Training Program
in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities

Program Overview

The program is designed to support trainees as they transition to their independent careers whether in academia or some other setting that capitalizes on their research training. While trainees devote most of their time to research activities in an established research group, they also participate in activities that are designed to improve other skills that should facilitate their advancement (see below).

Development of Research Skills

The primary focus of all trainees supported by this program is research training that is performed under the tutelage of a mentor or mentors. The research project, developed collaboratively between the trainee and her/his mentor (s), should address an issue of relevance to intellectual and developmental disabilities. The project can be basic science or translational research as long as it is hypothesis-driven. The research project should provide a learning vehicle for the trainee and complement the other career development activities that are undertaken during the training experience. Trainees and their mentor are strongly encouraged to design projects could provide a pathway to an independent research career for the trainee.


The training program requires that trainees choose a mentor. Please view our full list of mentors here. Please note that mentors must have demonstrated evidence of success in their independent careers including obtaining an NIH R01 or R01 equivalent, publishing independently, and successfully mentoring trainees. This is done to ensure that trainees will have access to adequate support during their training period. If the proposed mentor is not currently an approved mentor for the training program, the individual will need to provide his/her NIH biosketch, other support page, and training records (please contact Kristen Pidgeon at for information). It is understood that some prospective mentors may not have extensive training records. In this case, a plan should be described that will ensure that trainees will have regular access to experienced mentors.

Trainees are also required to identify an individual who can provide additional help as they progress through the program. This additional mentor can either serve as a co-advisor or be someone who will commit to meet with the trainee on at least an annual basis to discuss progress with research, progress toward achieving longer term career objectives, and plans for the coming year. If, for example, a trainee writes a grant, it is expected that this person would read the proposal and provide feedback. The co-mentor should review the individual development plan completed as part of the annual re-appointment process with the trainee. This co-mentor should come from the list of mentors, but if this is not appropriate, other individuals can serve in this capacity. Please be sure to identify the individual who has agreed to serve in this capacity.

Development of Scientific Writing and Presentation Skills

Neuroscience Grants Club (development of scientific writing skills)
Individuals working on any type of grant (postdoctoral fellowships, K awards, R grants, private foundation grants) submit their specific aims or full applications for review by senior faculty, junior investigators, and fellow trainees. At the meeting, Eisch, Marsh, Grinspan, or Robinson lead the discussion. The program has shown to improve the grant success rate, provide understanding of a variety of diverse topics as well as exposure to a breadth of techniques that are used to study IDD. This meeting takes place on the second Thursday of each month at 3:30pm. Attendance is required for trainees of this T32.

CHOP’s Grant Prosposal Success (GPS) Workshop (development of scientific writing skills)
We encourage trainees in their second and third year on the NDD T32 to apply for CHOP’s Grant Proposal Success (GPS) workshop. GPS helps trainees write an NIH Individual Fellowship, Career Development Award, or equivalent, and gives them a community of peers from which to get feedback. GPS consists of 5 interactive sessions (Feb-April) during which Dr. Matthew Weitzman guides them in developing key components of a fellowship application. A benefit of GPS: it is not neuroscience-specific. Therefore, GPS participants learn to write for their non-neuroscience peers, which inevitably improves grant-writing and success. Attendance is optional for interested trainees of this T32.

Neuroscience Chalk Talks (practicing presentation skills)
All trainees present once a year and attend all sessions. The rest of the presentations are given by other neuroscience trainees (graduate students or non-NDD T32 postdoctoral fellows), junior faculty, or new recruits to the NDD CHOP/Penn community. The diverse, brief, yet high-quality presentations and the refreshments provided (pizza, soda, water) lend an informal, collegial atmosphere that encourages questions and interactions. This session takes place on the fourth Thursday of each month from September through May at 4:00pm. Attendance is required for trainees of this T32.

Quantitative Literacy Improvement

Quantitative Literacy in the Mentored Research Environment
A goal of this T32 is to improve each trainee’s quantitative literacy in a way that augments mentored research training. Each trainee will engage with a faculty-level Program Statistician at the very start of T32 support. At the T32 Onboarding meeting the trainee, mentor, statistician, and Co-Directors will develop a shared vision for areas for improvement and potential future needs in statistical approaches and quantitative skills; in rare cases, this will include taking a statistics course. These stakeholders (and the co-mentor) then work together over the course of the trainee’s time on the T32 to achieve this vision.

Quantitative Literacy: New Quantitative Skills Workshop (QSW)
The new Quantitative Skills Workshop (QSW) will feature a variety of interactive lectures with foundation lectures (Sept-Nov), trainee presentations (Dec-March), and special topics by invited experts (April & May). These sessions will include modern approaches, policies, and perspectives relevant to quantitative literacy. The trainee presentations provide the opportunity to put knowledge into action by working with a statistician to briefly present an idea for study design or walk through a sample data set analysis.

Seminar Attendance

There are several different seminar series that are offered here at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania, including the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC) Seminar Series. Trainees are expected to attend the IDDRC seminar series and other seminar series at CHOP/Penn as appropriate. Trainees will also be asked to suggest potential speakers each year.

Meetings with External Advisory Board

Each year, we invite one member of the EAB to give an IDDRC seminar and spend an extra day on campus. The trainees supported by this training grant serve as hosts for this speaker during this day (individual meetings, lunch, and dinner).

Career Development

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia through the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and the University of Pennsylvania through the Office of Biomedical Postdoctoral Program (BPP) sponsor a number of activities that are intended for trainees to develop the other skills that will be needed for career development. Trainees will have access to both sets of programs.

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)

All trainees are required by NIH (NOT-OD-10-019) to participate in responsible conduct of research training. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia requires that all trainees participate in the online Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) training program and complete two, four-hour, face-to-face RCR workshop sessions. These programs are to be completed at least once and at a frequency of no less than once every four years. The Office of Responsible Research Training at CHOP monitors (documents) the completion of this training via sign-in sheets for face-to-face sessions and direct tracking for the online CITI program.

Additional research-specific training is completed prior to initiation of the research project.

Scientific Rigor and Reproducibility (SRR)

Trainees will have a variety of opportunities to engage in a culture of rigor and reproducibility.

There are many presentations and policies that generally build a culture of rigor and reproducibility at CHOP. For example, the Research Institute sponsors an annual RCR presentation, generally by an outside speaker. ATOP sponsors a monthly Research Integrity in Practice seminar. CHOP also has facilities and resources that support SRR, and these are widely publicized throughout the Research Institute, including on electronic sign boards in all elevators. CHOP’s Biostatistics and Data Management Core (BDMC) holds walk-in (but virtual) office hours every Wednesday 10am-noon to assist researchers in designing experiments, analyzing and interpreting data, and presenting and disseminating results. A popular SRR resource provided to all CHOP Research Institute trainees and mentors is the Electronic Lab Notebook (ERN) program. Researchers get free ERN access to the LabArchives software platform, providing a modern, secure, cloud-based method of organizing and sharing their expansive lab data. LabArchives is an important component of the NDD T32’s QSW. LabArchives is quite popular in pharma and biotech as it has a stellar data management workflow which increases rigor and reproducibility.