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The Postdoctoral Training Grant: Interdisciplinary Research Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities

Wednesday, January 8, 2003

The postdoctoral training grant is a National Research Service Award (NRSA) Institutional Training Grant (T32) awarded by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development. These grants are awarded to develop or enhance research-training opportunities for individuals selected by the institution. The counterpart to the Institutional NRSA is the Individual NRSA, for which the individual writes a grant proposal. As noted in the NIH Guide, postdocs “carry out supervised research with the primary objective of developing or extending their research skills and knowledge in preparation for a research career.” As such, trainees each have a primary mentor with whom s/he works, dividing time between collaborating on the mentor’s projects and developing a program of research on which they are first author.

Kate Saunders is the Principal Investigator for the LSI’s training grant. The goal of the program is to attract promising new investigators to the field of mental retardation, and to nurture the development of researchers who will meet national research priorities in the field of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

Although Kate is based in Parsons, the training grant includes LSI faculty from several academic departments on the Lawrence campus, the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, and Parsons. Participating faculty from LSI include Kate Saunders, Dean Williams, Dick Saunders, and Steve Warren. From Psychology come John Colombo and Todd Little (who also has an LSI appointment as head of the Research Design and Analysis Core of the MRRC). Travis Thompson, Jennifer Hill- Karrer, and Rathe Karrer represent the KU Medical Center, and Steve Fowler is appointed in the LSI and in Pharmacology and Toxicology.

Thus far, two trainees have completed the program, and both have obtained tenure-track faculty positions. Manish Vaidya is now at the University of North Texas, and Jennifer O’Donnell is at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania.

The program has recently achieved an important landmark. Up until two months ago, there were no more than two trainees appointed at a time. Now, there are four, which is the maximum available funding. Two trainees are at Parsons: Rafael Bejarano, from the University of Florida, and Adam Doughty, from West Virginia University. Their primary mentor is Dean Williams. The other two trainees are in Lawrence: Kathleen Kannass, from the University of Iowa, and Jim Bouviard, from KU. Their primary mentors are John Colombo and Todd Little, respectively. Thus, the training program is poised to enter an exciting new phase, in which postdocs who come from varied backgrounds in Psychology share their research and their perspectives.

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