Research Series

A series of research-specific workshops are scheduled annually to meet the career development needs of postdoctoral trainees through senior investigators across the health sciences. Sessions are typically offered at various times and locations throughout the year, although all are currently being held via Zoom.  Select the workshops that best meet your professional goals. See below for the fall lineup.

September 7, 2022
Know Your K: Writing a Successful Career Development Award Application For Basic Scientists and Clinical Researchers *VIEW RECORDING*

Time: 3-5pm ET
Location: Zoom
Presenter: Mark S. Roberts, MD, MPP
Description:  Mentored Career Development Awards (also known as "K Awards") are the National Institute of Health's (NIH) primary grant mechanisms for supporting trainees, from new- to mid-career investigators, and are a key step in any researcher's career. Mark S. Roberts, MD, MPP, shared step-by-step instructions on how to prepare an outstanding and successful K application during "Know Your K: Writing a Successful Career Development Award Application for Basic Scientists and Clinical Investigators". An overview of the application process and review criteria was covered, and the range of K awards was discussed.

Presenter Bio: Mark S. Roberts, MD, MPP, is Distinguished Professor of Health Policy and Management, and holds secondary appointments in Medicine, Industrial Engineering, Business Administration and Clinical and Translational Science. A practicing general internist, he has conducted research in decision analysis and the mathematical modeling of disease for over 30 years, and has expertise in cost effectiveness analysis, mathematical optimization and simulation, and the measurement and inclusion of patient preferences into decision problems. He has used decision sciences to examine clinical, costs, policy and allocation questions in liver transplantation, vaccination strategies, operative interventions, influenza, COVID-19, HIV and the use of many medications. His recent research has concentrated in the use of mathematical methods from operations research and management science, including Markov Decision Processes, Discrete Event and Agent-based Simulation. As director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory, he continues to lead the development of simulation tools for representing complex diseases and the evaluation of policies to improve health and public health. He has been a principal or co-investigator on over 40 NIH grants and has published over 170 papers in peer-reviewed journals. During his career, he has served as a primary or secondary mentor for over 20 K-type or other training grants, as well as having served as a mentor for many fellows and graduate students. In addition, for 10 years he served as the director of degree-granting programs for the Institute for Clinical Research Education, where he developed and directed the Certificate and Master’s degree programs in Clinical Research, and co-directed the PhD program in Clinical and Translational Science. He has over 6 years of service on study sections for the NIH and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and served as the Chair of the Health Care Technology and Decision Sciences Study Section at AHRQ.


September 28, 2022
Finding Funding Opps: PIVOT Database Training to Accelerate Your Research Career *VIEW RECORDING*

Time: 12-1pm ET
Location: Zoom
Presenter: Ryan Champagne, Bradley Pollock
Description: Discover the world of funding opportunities and easily identify the ones that are right for you at any career stage! Are you looking for funding opportunities to kickstart your research career or to move it to the next level and not sure where to start? Pivot is a searchable funding opportunity and expertise database, subscribed to by the University of Pittsburgh and offered to all faculty, postdoctoral trainees, and graduate students. The database is a comprehensive source for funding information from all disciplines and users can conduct searches for funding opportunities, save searches and receive funding alerts tailored to your scholarly profile. Join Ryan Champagne and Bradley Pollock from Pitt’s Office of Sponsored Programs to learn how to use this valuable resource. Additional resources were also shared for identifying prestigious academic awards, fellowships available to non-US citizens, funding programs for early career faculty, and internally-coordinated competitions for limited submission and University-funded programs.

Presenter Bios: 

Ryan Champagne is the Assistant Director for Research Development at the University of Pittsburgh. He has a Master's Degree in Library & Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh.                                                                                                                                                                                                
Bradley Pollock is the team's Research Development Analyst. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Literary Studies from Allegheny College.

The Research Development team produces and distributes funding opportunity newsletters, provides informational sessions detailing specific funding mechanisms, coordinates internal grant competitions for limited submissions, and identifies relevant funding opportunities for specific research projects. The team sits in the University’s Office of Sponsored Programs, and partners with other cross-cutting administrative units to serve faculty across the University.


October 4, 2022
Navigating Through the Peer-Review Process

Time: 10-11:30am ET
Location: Zoom
Co-Hosts: Elsevier and Pitt's HSLS
Description: Navigating the peer-review process is a complex, yet essential skill for anyone in academia. Combining the perspective and experience of an "outsider" (as an author and university administrator) and "insider" (as a reviewer and editor, and as a publisher), this workshop demystified the peer-review process, focusing on the "reviewer" experience.

