The Training in Education and Critical Research Skills (TEACRS) Program at Tufts University provides talented postdoctoral trainees with the career skills needed to succeed in academic biomedical research. New faculty encounter many challenges, including setting up and managing a productive research lab, obtaining grant funding, developing and teaching new courses, and participating in service activities associated with everyday academic life. Current postdoctoral training at most institutions focuses largely on providing young scientists with research tools and a body of research sufficient to launch an independent career. However, training in other skills necessary to function effectively as a new faculty member is often neglected. The TEACRS program uses a variety of strategies to address this shortfall. TEACRS fellows are provided with up to four years of support and a wealth of resources to better prepare them as future faculty. They spend 75% of their time in research, with the remaining time devoted to teaching and career development activities.
Outstanding opportunities for research training are available in the traditional biomedical disciplines as well as areas such as biomedical engineering and nutrition, and faculty mentors can come from any department at Tufts University as long as the research addresses a relevant biomedical question. In addition to training obtained in their home lab, fellows benefit from a well-organized research advising system.
Teaching skills are developed first through an intensive three-week course on pedagogy. Fellows then gain primary teaching experience by providing engaging and up-to-date courses at three local partner institutions with high minority enrollment. These placements provide an unparalleled opportunity to gain familiarity with the time and effort that it takes to be in charge of a course and the challenges and rewards of managing a diverse study body. During their teaching, fellows are mentored by experienced faculty both at Tufts and at the partner schools. Trainees are also encouraged to mentor students from our partner institutions in research internships.
The training is further supplemented by workshops on teaching methods that encourage active learning and on essential skills such as grant and manuscript writing, mentoring, lab management, scientific presentations, and responsible conduct of research. These training components are sequenced to allow trainees to balance the activities and to build on previous experiences.
After participating in this innovative program, TEACRS trainees are ready to manage a productive research program, teach, and balance the multi-faceted demands inherent in a career as an academic scientist.
TEACRS is funded by the Institutional Research and Career Development Awards (IRACDA) initiative of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.