The CTRD pre-doctoral curriculum is designed to promote interdisciplinary knowledge and the acquisition of new research skills. It will ensure that students conduct their research ethically and that they meet requirements for the PhD degree in their respective departments and program.
Information is organized according to 1) elements specific and unique to the program, 2) seminar series and informal forums, and 3) program and departmental requirements.
A note about timing and benefits of the curriculum: CTRD trainees are often selected after they finish their coursework. We have fewer fellowships than interested students and consequently these curricular guidelines will sometimes be followed by students prior to their selection for fellowship support. The reasoning here is that for students whose interests match those of the training faculty, the curriculum is ‘its own reward.’ By interacting with one another and the faculty, trainees and potential trainees will learn concepts and techniques that will enable them to conduct outstanding research bearing on Common Themes in Reproductive Diversity.
1) Elements specific and unique to the Training Program
The centerpiece of our training program consists of two courses, one entitled Concepts in Reproductive Diversity and the other entitled Techniques in Reproductive Diversity. Training faculty from different home departments act as organizers. These courses meet at the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior (CISAB), which has a long history of fostering interdisciplinary exchange. In addition, all students receive training in the ethical conduct of science.
The Concepts course, Concepts in Reproductive Diversity, is based on an enormously successful program. CISAB has long offered A501, Seminar in Animal Behavior, each semester on rotating topics, and brought hundreds of visiting scientists to campus to interact with several generations of students. Representative Concepts course offerings include the following:
- Neuroethology (Smith)
- Integrative Study of Animal Behavior (Ketterson)
- Integration and Differentiation in Behavioral Development (Alberts)
- Female Reproductive Strategies (Ketterson/Martins)
- Sensory Ecology (Hurley)
- Sexual Selection (Goodson)
- A501 Hormones and Human Behavior (Muehlenbein)
- A501 Biological Rhythms and Behavior (Timberlake and Demas)
- Epigenetics and Reproductive Behavior (Hackney, Bergeon Burns, Farrell, Ho) [complete description available here]
These classes provide a history of related issues, a set of carefully selected readings, and access to visiting scientists, all of which underscore major advances leading to the current state of understanding in each area. These classes are also designed to help students identify important unanswered questions that could form the basis of significant student research projects, as they design their own projects in solo and in collaborative configurations.
The Techniques course, Techniques in Reproductive Diversity, enables students to gain research skills necessary to their success, e.g., gene arrays, immunoassays, stereology, neuroanatomical methods,gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, evolutionary theory, parentage analysis, bioinformatics, field methods. During Spring 2014, the course, organized by Ellen Ketterson, was taught by a variety faculty and post-doctoral researchers representing the Departments of Anthropology, Biology, and Psychological and Brain Sciences, as well as the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior and the Kinsey Institute.
The Ethics course, Research Ethics and Professional Development, is a one-semester course on professional ethics that draws on expertise provided by the staff of the Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions. It covers regulatory compliance and scientific misconduct, using the ‘case approach’ in which issues are addressed beginning with a simple hypothetical and then adding considerations to increase the ability of the students to draw fine distinctions. In addition to these essentials, the course also covers student-mentor relations, data management, ownership and access, bioethics, and conflicts of interest. Training faculty member Ketterson co-teaches Professional Ethics for the Bio-behavioral Science (A502) in alternate years with CTRD and CISAB pre-docs and post-docs. The course will next be offered during the Fall 2015 semester.
In addition to A502, departments participating in CTRD have their own sequences, e.g. Psychological and Brain Sciences offers ethics training through the graduate First-Year Research Seminar. While certain substitutions are allowed, all NIH trainees must receive training in research ethics.
The CTRD Breakfast
This key component to our training environment has a deceptively simple name. We meet monthly during the school year. All trainees and a high proportion of training faculty attend every breakfast. A unique aspect of the ‘presentations’ is that they are billed as interactive, and speakers rarely have the opportunity to complete any prepared remarks. Speakers are interrupted frequently with requests to define terms for an interdisciplinary audience and out of sheer curiosity. The presenters are CTRD trainees and training faculty, IU faculty who are not part of the Training Group, applicants for CTRD post-doctoral traineeships, and visiting scientists (e.g. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, UC Davis, Elaine Hull, Florida State University, Peg McCarthy, U of Maryland Medical School; Joan Roughgarden, Stanford U, Beverly Strassman, U of Michigan). Highly remembered are the several non-scientists who have spoken, e.g. Nancy Lipschutz from Theatre and Drama who spoke on ‘gendered voices’, and Brenda Casper of Gender Studies who spoke on ‘gendered bodies’. [View the current schedule of speakers]
2) Seminar series and informal forums
Trainees ARE expected to be regular participants in a number of forums that enhance their ability to conduct outstanding research. For example, trainees participate in the weekly meeting of their research groups. Each home department or program has a lunch series, and each year CISAB holds a research symposium. Some trainees will participate in an ongoing exchange program we have with the Keck Center for Behavior Research at NC State, where trainees from our respective schools attend each other’s annual spring conferences. Finally, each participating department hosts 4-5 seminar speakers per week, so that the diligent trainee will have an abundance of weekly seminars from which to choose.
3) Program and departmental requirements
IU is a first-rank research university and consequently all programs and departments emphasize research in their graduate training. All have a preliminary exam, one or more weekly seminar series, a minimum number of distribution requirements, and an expectation of a thesis based on original research.
Many of the CTRD training faculty are from Biology (Evolution Ecology and Behavior, EEB) or Psychological and Brain Sciences (Mechanisms of Behavior, MoB). (Click on the links in the previous sentence to see sample curricula for these 2 programs.)
Students should note that the requirements for these minors overlap with those of home departments and programs, so can often be completed without adding appreciably to your course requirements.
All elements of the training program will be open to post-doctoral trainees. Postdocs will rarely elect to take classes for credit, but we do require that they participate in and contribute to the "Concepts and Techniques" courses and assist in the teaching of "Professional Ethics for the Bio-behavioral Sciences."
CISAB offers informal sessions on a regular basis that stress professional skills, e.g., how to review a research proposal or manuscript, how to write a letter to apply for a job, how to prepare a job seminar, or how to negotiate for a position. These sessions will be of particular use to postdoctoral trainees seeking permanent positions. Postdoctoral trainees will be asked to serve as role model researchers sharing their advice and their talents with younger students and while becoming more effective mentors themselves.