SPIRE seeks to boost young scientists' job prospects, minority science education

CHAPEL HILL - Postdoctoral scientists are not receiving the broad training they need to succeed in today's complex, competitive science community, says a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill expert who hopes to change that and start a national trend.

Dr. Walter E. Bollenbacher, professor of biology, plans to improve the career prospects for postdoctoral students by offering them more diverse training. A new $4 million, five-year grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences will support the effort.

"There's a national debate on the future of postdoc training and how it needs to be reformed to keep pace with scientific and workplace changes and expectations," Bollenbacher said. "This grant addresses that debate."

He and colleagues at UNC-CH and seven historically minority universities (HMUs) across the state will use the money to fund a new program called Seeding Postdoctoral Innovators in Research and Education, or SPIRE. SPIRE will give postdoctoral students teaching experience while providing cutting-edge biology courses to students at the HMUs.

Bollenbacher said he believed postdoctoral students must have more than the sound knowledge base in science they now receive. While they are highly trained in specific areas, they usually are not exposed to many skills needed to succeed in the professional community.

Pharmaceutical research and development organizations and other high-tech firms agree. Such businesses want employees with a strong science background, but they also need people with good communication and interpersonal skills and the ability to adapt and work in teams.

"We look beyond scientific excellence and achievement in hiring scientists into Glaxo Wellcome Research," said Bob Bell, vice president of research in the company's U.S. division.

"The success of our drug discovery efforts depends on teamwork, communication and adaptability," he said. "We hire people with these skills who are comm

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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