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T32: Training Program in Lung Science

News

Please join us in congratulating former NULSTP predoctoral trainee Samuel E. Weinberg, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Pathology, who has been awarded the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award for Medical Scientists. This is a prestigious award given to early career physician-scientists to bridge advanced postdoctoral and fellowship training and the early years of faculty service.

Read more here: Northwestern Resident Wins Prestigious Burroughs Award for Medical Scientists.

Trainee Stories

NULSTP postdoctoral trainee Alexandra McQuattie Hanrahan, MD, was recently profiled in the Starzl Academy Trainee StoriesShe talks about being a mom and a physician scientist and how Feinberg supports her development through the Starzl Academy Physician Scientist Training Program.

Watch Alexandra's Video

A Day in the Life

Meet MSTP student and former NULSTP trainee Manuel Torres Acosta

Meet former NULSTP trainee Manuel Torres Acosta, a student the PhD portion of the Feinberg School of Medicine’s Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), and get an inside look at a typical day during this phase of his medical school career.

Meet Manuel

Our Mission

The long-term goal of the Northwestern University Lung Sciences Training Program (NULSTP) is to encourage bright, enthusiastic, well-trained, academically oriented MDs and PhDs to pursue a career in pulmonary biology investigation. The trainees supported by our training grant focus their research efforts on the cellular and molecular pathophysiology of lung disease and the translation of these findings to the bedside. Trainees are provided with the scientific environment, didactic training, and career development mentorship required to initiate a successful career in research. The training fosters an environment for the acquisition of scientific skills, collaborative interactions, and critical thinking required to pursue careers in pulmonary and critical care investigation.

The Training Program in Lung Science is now in its second decade of successfully supporting and training a new generation of pre- and postdoctoral fellows who will focus their research efforts on lung science. Of the predoctoral candidates supported by the award since 2004, 77% remain in academia, and 94% are involved research-intensive or research-related careers or training. Similarly, of the postdoctoral fellows supported by the award since 2004, 83% remain in academia, and 93% remain in research-intensive or research-related careers. This success is attributable to the talented trainees we are fortunate to recruit to our program and the diverse, accomplished, and highly collaborative group of mentors with whom they train.

Directors

 Program Eligibility and Application Process

We are currently accepting applications for the Training Program in Lung Science for predoctoral and postdoctoral positions. To apply, please send a recommendation letter from your mentor, your CV, and a short cover letter describing your research activities and interest to pulmonary@northwestern.edu with the subject line: Training Program Applicant. The deadline to apply is six months prior to when you would like funding to begin.

Program Eligibility

All candidates for the Northwestern University Lung Sciences Training Program must meet NRSA citizenship and support requirements:

  • Citizenship: Any individual to be trained must be a citizen or noncitizen national of the United States or have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence at the time of appointment. 
  • NRSA Support: No individual trainee may receive more than 5 years of aggregate Kirschstein-NRSA support at the predoctoral level and 3 years of aggregate Kirschstein-NRSA support at the postdoctoral level, including any combination of support from Kirschstein-NRSA institutional research training grants and individual fellowships.

For more information on NRSA eligibility requirements, see the NIH Grants Policy Statement on Kirschstein-NRSA grants.

Predoctoral Applicant Eligibility

The Northwestern University Lung Sciences Training Program has funding to support three predoctoral trainees. Predoctoral trainees from the following programs are eligible to apply:

  • Driskoll Graduate Program (DGP)
  • Interdepartmental Biological Sciences Program (IBiS)
  • Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP)
  • Biomedical Engineering Program (BME)
  • Material Science and Engineering Program (MSE)

All predoctoral applicants should have completed their rotations and required coursework and passed their qualifying examinations.

Postdoctoral Applicant Eligibility

The Northwestern University Lung Sciences Training Program has funding to support five postdoctoral trainees. Applicants should be recent PhD postdoctoral fellows with at least one year of training or MD physicians in our fellowship program with at least two years of training in clinical pulmonary and critical care medicine, who aspire to pursue an academic career and have conducted research with one of the mentors of the NULSTP.

Application Process and Deadlines

We are currently accepting applications for the Training Program in Lung Science for predoctoral and postdoctoral positions. To apply, please send a recommendation letter from your mentor, your CV, and a short cover letter describing your research activities and interest to pulmonary@northwestern.edu with the subject line: Training Program Applicant. The deadline to apply is six months prior to when you would like funding to begin.

