PHILADELPHIA - Yvonne Paterson, PhD, professor of Microbiology, at the Perelman School of Medicine, and professor and associate dean, at the School of Nursing, has been awarded an almost $5 million renewal by the National Institute for General Medical Sciences for the University of Pennsylvania Postdoctoral Opportunities in Research and Training, or PENN-PORT, the postdoctoral-training program she leads.
This program funds 15 postdoctoral fellows who teach in local colleges and universities that have a significant minority enrollment. The PENN-PORT program combines a traditional, three-year postdoctoral research training with a two-year mentored teaching experience at one of three partner minority-serving institutions: Lincoln University, Rutgers University-Camden, and Delaware County Community College.
The goals of the postdoctoral program are to enhance research-oriented teaching at the partner institutions; to promote research collaborations between faculty members at the three partner institutions and Penn; and to encourage minority students to enter graduate school and increase minority participation in biomedical research.
"The program has been in existence for five years, and in addition to having a significant impact at the three partner institutions, it has also helped mend the diversity pipeline between getting a doctorate and becoming an academic faculty member,” says Paterson. “Of the 30 or so fellows who have benefited from the program, about 75 percent of them are from underrepresented groups or have serious physical challenges. The majority of the fellows who have completed the program have gone on to faculty positions in a variety of small colleges and universities."
The program partners postdoctoral fellows with investigators in many labs based in schools across the Penn campus: Perelman School of Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine, School of Arts and Sciences, School of Dental Medicine, and allied programs at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). The fellows are even taught a course on how to be a college instructor by Professor Marybeth Gasman from the Graduate School of Education.
The program has lasting effects. One postdoc, Michael Lipscomb, PhD, who worked in the laboratory of Dr. Janis Burkhardt, and taught two courses -- Immunology and Molecular Genetics at Lincoln University -- is now a tenure-track professor at Howard University. Additionally, he continues long-term collaborations with Penn and CHOP by bringing undergraduate and graduate students to work summers in research laboratories. This summer, Lipscomb brought Obianuju Chikwere, an undergraduate at Howard University, to conduct immunology research at Penn and CHOP. “The Penn-PORT program uniquely bridges smaller institutions with tier-1 research institutions to allow reciprocal exchange of resources with excellent, high-caliber students and faculty, who would otherwise not have the opportunity to exercise their talent and intellect in that academic environment.” says Lipscomb.