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Phillip Brantley, Ph.D.
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.
Faculty Work in Progress
Members of the NORC and their postdoctoral trainees have attended Faculty Work in Progress Presentations each Tuesday afternoon (4:00 until 5:00 P.M.) since the establishment of our NORC. At each session, one or more faculty members have presented on their research activities. The setting has been rather informal to allow the audience to ask questions and comment on the research. Audience discussions frequently ensue during and after the hour-long session. Plans are for faculty associated with the NORC to continue to attend and present their research progress (at least one time per year) at these meetings and receive feedback from their colleagues.
Scientists involved in the NORC participate in Pennington’s four Mentoring Groups designed to assist in the training and career development of less experienced Pennington researchers. The Pennington Mentoring Groups include: the Genetics and Stem Cell Mentoring Group (led by Dr. Claude Bouchard); the NeuroScience Group led by Dr. Jeff Keller; the Clinical, Behavioral, & Population Science Mentoring Group led by Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk; and the Cell Physiology and Metabolism Group led by Dr. Kikhil Dhurandhar.
Each mentoring group is composed of 20 to 30 junior and senior level faculty. Groups meet at least once per quarter (some groups have met monthly) to focus group members on relevant research issues and funding sources. Care has been taken to address training needs of junior level investigators, particularly in the area of grant proposal writing.
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 “Obesity: from Genes to Man” funded by NIDDK, and another entitled "Training in Botanical approaches to Combat metabolic Syndrome". Dr. Phillip Brantley is the director of both the T-32 grants and nearly all their faculty are members of the NORC.
There are approximately 45 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 School of Human Ecology and team taught by NORC faculty and 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 seminars on grant writing. Pennington’s Division of Education recently encouraged and offered transportation for postdocs to attend a state sponsored workshop on the basics of grant writing. Postdocs have participated in weekly Postdoc Data Presentation Seminars (during at least one of these each year, postdocs present their own research program).
All postdocs and interested faculty meet one Wednesday each month 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 two 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 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.