 Current NULSTP Trainees

Meet current trainees and learn more about their research projects. All trainee publications may be viewed on PubMed.

 

Predoctoral Scholars

 

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McKenzie Fulcer

Mentor: Karen M. Ridge, PhD

McKenzie Fulcer’s research focuses on mechanisms of lung repair and recovery following viral infection. Influenza A virus infection damages type II alveolar epithelial (AT2) cells, leading to accumulation of mitochondrial DNA and subsequent activation of the cGAS-STING pathway to induce type I interferons and inflammatory cytokines. It is known that overactivation of this pathway leads to inflammatory diseases and that patients who develop idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis show increased levels cGAS-STING activation. However, the role played by AT2 cells in overactivation of the innate immune response after viral clearance and its impacts on alveolar repair is unclear. To shed more light on this pathway, in the laboratory of Karen M. Ridge, PhD, Fulcer is investigating cGAS-STING activation and immune response of AT2 cells following viral infection and clearance.

Diagram showing how injury and infection lead to cGAS-STING pathway activation in the lungs
Click for larger image.

Selected Publications: 

 

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Alec Koss

Mentor: Navdeep S. Chandel, PhD

Alec Koss’s research interests are centered on mitochondrial function as a key regulator of skeletal muscle physiology and pathology. Crosstalk between the skeletal muscle and immune systems has been described in various physiological processes, ranging from influenza virus induction of skeletal muscle wasting to resident macrophage necessity for skeletal muscle repair following injury. However, further investigation is required to fully understand the implications of this crosstalk, especially in the context of exercise and states involving skeletal muscle inflammation. These processes share a common phenotype of altered metabolism relative to the basal state. To study the metabolic mechanisms underlying human disease and aging, Koss has joined the laboratory of Navdeep S. Chandel, PhD.

Selected Publications:

 

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Tatiana Ortiz Serrano

Mentor: Karen M. Ridge, PhD

Tatiana Ortiz Serrano’s research explores modulation of the cellular immune response to influenza A virus (IAV) infection by the intermediate filament protein vimentin. Preliminary data suggest vimentin-null mice are protected from IAV-induced lung injury without compromising recruitment of monocyte-derived alveolar macrophages (MoAMs), viral replication, or viral clearance; and that vimentin-null MoAMs exhibit a dampened inflammatory response and enhanced pro-repair function. Ortiz Serrano hypothesizes that modulation of vimentin expression in MoAMs alters their pro-inflammatory phenotype, promoting lung repair after viral pneumonia. To test this hypothesis, in the laboratory of Karen M. Ridge, PhD, she will implement a MoAM-specific genetic lineage tracing system and inducible vimentin deletion strategy in a murine model of IAV pneumonia.

Diagram showing monocyte-derived alveolar macrophages in dysregulated versus healthy lung tissue repair

Click for larger image.

Selected Publications: 

 

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Carla Patricia Reyes Flores

Mentor: Benjamin D. Singer, MD

DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) and UHRF1, a DNMT adapter protein, mediate and maintain DNA methylation patterns in regulatory T cells (Tregs). Transient loss of DNMT activity or UHRF1 enhances the reparative phenotype of Tregs by increasing generation of the epithelial growth factor ligand AREG. Carla Patricia Reyes Flores hypothesizes that UHRF1 represses Treg reparative function and that Tregs require AREG to exert their reparative function during recovery from influenza in aged hosts. To test this hypothesis, in the laboratory of Benjamin D. Singer, MD, she is determining whether transient genetic deletion of the Uhrf1 gene in aged Tregs during recovery from influenza pneumonia is sufficient to restore pro-repair transcriptional and functional programs, and whether Treg-derived AREG is necessary for Treg reparative function in aged mice.

Diagram showing how DNA methyltransferases and UHRF1 affect amphiregulin production in young versus aged Treg cells

Click for larger image.