October 13, 2022
K99/R00: Pathway to Independence Award *VIEW RECORDING*

Time: 3:30-5pm ET
Location: Zoom
Presenter: Cesar G. Escobar-Viera, PhD, MD
Panelists: Sarah Hengel, PhD, Trayambak Pathak, PhD, Kristin Smith-Edwards, PhD, and Natasha Tilston-Lunel, PhD
Description: The K99/R00, or "Pathway to Independence" award, helps trainees transition from a mentored postdoctoral research position to an independent research position. Applicants do not have to be US citizens or permanent residents, making this a popular funding mechanism for trainees. Because of the complexity of the application process, this standalone session was developed to help you learn how to successfully write one by learning from those who have already done so. Dr. Escobar-Viera provided an overview of the K99/R00 application. Panelists then talked about their own experiences in writing successful applications and shared how they personalized different sections to showcase their strengths and future research goals. 

If you didn't attend the September 7th "Know Your K" session, we encourage you to view the recording on the OACD’s website before watching this session.

Presenter's Bio:

Cesar G. Escobar-Viera, PhD, MD, is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Program for Internet Delivered Interventions on LGBTQA+ Mental Health (PRIDE iM) at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Originally from the country of Paraguay, he is a psychiatrist and health services researcher with a master's degree in public health. As researcher, Dr. Escobar-Viera’s mission is to reducing mental health inequities among sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth and young adults through developing and testing social media-based interventions. Among other projects, he is the principal investigator of an NIMHD funded K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award that seeks to determine the influence of social media experiences on mental health outcomes among SGM young adults. When not thinking about ways to improve SGM people's mental health, he likes to spend time with his husband and their dog Benito, hiking, camping, traveling, going to concerts, and listening to music from the 20th century.

Panelists' Bios:

Sarah R. Hengel, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Dr. Kara Bernstein’s Lab (Penn). My work has been supported by a Hillman Cancer Fellowship for Innovative Cancer Research, an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship and now a K99/R00 Grant from the NIEHS. Historically, proteins in DNA repair have had defined roles within specific pathways, but recent work in our field has illuminated crosstalk between DNA repair proteins in other repair scenarios. My work is focused on the intersection of how chemical agents from our environment cause DNA damage and how “canonical” proteins in a pathway called homologous recombination fix these DNA lesions during another repair pathway which resolves replication stress. I will start my own laboratory at Tufts in the Biology Department in Sept 2023 and focus on uncovering the underlying mechanisms of how DNA damage at replication forks contribute to genetic instability and cancer. 

Trayambak Pathak, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Vascular Medicine Institute at the University of Pittsburgh where he works in the lab of Dr. Mohamed Trebak. He was trained as a neuroscientist during graduate school and obtained mammalian physiology training during his postdoctoral period. His aim is to understand the basic molecular mechanism that regulates obesity and to develop a novel non-invasive therapeutic strategy for obesity. Dr. Pathak received his K99/R00 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in April 2022 to investigate store-operated Orai3 calcium channels in metabolism and obesity.

Kristen Smith-Edwards, PhD, investigates the neural circuits of the Gut-Brain Axis that control colon motility, visceral pain, and inflammation. During her post-doctoral training with Dr. Brian Davis at the University of Pittsburgh, she developed in vivo/ex vivo electrophysiological and optogenetic approaches to manipulate and record neural activity while simultaneously measuring colonic contractions. She was awarded an F32 from the NIDDK to study neural circuits in a mouse model for Hirschsprung’s disease, an enteric neurodevelopmental disorder. She then received her K99/R00 (also from the NIDDK), to investigate neuro-immune-microbiome interactions that contribute to Hirschsprung-associated enterocolitis and inflammation. Dr. Smith-Edwards recently transitioned to the R00 phase of the award as an Assistant Professor at Mayo Clinic in the Department of Physiology and Biomedical Engineering with a joint appointment in the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 

Natasha Tilston-Lunel, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Center for Vaccine Research (CVR) at the University of Pittsburgh. She has a Ph.D. in Molecular Virology from the University of St Andrews, Scotland. In 2020, Dr. Tilston-Lunel was awarded a K99/R00 to study how bunyaviruses evolve through a process called reassortment. Bunyaviruses are a large and diverse group of viruses with segmented negative-sense RNA genomes. Reassortment is a process where intact genes are exchanged between co-infecting viruses. Reassortment amongst influenza viruses is a well-established driver of host range and virulence. However, amongst bunyaviruses, the underlying mechanisms and potential outcomes of reassortment are unknown. Dr. Tilston-Lunel is now in the process of moving to the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Indiana University School of Medicine as an Assistant Professor. The R00 phase of the award will allow her to establish an independent research program identifying the genetic determinants that govern bunyavirus reassortment, define the contributions of virus and host, and link viral genetics to pathogenesis. This work feeds into the ultimate goal of developing rationally designed bunyavirus vaccines.


November 1, 2022
Mock K Award Study Section *VIEW RECORDING*

Time: 3-5pm ET
Location: Zoom
Presenters: Michael Gold, PhD, Maisa Feghali, MD, MS, and Amery Treble-Barna, PhD
Description: K awards, or the NIH’s Mentored Career Development Awards, are the NIH’s most common mechanism for supporting early career investigators. Watch as Pitt faculty with extensive study section experience  review applications as part of a mock K study section. During this session, led by Dr. Michael Gold, you will be able to not only observe what a study section is like, but to also receive inside information regarding the study section review process. 

