Training Program
in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities

Program Overview

Development of Scientific Writing and Presentation Skills

Abel Lab

Abel Lab: Tracing analysis of dendrite spines of hippocampal neurons in an eGFP-expressing mouse using Neurolucida.

The minimal goals for development of scientific writing and presentation skills are:

  1. To write a prospective program of research to be submitted for individual NRSA support
  2. To develop written communication skills leading to submission of research grants and publications by:
    1. Attending didactic lectures provided by the Office of Biomedical Postdoctoral Program (BPP)
    2. Receiving individual instruction from mentor/co-mentor
    3. Attending and have grant proposals reviewed by grants writing club
  3. To deliver oral presentations in both a local setting (Neuroscience Chalk Talks once a year) and at national meetings
    1. Schedule for the 2016-17 Neuroscience Chalk Talks

Development of Research Career Skills

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.

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.

Schedule for 2016-2017 IDDRC Seminar Series

Advanced Topics in Behavioral Genetics

Each trainee will be required to participate in the Advanced Topics in Behavioral Genetics course offered through the University of Pennsylvania in the spring of even years. Individuals who have already taken this class can be exempted from this requirement. Depending upon the circumstance, this and other classes will either be taken for credit or will be audited. This can be decided with the Program Director upon appointment.

Other Coursework

Depending on a trainee's background, individuals will be required (or encouraged) to take graduate courses or complete a degree program. Please refer to the University of Pennsylvania Biomedical Graduate Studies website for potential courses ( As part of the application process, trainees should identify courses that may be most helpful in filling gaps in knowledge. It is assumed that most trainees will not take more than one class per year (including the Neurobiology of Disease requirement).

Individuals interested in basic research might consider the following classes, but should feel free to identify other courses that may be better suited for their needs:

  • Electrical Language of Cells (NGG 572 Core II)
  • Systems and Integrative Neuroscience (NGG 573 Core III)
  • Cell Biology (BIOM 600 NGG Core I)
  • Neurotransmitter Signaling & Pharmacology (NGG 510 [PHRM 510])
  • Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (NGG 575)
  • Neuropsychopharmacology (NGG 576)
  • Neural Development, Regeneration and Repair (NGG 597)

Clinicians might be interested in the Masters Program in Clinical Epidemiology or the Masters in Translational Research. Depending on the stage of training and the availability of funding, the program may be able to support a significant percentage (or all) of the tuition costs associated with these programs. If a trainee is interested in pursuing one of these degrees, this should be indicated in the training grant application.

Exposure to Clinical Themes/Clinical Practicum

Trainees are expected to participate in four hours of activities to gain exposure to clinical themes relevant to developmental disabilities. There are several mechanisms available such as attending the Clinical Neuroscience Conference; attending the brain-cutting sessions in the Department of Pathology; and shadowing clinicians in one of the Hospital’s clinics. These activities can be identified by working with mentors and the Program Director upon appointment.


The training program requires that trainees choose a mentor. Please view our full list of mentors here. Please note that mentors must have suitable independent funding (at least PI of an NIH R01 or R01 equivalent) and evidence that this funding will last through the duration of the training period. 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 their NIH biosketch, including other support, and their training record formatted using the standard NIH format for training grants (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. The individual 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. 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.


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