Selected Publications: 

 

Postdoctoral Scholars

 

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Thaddeus Cybulski, MD, PhD

Mentors: Manu Jain, MD, and Alexander V. Misharin, MD, PhD

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a progressive, mutlisystem genetic disease affecting ~40,000 people in the United States. Despite CF being a largely monogenetic condition caused by mutations in the CFTR gene, there is high variability in clinical trajectories, from early morbidity and mortality to relatively mild disease and survival into old age. Thaddius Cybulski, MD, PhD, is interested in using computational techniques to understand factors that lead to these highly variable clinical trajectories. His current work with Manu Jain, MD, and Alexander V. Misharin, MD, PhD, is focused on characterizing changes in minimally invasive samples of nasal epithelium from people with CF using single-cell transcriptomics. Cybulski is also interested in using machine learning techniques and clinical/electronic health record data to identify predictors of clinical trajectories in CF.

Selected Publications: 

 

Alexandra McQuattie Hanrahan, MD

Alexandra McQuattie Hanrahan, MD

Mentor: Douglas E. Vaughan, MD

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds it is important to study lung function during aging. Advanced age is the most important risk factor for severe lung disease. Strategies targeting aging are key to preserve lung function. Alexandra Hanrahan, MD, is interested in aging research and under the mentorship of Douglas E. Vaughan, MD, is studying the effect of PAI-1 haploinsufficiency on pulmonary structure and function. It has been documented in the literature that dysregulated PAI-1 is a critical contributor in stress-induced murine lung aging pathologies including sustained inflammation, senescence, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, and vascular thrombosis. She plans to investigate PAI-1 deficiency and/or pharmacological inhibition of PAI-1 in preventing stress-induced lung aging pathologies.

Selected Publications: 

 

Andrew Prigge, MD

Andrew D. Prigge, MD

Mentors: Karen M. Ridge, PhD, and Bria Coates, MD

Viral pneumonia disproportionately affects young children and can progress to life-threatening disease. Observations suggest an inadequate T cell response contributes to impaired recovery relative to adults. Andrew Prigge, MD, is determining the role of regulatory T cells (Tregs) during recovery from viral pneumonia in children using a juvenile mouse model developed in the laboratory of Karen M. Ridge, PhD. In parallel, Prigge collaborates with Bria Coates, MD, to examine the nasal transcriptional response to viral infection in children. They recently demonstrated age-related differences in expression of genes involved in T cell receptor signaling in children and adults with asymptomatic to mild SARS-CoV-2 infection. They also found an association between cilia-related gene expression and clinical outcomes in children with critical respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis.

Diagram showing juvenile versus adult regulatory T cells in lung inflammation and injury repair

Click for larger image.

Selected Publications: 

 

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Zachary Sebo, PhD

Mentor: Navdeep S. Chandel, PhD

Ataxia-telangiectasia (AT) is a premature aging disorder that dramatically increases the risk of chronic lung disease, respiratory infections, and cancer. Most individuals with AT die of one of these conditions by age 30. The disease is caused by mutations in the ATM gene, which encodes a bifunctional protein that responds to DNA damage and oxidative stress by distinct mechanisms. It is unclear which AT-related pathologies are due to impaired DNA damage response and which are due to impaired oxidative stress response. In the laboratory of Navdeep S. Chandel, PhD, Zachary Sebo, PhD, is generating a new mouse model of AT that allows for the uncoupling of DNA damage and oxidative stress responses by ATM in a tissue-specific manner, to determine how lung disease manifests in AT.

Selected Publications: 

 Participating Mentors

A strength of the NULSTP faculty is the extent to which they collaborate. As shown below, most NULSTP faculty mentors have had meaningful academic interactions with each other in the form of co-authorship in the past 5 years. Many of these collaborations have been stimulated by interactions between our NULSTP trainees.

Chord chart showing co-authorship and collaboration between NULSTP faculty mentors

Click for larger image.

Special thanks to Mao Soulakis and the Research Assessment and Communications Department of the Galter Health Sciences Library for generating these data and creating this visual.

