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Unique new series aids UI researchers

BY MAGGIE PETERS | MARCH 31, 2009 7:30 AM

Though most researchers already have years of education and experience on their résumés, a first-of-its-kind UI program will offer them even more training.

The Research Professional Development Program — Biomedical Series will begin offering its first course April 7. It kicked off with an orientation last week.

Ken Moore, the director of the UI Central Microscopy Facility, believes the new series is unique.
“I’ve been on this campus for almost four decades and have never seen an opportunity arise for research staff to focus on continuing education,” said Moore, who created the series.

Participants in the biomedical series must take 12 courses during the next year in the areas of core technology, core disciplines, major disease topics, and personal development, said Sean Hesler, the coordinator of learning development for the series.

“The core technology, core disciplines, and major diseases topics courses will all be taught by leading researchers on campus,” he said. “The personal development courses will be instructed by staff from other areas at the university.”

The new series has been well-received, officials said.

Both Hesler and Moore said the number of registered applicants — 118 — surprised them. Research staff, faculty, postdoctorates, and students all applied, Moore said.

“We went into this thinking 20 to 30 would have been fantastic,” Hesler said.

Moore believes the overwhelming turnout stemmed from a rudimentary need for the program, he said.

“This opportunity gives research staff an opportunity to get out of the lab and be exposed to different research and different ways of thinking,” he said. “Unlike in other fields, researchers usually don’t get this opportunity.”

Research is a major focus at the UI, which ranks 18th in federal research and development funding compared with all other U.S. public universities. The UI boasts a Research Park and the Oakdale Campus, and it has made $386.2 million in “grants, gifts, and contracts for research, development, education, and service in [fiscal] 2008,” according to the UI Fact Book.

There are three main goals of the new program, Moore said. The first is to get research staff to group together in ways they otherwise wouldn’t for collaboration and networking.

“The second goal is to invigorate participants and get them excited about the high-quality research that is happening at the UI,” Moore said.

Finally, he hopes those involved in the program will take the information they learn back to their laboratories and apply it in new, innovative ways.

Senior research assistant Christine Wohlford, who is registered for the program, plans to do just that.

Wohlford said she views the series as a unique way for her to learn about new topics in research to be taken back to her lab, which focuses on genetics.


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