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Former postdoc managing NIH career training initiative

Feb. 26, 2015, 10:09 AM

Five months ago D’Anne Duncan, Ph.D., was a third-year postdoctoral fellow in ophthalmology and visual neuroscience at Vanderbilt University. Today she’s program manager of a national consortium that is helping scientists-in-training prepare for today’s broad sweep of career options.

D’Anne Duncan, Ph.D.

Duncan, who earned her Ph.D. in neuroscience at Northwestern University, said she was always interested in career development and mentorship. So when Vanderbilt received a grant from the Common Fund of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to administer the consortium, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I’ve had a great time learning about administration and interacting with other institutions,” she said.

In September 2013, Vanderbilt was one of 10 academic medical centers in the country to receive “BEST” (Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training) grants from the NIH’s Common Fund to develop “bold and innovative approaches to broaden graduate and postdoctoral training.”

Vanderbilt’s five-year, $1.2 million grant (OD018423) established “ASPIRE,” which stands for Augmenting Scholar Preparation and Integration with Research-Related Endeavors.

The following September seven more grants were awarded, and Vanderbilt received a $200,000 supplemental grant to administer the consortium. The responsibilities of administrator are three-fold:

• Organize an annual national symposium;

• Coordinate a monthly teleconference of consortium members; and

• Develop and maintain a website for the consortium.

Chalkley said Duncan’s background as a former graduate student and postdoc prepared her well for the problem-solving skills she needs as program manager. She “allowed us to get off to a very fast start,” he said.

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