 

Hiam Abdala-Valencia, PhD

Associate Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)

Research Interest: Application of next-generation sequencing technology and integrative “wet” lab approaches to basic and translational research of lung diseases

Training Role: Preceptor

Luisa Iruela-Arispe, PhD

Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology

Research Interest: VEGF and Notch signaling in altering endothelial barrier function; mechanisms driving these pathways and their effect on vascular resilience during stress, including aging and COVID-19

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Kelly E. Bachta, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases)

Research Interest: In vivo infection dynamics of Pseudomonas aeruginosa using next-generation sequencing and animal models, better understanding of antimicrobial resistance in P. aeruginosa

Training Role: Preceptor In-Training

 

Ankit Bharat, MBBS

Professor of Surgery (Thoracic Surgery)

Research Interest: Lung preservation, transplant immunology, and airway biology; molecular mechanisms used by nonclassical monocytes retained in the donor lung in mediating primary graft dysfunction

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Rosemary Braun, PhD, MPH

Associate Professor of Molecular Biosciences

Research Interest: Computational biology; development of methods for integrative, systems-level analysis of high-dimensional *omic “big” data, and the collaborative application of these methods to investigate the genomic causes of disease

Training Role: Preceptor

 

G. R. Scott Budinger, MD

Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)

Research Interest: Acute respiratory failure, aging, and viral pneumonia; mechanisms driving changes in lung proteostasis resulting in altered innate immune response in alveolar macrophages during injury and repair

Training Role: Associate Program Director of Recruitment, Career Development, and Retention; Preceptor

 

Mercedes Carnethon, PhD

Professor of Preventative Medicine (Epidemiology)

Research Interest: Cardiovascular disease epidemiology

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Navdeep S. Chandel, PhD

Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)

Research Interest: Mitochondria as signaling organelles

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Bria Marielle Coates, MD

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (Critical Care)

Research Interest: Differences in the inflammatory response to viral respiratory infections in children and adults

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Laura Dada, PhD

Research Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)

Research Interest: Acute lung injury, alveolar epithelial cell biology, effect of hypoxia and hypercapnia on lung function, and ubiquitination in lung disease

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Stephanie C. Eisenbarth, MD, PhD

Professor of Medicine (Allergy and Immunology) and Pathology

Research Interest: How dendritic cells, B cells, and T cells interact to induce tailored adaptive immune responses in the spleen, lung, and gut

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Khalilah Latrece Gates, MD

Associate Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care) and Medical Education

Research Interest: Pulmonary infections, COPD, asthma, and sepsis; UME critical care education, strategies for creating inclusive educational and clinical environments 

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Cara J. Gottardi, PhD

Associate Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)

Research Interest: Molecular mechanisms of cell-cell adhesion regulation required for normal tissue morphogenesis; how alterations in cell adhesion complexes drive disease states such as cancer, fibrosis, and asthma

Training Role: Preceptor

 

SeungHye Han, MD, MPH

Assistant Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)

Research Interest: Molecular mechanisms of mitochondrial metabolism and cellular metabolism that affect lung epithelial stem cell function and fate, in the context of lung development and lung repair after injury

Training Role: Preceptor In-Training

 

Erica Hartmann, PhD

Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Research Interest: Understanding at the molecular level how microbial communities respond to anthropogenic chemicals and using that information to control the spread of undesirable traits such as antibiotic resistance

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Alan R. Hauser, MD, PhD

Professor of Microbiology-Immunology

Research Interest: Pathogenesis of healthcare-associated bacterial pathogens

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Curt Horvath, PhD

Professor of Molecular Biosciences

Research Interest: Signal transduction and gene expression in mammalian cells

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Judd F. Hultquist, PhD

Assistant Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases)

Research Interest: Development and adaptation of high-throughput, quantitative, systems-based approaches for use in primary models of disease to better understand the host-pathogen relationship

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Manu Jain, MD

Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)

Research Interest: Respiratory diseases, cytokines, lungs and breathing problems—ARDS, sepsis, and cystic fibrosis—bacterial genotypic and phenotypic diversity, and mechanisms of fibrosis in lung disease

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Ravi Kalhan, MD, MS

Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)

Research Interest: Asthma, COPD, and respiratory epidemiology; understanding impaired respiratory health as an intermediate phenotype that precedes chronic lung disease

Training Role: Associate Program Director of Curriculum Development and Evaluation, Preceptor

 

Alexander V. Misharin, MD, PhD

Associate Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)

Research Interest: Macrophage biology in the context of lung diseases

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Luisa Morales-Nebreda, MD

Assistant Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)

Research Interest: Intercellular signaling pathways between immune cell subsets and the injured alveolar endothelium that promote tissue repair

Training Role: Preceptor In-Training

 

