senior Trainees serve as team leaders and mentors for Junior Trainees, thus developing their skills as leaders. As described above, the annual PSTP Symposium is completely student led. Trainees contact outside speakers, choose poster and oral platform presenters from their peer group, serve as hosts and MCs, build the agenda, reserve venues and catering, work with budgets, and raise funds through intramural sources. Senior Trainees mentor Junior Trainees throughout the planning process to achieve consistent standard operating procedures, time-lines, lines of reporting, and regular checks on progress. In the Real-World Discovery experiential program, PSTP trainees work side by side with faculty and industry leaders who serve as role models in conducting meetings, managing difficult conversations, gaining consensus, and critical decision making.

Pedagogical Training: We require our trainees to gain teaching experience by serving as Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) during Year 4 of their graduate training (Year 3 of the PSTP). Senior PSTP Trainees also serve as peer mentors to their Junior Trainee colleagues in PHARM 604. For more formal training on teaching, interested PSTP trainees are encouraged to participate in the U-M “Preparing Future Faculty” program. Here, in collaboration with Rackham Graduate School, the U-M Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) offers seminars and symposia to help graduate students prepare for their first faculty jobs. Topics covered have included: Getting Started with your CV; Negotiating an Academic Job Offer; Developing your Teaching Philosophy; Practicing Interviews; Starting and Running a Research Lab; Dual Career Issues; and Faculty Work-Life Balance. In addition, a number of PSTP trainees have taken advantage of the Graduate Teacher Certificate, an in-depth program that provides professional development in five areas: orientation to college-level teaching and learning, exposure to new teaching strategies through seminars and courses, experience as a GSI, including a consultation on teaching, mentorship on teaching from a faculty member, and preparation of a teaching philosophy statement.

Training in Seminar Preparation and Presentation: All PSTP trainees learn to prepare and present research seminars as a requirement of their respective degree-granting programs. Pharmacology students participate in PHARM 646, a weekly student seminar course. All Pharmacology students attend every year; students in Year 2 (Year 1 of the PSTP) may present their own research or a critical review of a report in the current scientific literature; students in Years 3 and beyond present their own research. All Medicinal Chemistry students participate in MEDCHEM 740, in which they are required to give a formal departmental seminar in Year 3 (Year 2 of the PSTP), and annual research seminar presentations to their thesis committee. All Biological Chemistry students are required to participate in BIOLCHEM 711, a weekly graduate seminar course in Years 2 and 3 (Years 1 and 2 of the PSTP). Pharmaceutical Sciences students participate in PHARMSCI 838: Pharmaceutical Sciences Seminar, every semester during the course of their studies.

Training in Grant Writing: The PSTP Core Curriculum requires students to enroll in either PHARM 502: Introduction to Scientific Communication or MEDCHEM 740: Independent Research Proposal. In both courses, students receive hands-on training in oral and written scientific communication as well as the inclusion of rigor and reproducibility in the research plan. In addition to these courses, all PSTP students will be required to write and submit a fellowship application for continued funding during their Senior Trainee period.

Course Requirements

The PSTP curriculum has been designed to provide flexibility to meet individual trainee needs and Departmental requirements while at the same time providing students with a broad understanding of the pharmacological sciences and rigor and reproducibility in research. In addition to the Core Courses, students will choose one course from the Fundamentals category and one course from the Advanced Principles category. Each student will complete one Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) course, one grant writing course, and participate regularly in a seminar presentation course.

Complete both courses.
  • PHRMACOL 601- Basic Quantitative Principles of Pharmacology. 3 credits.
  • PHRMACOL 604- Collaborative Projects for PSTP Trainees. 1 credit. (taken each term, by junior trainees)
Complete one course.
  • PHRMACOL 603- Data Processing and Analysis. 2 credits. (or other approved statistics course)
Select one course in consultation with the PSTP Director or Co-Director.
Select one course.
  • PIBS 503: Research Responsibility and Ethics for the Sciences, Social Sciences, and Engineering. 1 credit.
  • MEDCHEM 660: Responsible Conduct of Research and Scholarship in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Michigan. 0.5 credit.

Select one course.

  • MEDCHEM 740: Preparing and Defending an Original Research Grant Proposal. Fall- 1 credit, Winter-1 credit.
  • PHRMACOL 502: Introduction to Scientific Communication and Grant Writing. 3 credits.
Select one course.
  • BIOLCHEM 711: Graduate Student Seminar. 1 credit.
  • MEDCHEM Third Year Seminar
  • PHRMACOL 646: Pharmacology Student Seminars. 1 credit.
  • PHARMSCI 838: Seminars in Pharmaceutical Sciences. 1 credit.