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 the general structure of each of the various categories of events 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 through active solicitation of their nomination of speakers. We focus in particular on those junior faculty who have been newly recruited to School of Medicine basic science departments based on their outstanding science because they can serve as ideal research mentors. We balance basic with translational science, female and male speakers, researchers from a range of disciplines, and 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 perspectives (for example, a panel discussion on Zika featuring a pediatrician, a global health expert, a virologist, and a developmental biologist; a similar panel discussion on COVID-19 featuring a virologist, an immunologist, a global health expert, and a cardiovascular biologist).
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 address issues of diversity and inclusion either within the program or more broadly across biomedicine. The MSTP student DEIJ 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.
This monthly speaker series features senior faculty invited by the Program leadership with suggestions from students and the Diversity committee to ensure adequate representation of scientists from diverse backgrounds. Speakers are selected for their ability to impart career development advice as well as leading-edge scientific knowledge to program trainees.
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. With the creation of the Duke Office of Physician-Scientist Development, the MSTP has begun to hold its Symposium in conjunction with the OPSD’s Physician-Scientist Symposium. MSTP students work together with the OPSD 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 acceptees. The event includes a poster session and is followed by brief research presentations by each graduating student as well as by R38 Scholars and Lefkowitz Fellows in the OPSD. 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, OPSD trainees, classmates, and program recruits in a social setting.
An annual program is held in the beginning of each year, typically in the first few weeks of August, 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 just over two hours from Duke and is held 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. Several trainees in the Lefkowitz Society or R38 Scholars are invited to interact with students through the various activities and to serve as near-peer mentors.