As part of a national effort to broaden scientific training opportunities for young scientists and engineers and better prepare them for a wide variety of careers, the National Institutes of Health has awarded UC Davis a five-year, $1.7 million grant to support the Frontiers of University Training to Unlock the Research Enterprise (FUTURE) program ̶ a campuswide effort that will expand academic offerings, internships and other experiential learning in the biomedical sciences for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.
UC Davis is one of only 10 academic institutions nationwide to receive this first-of-its-kind funding.
“Traditionally, training and career development have been narrowly focused on academic research,” said Fred Meyers, executive associate dean at the UC Davis School of Medicine and one of three principal investigators of the FUTURE program. “But graduate students and postdoctoral scientists need opportunities to develop new skills to enjoy successful careers in today’s diverse employment market. The FUTURE program will provide more opportunities to gain these important skills, increase satisfaction among scholars in training and develop scientists who are well-prepared for the workforce and can make the world a better place to live.”
The program will foster partnerships with industry, government, nonprofits and academic departments throughout UC Davis, offering a wide range of educational experiences, from internships and management training to job shadowing. Participating students will pursue training in communications, science policy, technology transfer and other fields.
“Students will get a robust science education and develop the skills to communicate advances, manage projects, commercialize new technologies and learn how public policy works,” said Lars Berglund, senior associate dean for research at UC Davis School of Medicine, director of the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center, and co-principal investigator of the program. “We want them to see science from a completely different angle.”
The FUTURE program application enjoyed broad support from many deans and colleges and builds on an array of successful training initiatives at UC Davis, including:
- The Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which offers intensive academies in science entrepreneurship, that connect science, engineering and business students with entrepreneurs and corporate leaders from all over the world
- The Business Development Fellows Program, which offers students and young researchers business-related classes and projects
- The Grad Pathways program, which offers comprehensive professional development with individual advising, workshops and other group activities to help students through graduate school and prepare them and postdoctoral scholars for careers in academia and beyond
- The UC Davis Biotechnology Program, which has placed more than 150 student interns from 30 different graduate programs in biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies
“For the past 10 years, UC Davis has been at the forefront of teaching science and engineering students how to move their innovative ideas beyond the laboratory and into the world,” said Andrew Hargadon, director of the Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management and a co-principal investigator of the FUTURE program.
“It’s not enough for students to have an innovative idea that works in the lab and gets published in a scientific journal. Today’s business climate – and the competitiveness of our nation – requires that students look beyond academia and understand the entrepreneurial and corporate research and development process, and how to build a network of partners in government, industry and the private sector who are committed to achieving the same goals,” said Hargadon.
The FUTURE program draws on the expertise of established programs, creating a support center that will build on existing opportunities, develop new ones and help students navigate the many possibilities. The goal is to create a program that perfectly complements their current studies.
“FUTURE will be fully integrated into the existing scientific regimen, without taking students and postdocs away from their current projects or prolonging their education,” Berglund said. “Furthermore, participating scholars will acquire new skills and expertise that may increase their productivity in the lab, such as project management and interdisciplinary team science.”
The program has already partnered with the journal Science Translational Medicine to create an internship and several companies and nonprofit organizations are finding creative ways to offer young scientists opportunities to learn additional skills via internships or shadowing scientists during their day-to-day business activities.
The NIH grants are, in part, the logical extension of the Biomedical Workforce Working Group Report, which proposed redesigning how science education is conducted in the U.S. NIH set aside $3.7 million, as part of their Common Fund, to create the Broadening Experience in Scientific Training (BEST) awards.
In addition to UC Davis, the first round of BEST awards were directed to Cornell University, Vanderbilt University, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Wayne State University, Emory University, New York University School of Medicine, UC San Francisco, Virginia Tech, and the University of Colorado.