Predoctoral Training Program (TL1)

The Clinical and Translational Science Institute Predoctoral Training Program (TL1) provides tailored educational opportunities for graduate and medical students to acquire the knowledge and skills essential for conducting interdisciplinary clinical and translational research. The flexible curriculum includes courses in statistics, epidemiology, clinical research methods, bioinformatics, research ethics and scientific communication combined with training in team-based research.

PhD and MD/PhD students pursuing research in health-related disciplines and medical students opting to take a year out of their clinical studies to pursue research training full-time are eligible to apply.

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TL1 Details

Curriculum Expand answer

The TL1 training program is a year-long program with flexible options to tailor the curriculum to individual needs and interests. TL1 scholars are provided a 12-month stipend, 60 percent tuition and travel support.

Three curricular tracks are available:

For PhD and MD/PhD students

For MD students

Students choose from a selection of approved courses offered by Penn State graduate programs at the College of Medicine in Hershey or Penn State University Park. A growing number of courses are available by online or by videoconference between locations, including CTS 590: Seminar in Clinical and Translational Sciences, which is a requirement for all TL1 scholars funded for at least one year.

Common to all three curricular tracks are core and elective courses in statistics, epidemiology, experimental design and interpretation, the regulatory environment and scientific communication. TL1 scholars also receive training in translational science tools, such as the i2b2 cohort discovery tool and REDCap electronic data capture tool. Scholars are provided with free consultations with faculty the Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design Core and the Community Enhanced Research Core.

The TL1 program also provides didactic and experiential learning activities in team science, community engagement, commercialization and entrepreneurship, and rigorous research methodology.

Scholar Eligibility Expand answer

Students must:

  • Be enrolled in a health-related professional or doctoral program at Penn State
  • Be U.S. citizens or permanent residents (per the National Institutes of Health policy)
  • Apply in the first or second year of graduate study (before the comprehensive exam); medical students may apply at any point in their training
  • Be able to commit to all course and research training requirements of the program
  • Have the support of the primary research mentor
  • Have research or career interests in clinical and translational science
  • Meet all requirements of the CTS dual-title program, Translational Science certificate program or Master of Science in Public Health Sciences program

Additionally, dual-title PhD applicants must:

    Be enrolled in an affiliated major graduate program, including anatomy, biobehavioral health, biomedical sciences, food science, kinesiology, nursing, nutritional sciences and pathobiology
  • Apply to the dual-title program before taking the candidacy exam in the major program
Application Process Expand answer

Applications are accepted once a year, usually in January and February, by completing an online application form.

The following items are required for submission:

  • Research background and career goals (three-page limit), which includes:
    • Research experience and training – The applicant should briefly explain why they are a strong candidate. Briefly summarize past research experiences and training and describe how those experiences relate to the proposed training plan. If the applicant has no research experience, describe any other relevant scientific experiences.
    • Scholarly activity – List all publications, abstracts, manuscripts in preparation or review. Provide full title, complete list of authors and complete citation. List all national/international meetings attended and indicate if an abstract was presented.
    • Training goals – Describe overall goals for participating in the training program. Identify the skills, attitudes, competencies, etc., to be learned or enhanced while in the program. Discuss how the proposed training will contribute to career development.
  • Research training plan (three-page limit), which includes:
    • Proposed clinical or translational research area/topic of study.
    • Brief description of proposed experiments or approaches that will be used.
    • A list of proposed courses to be taken.
    • Any proposed training experiences, such as internships or workshops.
    • Non-research activities related to professional development.
    • Brief description of the training environment, including key personnel, facilities and resources that will help achieve training goals.
    • Note: The training plan must be written in the applicant’s own words. Do not copy and paste from an adviser’s grant. The applicant may consult with their adviser about content. The adviser may read the plan and provide feedback, but should not rewrite or edit the plan.
  • Transcripts (undergraduate and graduate)
  • GRE or MCAT scores
  • Two letters of recommendation. One should be from the primary research adviser and one from an individual who can comment on the applicant’s suitability for the training program.
  • NIH-style biosketch of the applicant’s primary research adviser
  • A completed Commitment of Matching Funds form (downloaded from the online application) signed by a department official, graduate program head or research adviser confirming a commitment to provide matching funds for 40 percent tuition and any supplemental stipends that exceed the NIH guidelines.
Selection Process Expand answer

Applications are reviewed by the TL1 Program Training faculty using the NIH criteria for review of predoctoral fellowship applications. Final funding decisions are made by the Penn State Clinical and Translational Institute Executive Committee.

Applications are evaluated based on three core review criteria, which are each scored from 1 (exceptional) to 9 (poor). The criteria are:

Candidate (50 percent weight)

  • Does the applicant have a history of academic achievement?
  • Does the applicant have any publications?
  • Do career plans build on the applicant’s previous experiences and align with the research plan?
  • Do the mentor’s and the applicant’s statements suggest a good match in training needs and expectations?

Research Plan (30 percent weight)

  • Is the proposed research plan of high scientific quality and does it address the applicant’s training needs?
  • Is the plan consistent with the candidate’s stage of research development?
  • Does the research plan address scientific significance, originality and feasibility?
  • Does the proposed research project have the potential to make a significant impact?

Research Environment (20 percent weight)

  • Are the mentor’s research qualifications and track record of mentoring appropriate for the proposed fellowship?
  • Is there evidence of a match between the research interests of the applicant and the mentor?
  • Is the environment for the scientific development of the applicant of high quality?
  • Are the research facilities, resources (i.e., equipment, laboratory space, computer time, subject populations) and training opportunities adequate and appropriate?
Mentoring Expand answer

TL1 scholars are trained by multiple faculty in all phases of the research cycle, from idea generation to developing proposals, study implementation and writing empirical papers.

The career development of scholars is guided by the latest techniques for focused, programmatic mentoring using individual development plans as promoted by the National Institutes of Health. These plans are a written guide whereby mentors and scholars can plan long-term career development in concrete ways that also allow the scholars, mentors and program to be accountable.

The individual development plans will be developed together by the trainee and mentor(s) then reviewed and approved by the TL1 Program directors.

The plan provides a process for mentors and fellows to identify professional development needs and career objectives, and to establish parameters for effective communication (i.e., clarifying expectations of mentor/fellow, establishing the frequency and duration of regular meetings, who initiates and sets an agenda for meetings).

The plan includes the specific research projects that trainees will work on and other necessary educational experiences (i.e., courses, lab meetings, special interest groups). Needs and goals in six core areas are also identified: teaching skills, research skills, writing and publication, communication skills, professional development and leadership collaboration.
The program uses an existing best-practices plan customized to the program needs by explicitly addressing fluency in the translational science core competencies.

Mentor Workshops

Through a partnership with educators at the University of Rochester Clinical and Translational Science Institute, mentors participate in a course for research mentoring. The course is available to anyone at Penn State, including mentors of the KL2 and TL1 scholars.

Awardee Profiles Expand answer
Program Directors Expand answer