Guillermo Oliver, PhD

Professor of Medicine (Nephrology and Hypertension)

Research Interest: Genetics of normal and pathological organogenesis in lymphatic vasculature

Training Role: Preceptor 

 

Pablo Penaloza-MacMaster, PhD

Assistant Professor of Microbiology-Immunology

Research Interest: Basic mechanisms of T cell and B cell regulation, mechanisms by which immune checkpoints and type I interferons regulate adaptive immunity

Training Role: Preceptor 

 

Harris R. Perlman, PhD

Professor of Medicine (Rheumatology)

Research Interest: Role of co-morbidities in rheumatoid arthritis, macrophage heterogeneity in the target organs (synovium, kidney, and lung) of rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and systemic sclerosis

Training Role: Preceptor 

 

Chiagozie I. Pickens, MD

Assistant Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)

Research Interest: To validate and improve the diagnosis and management of severe pneumonia in critically ill patients

Training Role: Preceptor In-Training

 

Murali Prakriya, PhD

Professor of Pharmacology and Medicine (Allergy and Immunology)

Research Interest: Molecular and cellular mechanisms of intracellular calcium signaling

Training Role: Preceptor 

 

Karen M. Ridge, PhD

Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)

Research Interest: Immunologic mechanisms that modify cellular responses in the lung that promote inflammation and contribute to lung tissue damage and aberrant remodeling

Training Role: Program Director/Principal Investigator, Preceptor

 

Evan Scott, PhD

Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Research Interest: Unique immunoengineering and biomaterials-based strategies for the treatment and basic understanding of cancer, vaccination, immune dysregulation, and heart disease

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Ali Shilatifard, PhD

Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics

Research Interest: Molecular mechanisms underlying leukemogenesis and potential targets for therapy through detailed studies of proteins and protein complexes that regulate chromatin modifications, transcription initiation, and transcription elongation

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Benjamin D. Singer, MD

Associate Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)

Research Interest: DNA methylation as a determinant of T cell function in the injured lung

Training Role: Preceptor 

 

Peter H. Sporn, MD

Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)

Research Interest: Airway inflammation and remodeling; mechanical stress and airway remodeling; hypercapnia and innate immunity in the lung

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Justin B. Starren, MD, PhD, FACMI

Professor of Preventative Medicine (Health and Biomedical Informatics)

Research Interest: Biomedical informatics, health informatics, data science, precision medicine, computational biology, information systems, internet intervention, medical informatics, and postgraduate medical education

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Whitney W. Stevens, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Medicine (Allergy and Immunology) and Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery

Research Interest: Aspirin exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD), chronic rhinosinusitis, and asthma

Training Role: Preceptor In-Training

 

Thomas Stoeger, PhD

Assistant Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)

Research Interest: Novel research directions for understanding and ultimately mitigating human aging and lung disease associated with aging

Training Role: Preceptor In-Training

 

Jacob I. Sznajder, MD

Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)

Research Interest: Acute respiratory failure, alveolar epithelial cell biology, and effect of hypoxia and hypercapnia on lung and muscle function; proteostasis and ubiquitination in lung disease

Training Role: Program Director/Principal Investigator, Preceptor

 

Douglas E. Vaughan, MD

Professor of Medicine (Cardiology)

Research Interest: Role of the plasminogen activation system in tissue repair, fibrosis, and thrombosis

Training Role: Preceptor

 

Deborah Winter, PhD

Assistant Professor of Medicine (Rheumatology)

Research Interest: Mapping the gene regulatory networks of immune cells in health and disease, particularly macrophages in sarcoidosis

Training Role: Preceptor 

 

Richard G. Wunderink, MD

Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)

Research Interest: Diagnosis, pathogenesis, epidemiology, treatment, and prevention of infections in the critically ill, especially community-acquired pneumonia and hospital-acquired pneumonia; quality improvement in the ICU; septic shock; acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)

Training Role: Preceptor

 T32 Steering Committee

 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The Department of Medicine at Northwestern University is committed to attracting and ensuring the success of inquisitive, motivated trainees who embrace a growth mindset in learning and education. There are many challenges facing medicine which require a diverse perspective brought by physicians and researchers collaboratively working to tackle these complex issues. The Northwestern University Lung Sciences Training Program recognizes the importance of a diverse and inclusive work environment that ultimately allows our trainees to achieve their goals individually and collectively

For more information about Northwestern’s commitment to diversity, please see the following resources:

Initiatives at Northwestern and Beyond

The Training Program in Lung Science has consistently demonstrated our commitment to enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion at all levels by providing and maintaining an inclusive and supportive environment for our trainees as they pursue academic careers in the lung sciences.

