Discoveries in reproductive biology have had a remarkable impact in science and medicine, leading to several Nobel prizes in Physiology or Medicine in the past decade. Despite these advances in science that were produced by experts in the reproductive biology, the number of reproductive science trainees is dwindling at an alarming rate. To help reverse this trend, we have established this T32 Training Program in Reproductive Development from Gonads to Fetuses (RDGF). The purpose of this program is to tap the large, diverse and highly qualified pipeline of graduate students (PhD or MD/PhD) and postdoctoral fellows (MD or PhD) that matriculate at the University of Pittsburgh each year and recruit them to pursue training and careers in the reproductive sciences. This training program will enhance the recruitment of reproductive biology researchers into the unique environment at Magee-Womens Research Institute where graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, medical residents, medical fellows and junior faculty (119 total trainees) work side by side in state of the art research facilities and experience on a daily basis how fundamental research discoveries impact reproductive medicine and patient care. The overarching objectives of the Program are to select and recruit the most qualified candidates (3 PhD students and 3 postdocs/year) into the reproductive sciences and pair them with well-funded, productive mentors who are committed to the training mission of the program and the University of Pittsburgh/Magee. The program will provide trainees with the education, resources and technical experience to conduct impactful science, while adhering to the principles of responsible conduct of research and scientific integrity. Rigorous oversight and progress review of Trainee/Mentor teams will ensure that trainees are fully immersed in all aspects of academic career development, including career development coursework, publications, grant submissions and attendance/presentation at local and national/international meetings. Research productivity milestones (e.g., publications, grants and awards) combined with connections made in the reproductive biology community at meetings will set the stage for advancement to the next stage of career development. Full immersion of trainees in all aspects of their academic endeavors will endow them with a sense of ownership of their research productivity and increase the likelihood that they will be retained long-term in reproductive science-related careers. Graduate students (PhD or MD/PhD) can remain in the training program for a maximum of five years and postdoctoral fellows can remain in the program for a maximum of three years. However, our program requires that all trainees write and submit and individual training grant application during their second year of training. This is a valuable skill for a career in science and the turnover as trainees transition from institutional to individual awards will help maximize the number of trainees and impact of the program. We anticipate training a total of 6 graduate students and 6 postdoctoral trainees during the five year award period.
Infertility impacts 10-15% of couples in the United States and has devastating impacts on relationships as well as emotional and financial well-being. Morbidities associated with sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and parturition have implications for the health and well-being of mothers, fetuses and born children. The good news is that there are many high impact discoveries in the research pipeline that lay the foundation for development of new assisted reproductive technologies as well as healthy outcomes for mothers and their babies. Unfortunately, the number of reproductive biology trainees has been declining at an alarming rate during the last decade. The purpose of this T32 training grant is to recruit and train the next generation of experts in reproductive sciences to ensure that our fundamental knowledge supports the safe and effective translation of lab bench discoveries towards application in the clinic.