USC NGP Emphasis on Academic and Professional Development
The NGP students and training faculty take academic and professional development seriously. We have a rich set of opportunities for students gaining expertise in research, scholarship and professionalism, some of which are listed in the accompanying table. This is accomplished throughout a student’s time in the Program. Students are full participants in developing opportunities, formally by their presence on Executive and Curriculum Committees, as well as bi-monthly meetings with the NGP Director and Associate Director (PDs). For example, the NGP Grant-writing workshop emerged out of PD-student discussion. We bring great expertise and experience from faculty who have served on NIH and NSF fellowship review committees, with an initial session with students and their mentors, assigning specific aims writing to the students, and six weeks later, students and workshop faculty return to lead as 2-day session with students reviewing and commenting on each other’s aims. Since workshops started 4 years ago, NGP student success rate for receiving NIH/NSF and competitive private foundation fellowships is over 50%. Neuroscience Communication is a 2 year course for all 1st and 2nd year students. A training faculty member oversees the course, with NGP students make 15-20 minute short scientific presentations, with student-led discussion of the positive aspects of the presentation, and specific suggestions for improvement. Research ethics training is an ongoing activity throughout a student’s academic career at USC. Beyond a formal course during the summer after year 01, ethics discussions occur in the context of neuroscience core courses, the annual NGP retreat, and Occasional Conversations social hours during the academic year. NGP/NGF Workshops occur several times annually, and focus on student-defined topics that may include guests who join students in conversation about developing skills for careers in industry, biotechnology and information technology, academics, policy, education and foundations. Travel fellowships are available to support students attending summer courses, small format conferences and other activities that promote scientific and professional skills. Scholarly activities unique to the program include journal clubs, distinguished speaker series, different journal clubs that have a topical focus, NGF Annual Symposium Day, NGP Annual Retreat. NGP students also have an exciting range of other relevant activities in which they can participate, including Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE), the USCience Policy Breakfast Forum, USC Young Researchers Mentoring Program, the Brain Bee, Brain Awareness Week, and USC Undergraduate Interaxon organization.
Students can count on personal guidance through their regular interactions with their laboratory mentor, selected after 3 rotations during year 01 of study, as well as Advisory and Guidance committees with which each student meets annually. Each student develops an Individualized Development Plan (IDP) for setting annual goals. The 2-semester core course provides a fundamental understanding of developmental, molecular and cellular and computational basis of neural communication, which bridges to the neuroanatomical and physiological organization and function of sensory, motor, homeostasis regulation, and higher cognitive systems. Our goal is to ensure that at the conclusion of year 01, each NGP student can read with confidence and insight any paper published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Advanced graduate courses offered through the program or generally at USC, relevant to a student’s interests, rounds out a rich scholarly experience.