Here we highlight the involvement of NULSTP trainees and mentors in programs at Northwestern and beyond to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.

American Heart Association Hispanic Serving Institution Scholars Program

Alexandra Hanrahan, MDNULSTP postdoctoral trainee Alexandra Hanrahan, MD, along with NULSTP mentor Laura Dada, PhD and NULSTP mentor-in-training and former NULSTP postdoctoral trainee Luisa Morales-Nebreda, MD, serves as a mentor in the American Heart Association's Hispanic Serving Institution Scholars Program, which works to reduce health inequities in Latino communities and increase representation in the healthcare workforce by investing in aspiring Hispanic researchers and healthcare professionals.

In the HSI Scholars Program, undergraduate students enrolled in biomedical and health sciences at Hispanic-serving institutions participate in academic and career-enriching experiences for a full school year. Scholars learn about health disparities in Hispanic/Latino communities, how cultural sensitivity can provide safe and reassuring clinical spaces, and how inclusivity is essential in science.

morales_nebreda_luisa_160x213.jpgSays Luisa Morales-Nebreda, MD, “Personally, I think this is a fantastic opportunity for underrepresented students to engage in biomedical research at an early stage, with a structured mentorship program. There is a growing body of literature suggesting that a diverse and inclusive workforce enhances organizational performance and impactful research. Thus, initiatives like the HSI Scholars Program are well positioned to help close the diversity gap in healthcare and biomedical research.”

Northwestern Medical Scientist Training Program Diversity and Inclusion Committee

Manuel Torres AcostaMSTP student and former NULSTP predoctoral trainee Manuel A. Torres Acosta worked in the translational research laboratory of David Carbone, MD, PhD, during his undergraduate senior year at The Ohio State University. There, Torres Acosta developed a desire to frame his future scientific goals and interests around facilitating advanced care to underrepresented communities in medicine such as the Latino community. As an underrepresented minority himself, he has been proactive in pursuing leadership opportunities that allow him to grow as a current and future advocate for diversity and inclusion in science and medicine.

As an MD-PhD student in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) under the mentorship of Benjamin D. Singer, MD, Torres Acosta has contributed to the MSTP as co-chair of the inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Committee, a student-led effort to assist in the recruitment of diverse trainees, the creation of educational resources for current students and faculty, and the revision of current recruitment and training practices through the lenses of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Jeanne QuinnUnder Torres Acosta’s tenure as co-chair, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee established a recurrent book club on topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion; organized a speaker series with experts on these topics; and administered the first student climate survey focused on the experiences of current trainees as they relate to their identity. Torres Acosta also led a review with fellow MSTP student and NULSTP Trainee Jeanne Quinn and others on the impact of underrepresented minority or marginalized identity status on training outcomes of MD-PhD students published in BMC Medical Education.

Office of Diversity and Inclusion Summer Research Opportunity Program

tatiana_ortiz_serrano_160x213.jpgTatiana Ortiz Serrano, a predoctoral NULSTP trainee under the mentorship of Karen M. Ridge, PhD, has been working as a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow in The Graduate School Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) since 2022. ODI focuses on the recruitment and support of underrepresented populations to foster an inclusive environment and facilitate community engagement, targeting graduate students and postdoctoral trainees. As a fellow, Ortiz Serrano assists with the development of student recruitment and retention programming.

In addition, Ortiz Serrano has served as a group leader for the Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP), a competitive research experience hosted yearly by ODI for college sophomores and juniors; students belonging to groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in graduate education are encouraged to apply. Part of Ortiz Serrano’s duties as a group leader is to mentor five undergraduate students while they complete their assigned biomedical research project.

Says Ortiz Serrano, “Being an NU-SROP alumna myself, I am highly aware of how impactful good mentorship can be to these students. I am honored and grateful for having the opportunity to pass down my knowledge as a graduate student to the future generation of biomedical scientists. I am equally thrilled to share my experience as an ODI fellow and SROP group leader with our Division and NULSTP to foster a more diverse and inclusive community.”

Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Kimberly Querrey Summer Research Program

reczek_colleen_160x213.jpgFormer NULSTP trainee Colleen Reczek, PhD, co-directs Pulmonary and Critical Care’s Kimberly Querrey Summer Research Program, which provides a competitive research experience for high school and undergraduate students. Supported by an endowment, the program was established by NULSTP program director Jacob I. Sznajder, MD, and today is co-directed by Reczek and NULSTP program director Karen M. Ridge, PhD. All NULSTP trainees participate as mentors in the program, which actively seeks out participants in demographics underrepresented in science and medicine as part of our broader commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in science and medicine. 

Other Initiatives to Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 

carla_patricia_reyes_flores_160x213.jpgCarla Patricia Reyes Flores, a predoctoral NULSTP trainee under the mentorship of Benjamin D. Singer, MD, co-coordinates STEM Circuits, an interdisciplinary mentoring program of the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative supporting the success of Chicago-area early-career women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She has also assisted with recruitment and outreach as a volunteer with Girls 4 Science, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing STEM exposure among girls 1018 years old. At Northwestern, she has served as a moderator for the Sustained Dialogue Institute, which sought to understand how gender and sexuality impact the lives of medical providers, students, and patients, with the goal of generating an action item to spread awareness on the Feinberg campus.

Reyes Flores focuses her current endeavors on her roles as administrative assistant to the Northwestern University chapter of the Society of Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, advocacy committee chair for the Chicago Graduate Student Association, content advisor to the Feinberg LGBTQ+ Safe Space Training Module, editor-in-chief of the Graduate Women Across Northwestern blog and spotlight initiative, and a mentor for the Student-Assisted Mentoring Program, where she helps an incoming graduate student navigate their first year of graduate school. In 2023, Reyes Flores was awarded an Underrepresented Trainee Development Scholarship from the American Thoracic Society.

khalilah_gates_160x213.jpgKhalilah Gates, MD, serves on the Pulmonary Division’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and on the NULSTP Steering Committee as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Chair. As Assistant Dean of Medical Education, she leads the Task Force on Inclusion & Bias in the Department of Medical Education and leads Feinberg’s faculty and student council on racism, justice, and equity for the Augusta Webster, MD, Office of Medical Education. Gates also serves on the Steering Committee of the Emma Reynolds Circle, which initiates recruitment and retention efforts for African American female students and trainees to foster mentorship relationships and build community.

 Program Expectations and FAQ

Each trainee is expected to:

  • Have their research results accepted for publication.
  • Attend all Pulmonary Research In Progress conferences.
  • Present their research at our Lung Symposium.
  • Complete the Responsible Conduct of Research course.
  • Submit an abstract to and attend a national or international conference related to their research.
  • Create an Individual Development Plan with their mentor which will be reviewed annually.

The training grant provides:

  • Stipend support for the development of physician, predoctoral, and postdoctoral research scientists.
  • Mentorship by senior investigators.
  • The laboratory environment, training, and supervision required for the development of independent investigators.
  • Educational resources in the form of didactic courses, invited speakers, and collaborative interactions that will foster the skills required for an independent research career.
  • Administrative structure that will facilitate the trainee’s acquisition of protected time from activities not directly related to research.

What is a payback obligation and how do I know if I incur one?
Any postdoctoral NRSA trainee or fellow incurs a payback obligation during their first year of support. Predoctoral NRSA trainees do not incur a payback obligation. Payback means that you will perform qualified research or teaching activities for a length of time equal to the period of NRSA support you received. Receiving 12 months of postdoctoral training support obligates you to perform 12 months of qualified research or teaching activities as payback. Only the first year of training incurs a payback obligation; the second year of training pays back the first year, with each month of qualifying payback activity paying back one month of NRSA support. If you receive two full years of NRSA training, you will have completed your payback obligation. In general, payback activity must involve at least 20 hours per week and be conducted over 12 consecutive months. Special exceptions to these requirements may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Additional resources on payback obligations can be found on the NIH website, along with separate payback FAQs.

 Trainee Resources

All trainees are encouraged to take advantage of the following resources:

More resources will be available on the trainee-only NULSTP intranet site (coming soon).