Enrichment



Phillip Brantley, Ph.D.
Enrichment Director

OVERVIEW

The Enrichment Program supports the overall goals of the NORC grant and performs several functions within the NORC. The primary aim of this program is to conduct activities that promote integration of the cores that comprise the NORC.

Specific goals of the Pennington NORC Enrichment Program are to provide a framework to 1) improve communication among the NORC researchers, 2) monitor the activities of investigators associated with the NORC grant, 3) promote awareness and disseminate information about relevant findings from the NORC to other scientists and to the community-at-large, and 4) attract distinguished clinical nutrition scientists to Pennington.  A variety of enrichment activities have been used in an attempt to accomplish these goals including:

Visiting Speaker Series 
Nearly every Thursday since the start of our NORC, visiting scientists have presented one-hour presentations on topics of research interest to Pennington faculty and post-docs. Topics have varied, but a large number have related to some area of obesity and metabolic syndrome.

For this enrichment program, PBRC pledged to invite (at least four times a year or twice per semester) scientists whose research involves molecular and environmental interactions that relate to obesity.  A faculty committee, with input from the entire faculty, selects speakers who are prominent scientists from national and international universities and governmental and industrial laboratories.

All faculty and postdoctoral trainees are encouraged to attend these seminars. Faculty and postdocs have the opportunity to interact with visiting scientists during pre-seminar receptions or during meals. They may also request individual time with the visiting scientist. 

Laboratory Work in Progress
Members of the NORC and their postdoctoral trainees have attended Laboratory Work in Progress Presentations each Tuesday morning (11:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m.) since the establishment of our NORC. NORC members both within and outside Pennington Biomedical receive WIP schedules and are invited to attend the presentations, give feedback to presenters and participate in discussions. At each session, a faculty member, two postdocs or a transdisciplinary team of faculty collaborating on a specific project present on their ongoing research activities. Speakers deliver a seminar of their recent activity with at least 10-15 minutes for questions and discussion. We especially encourage discussions that motivate between basic and clinical science projects and/or involving investigators at multiple institutions (e.g. Pennington and Tulane).

Mentoring Groups
Scientists involved in the NORC participate in the centers mentoring program for junior faculty. Professors and Associate Professors at Pennington Biomedical serve as mentors for Instructors and Assistant Professors. Junior faculty members identify a primary mentor and at least two other committee members that are approved by the Associate Executive Director in their research area (basic, clinical or population/public health research).  Informal mentee/mentor interactions and at least two formal committee meetings per year help ensure junior faculty members have guidance from senior faculty along their path to promotion and tenure.  Mentoring activities are reported in the annual faculty review.

Postdoctoral Training 
A fundamental goal of postdoctoral training at Pennington is to provide postdoctoral fellows with the knowledge and skills to enable them to perform high quality research and develop competitive research proposals for submission to external funding sources such as the National Institutes of Health.  We have two institutional training grants in place. One entitled “Training in Obesity Research” funded by NIDDK, and another entitled "Training in Botanical approaches to Combat metabolic Syndrome" funded by NCCIH.   Dr. Phillip Brantley is a co-director of both the T-32 grants and nearly all participating faculty are members of the NORC.

There are approximately 25 postdoctoral fellows at PBRC, many of whom are mentored by NORC faculty.  Along with working side by side in research activities with our faculty mentors, postdocs attend a two-semester graduate course entitled “Molecular and Clinical Nutrition”.  The course is offered each fall through the LSU Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences and is team taught by NORC faculty at Pennington Biomedical Research Center. The two-course series is designed for postdocs and LSU advanced graduate students.

We also allow senior postdocs, who have previously taken the course, to teach two to three of the lectures in the course in order to acquire graduate teaching experience. 

Postdocs also participate in formal grant writing courses. PBRC’s Division of Education recently encourages and offers transportation for postdocs to attend regional workshop on grant writing. Postdocs at all levels of training are encouraged to attend NIH sponsored grant workshops at professional meetings. PBRC invites speakers each year to provide grant writing seminars to the postdocs (e.g., Dr. Paula Gregory who conducts workshops on grant writing at NIH, Dr. Israel Goldberg, and professional trainers from Health Research Associates, Inc.). Furthermore, faculty and staff from PBRC’s sponsored projects office discuss key aspects of grantsmanship (proposal preparation, budget development, etc.) during the RCR/Professional Development series.

All postdocs and interested faculty meet one Wednesday each month from January to August for Responsible Conduct of Research Seminars. This seminar series includes case studies and discussions on topics related to research ethics and professional issues. Topics have included: conflicts of interest in research, mentor/trainee relationships, issues in data acquisition and management, data sharing and ownership, authorship, responsibilities to the public, handling research misconduct and more.

Pennington Scientific Symposium Series 
Pennington continues to organize at least one scientific symposia each year on topics of interest to Pennington scientists.  These two-day meetings allow top international scientists to visit Baton Rouge and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.  Upwards to thirty visiting scientists join together with Pennington scientists at each meeting to present data and develop conclusions and recommendations for future research in a targeted area.  Meeting proceedings and conclusions are published on the Pennington web site and in scientific journals.