Duke MSTP has a robust programming schedule. Some events are scheduled regularly, and others are scheduled on an impromptu basis, as need dictates. Among the regularly scheduled events are the following:
Weekly Seminar Series - view schedule here
This weekly seminar series is our major mechanism for ensuring longitudinal exposure of our trainees to MSTP-specific research and educational programming throughout their time in the program, whether they are in their didactic year, their clinical years, or in graduate school. Trainees at all levels are expected to attend this series on a weekly basis, and the program leadership team is present at all sessions. These seminars provide exposure to a broad range of topics that are specifically designed to meet the unique training needs of physician-scientists. These meetings are held every Friday from 12-1 pm, and fall into several different categories, and the general structure of each of the categories is described below.
Faculty Speakers - Selected faculty are invited by the Associate Director to give research talks that expose the students to the work in faculty laboratories. Students provide a key source of input for choosing a diverse range of faculty speakers by soliciting their nomination of speakers. We particularly like to host junior faculty who have been newly recruited to the School of Medicine basic science departments because they often serve as ideal research mentors. We balance basic science with translational science, female and male speakers, and researchers from a range of disciplines. We make a purposeful effort to invite faculty from historically underrepresented groups. The faculty talks often involve brief discussions of the faculty member’s career trajectory, although the primary focus is exposure of the students to the ongoing science in the lab. We also reserve a portion of these sessions to feature interdisciplinary “hot topics” that feature a panel of speakers addressing an issue of biomedical importance from a variety of scientific perspectives.
MSTP Student Research Talks - Graduate students in the upper years of their PhD training (GS3+) give research talks to their peers to provide the speakers with experience presenting and receiving feedback and constructive criticism on their work from other students and program leadership. These presentations also serve to expose the junior students to work that is ongoing in the participating thesis labs within the program, increasing program integration and helping new students find appropriate and successful mentors.
Career Development Training and Workshops –The leadership team coordinates practical workshops and discussions on a number of career skills. Topics include writing fellowship grants and manuscripts, work-life balance, data management, etc.
Program Business Meetings, Climate, and Culture - Two to three times per year, the time slot for the weekly seminar series is used for Program Business Meetings to engage student input on important programmatic issues and events, such as planning for the Retreat or Symposium or discussing results of program-wide student surveys and gaining feedback for program leadership. We also have regular meetings to discuss diversity and inclusion either within the program or more broadly across biomedicine. The MSTP student JEDI committee partners with the Associate Director in programming these events to ensure they fulfill student needs.
Director's Lunches - Occasionally throughout the year, and more frequently during the summer months, we have unstructured lunch meetings to allow students to have a casual interaction with program leadership. These meetings also allow students to catch up with their colleagues in an informal setting, which we find is a frequent starting point for student-to-student collaboration. Attendance is always strong at these meetings even in the summer, showing the value of these gatherings for fostering a cohesive program and promoting both horizontal (within class) and vertical (between class) integration.
Senior students organize and lead a monthly journal club directed primarily toward first-year students to instruct them in how to read and critique the primary literature. A senior student selects a paper in his/her research field, distributes it to the first-year students, and leads the discussion of the paper, either alone or occasionally together with a faculty member with expertise in the area of interest. Emphasis is placed on understanding methods and critical analysis of the paper's results and conclusions. These discussions also focus on the rigorous nature of the studies based on statistical analysis provided in the results. Effort is made to put the results into a clinical context wherever possible.
The student symposium is a long-standing on-campus showcase event that lets us highlight the work of the program's trainees to the entire Duke community. MSTP students work together with leadership to design the program and invite physician-scientist keynote speakers. The symposium is typically scheduled to coincide with the program’s revisit weekend to also serve as a recruitment event for accepted students. The event includes a poster session and is followed by brief research presentations by each graduating student. The event culminates with a dinner reception to celebrate the accomplishments of the senior students and provide an opportunity to interact with the keynote speaker(s), program faculty, program alumni, classmates, and program recruits in a social setting.
An annual program is held in the beginning of each academic year, in order to ensure that first-year students are incorporated into the program, facilitating vertical integration early in their training and enhancing program unity. Since the first program retreat was held in 2010, it has typically been held offsite over two days. Retreat events are focused on career development, including giving scientific presentations, scientific writing, choosing a mentor and a lab, work-life balance, basics of fellowship grant submissions, and other skills. In addition, GS2 students, who are within the first 8-9 months in their thesis programs, present their early work for feedback. Team building exercises facilitate first-year students' assimilation into the program and build program unity. The Student Council invites a faculty keynote speaker and 3 to 4 physician-scientist faculty members at various stages of their careers to serve as moderators of small group research presentations and career development discussions. Faculty also deliver short talks on their own science.