If you didn't attend the September 7th "Know Your K" session, view the recording on the OACD’s website in advance of this session, then watch this program to take a closer look at the workings of a study section.

Presenter Bios: Dr. Gold is a Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He earned his PhD in Neuroscience from the University of California Los Angeles in 1994 under the mentorship of Dr. John Liebeskind and received post-doctoral training in neuropharmacology and biophysics at the Universities of California San Francisco and Los Angeles under the mentorship of Drs. Jon Levine and Anna-Maria Correa, respectively. Dr. Gold began his academic career at the University of Maryland, Baltimore in 1998 under the chairmanship of Dr. Ron Dubner. In 2006 he was recruited to Pittsburgh by Dr. Jerry Gebhart, where he runs a lab focused on peripheral mechanisms of pain. His research in this field has focused on identification of factors, most commonly voltage-, Ca2+-, and ligand-gated ion channels, that enable sensory neurons to contribute to persistent pain, such as that associated with chronic inflammation or nerve injury. He serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Pain, the Journal of Pain Research, and the Neurobiology of Pain. Dr. Gold served on the scientific program committee for the Society for Neuroscience, the American Pain Society, and the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). Dr. Gold was elected to the Council of the IASP in 2012 and served as the IASP liaison to the American Pain Society Board. Dr. Gold is currently President of the US Association for the Study of Pain. Dr. Gold provides ongoing service on scientific advisory panels for the National Institutes of Health (which includes close to 50 panels focused on training grants), the Department of Defense and foreign funding agencies such as the Welcome Trust.

Dr. Maisa Feghali is an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology who focuses on caring for pregnant women with diabetes. She earned her BS/MD at the American University of Beirut and subsequently completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at MedStar Georgetown Washington Hospital Center and a fellowship in Maternal Fetal Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center where she later joined the faculty. Dr. Feghali is now the Director or the Diabetes in Pregnancy Program at Magee Womens Hospital of UPMC, which cares for over 1,000 pregnant women with diabetes in Southwestern Pennsylvania every year. Dr. Feghali is committed to transforming the treatment of diabetes in pregnancy by tailoring therapy to personal preferences and individual physiology.

Dr. Amery Treble-Barna, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Clinical & Translational Science at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She directs a clinical research program aiming to account for unexplained heterogeneity in neurobehavioral recovery following pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI) with the long-term goal of moving the field towards precision medicine to improve individual prognostication, predict response to rehabilitation, and identify novel targets for treatment development. She serves as PI on K01 and R03 grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and several internal and foundation grants. Dr. Treble-Barna has served as a reviewer on several NIH Career Development Award study sections.


December 1, 2022
Developing a Successful Grant Fellowship Application: A Primer for Postdocs & Graduate Students 

Time: 3-5pm ET
Location: Zoom
Presenter: Nick Giannoukakis, PhD
Description: Attend this session to learn how to write a successful fellowship (F30, F31, and F32) applications! The purpose of the NIH F-type training grant is to provide support to promising graduate and post-doctoral applicants who have the potential to become productive, independent investigators in health-related research fields relevant to the missions of participating NIH institutes. This session will start with an overview of the F-award and then illuminate the grant submission/review process, outline how to prepare a successful grant, describe a mock study section, and cover scoring and funding. It will be presented by Nick Giannoukakis, PhD, a member of the Division of Experimental Pathology and a member of the Cellular and Molecular Pathology Graduate Training Program, who has a successful track record mentoring graduate students and postdocs who have forged independent research careers.

Presenter Bio: Nick Giannoukakis, PhD, began his scientific studies at McGill University (Montreal, Canada), receiving his B.Sc. and Ph.D. in 1992 and 1997, respectively. He then went on to complete a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the fields of gene and cell therapy for autoimmune disease and transplantation tolerance. He held the position of Associate Professor of Pathology and Immunology and he was also a member of the Division of Experimental Pathology and the Cellular and Molecular Pathology Graduate Training Program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. In the summer of 2014, he joined the Allegheny Health Network as part of the newly-created Institute of Cellular Therapeutics where he continues his translational medicine research endeavors in the following major areas: i) Immunomodulation approaches for the treatment of autoimmune disease and transplantation tolerance; ii) Regulatory immune cells; iii) Immunomodulation-based clinical trials for diabetes mellitus (type 1 and type 2). As an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, he teaches topics on pancreas and thyroid development and pathology, cell and gene therapy approaches in diabetes mellitus, and immunobiotherapeutics in courses offered by the Department of Pathology and the Department of Immunology. He is also Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, where he directs and teaches the Molecular and Cellular Immunology course. He has mentored graduate, MD/PhD students, as well as clinical fellows who have evolved into outstanding clinicians, research scientists and academic faculty in the USA, Europe, and Asia. Dr. Giannoukakis is considered a pioneer in the field of tolerogenic dendritic cell therapy for autoimmunity as he was the first to demonstrate the safety and potential efficacy of these cells in preserving the function of the residual insulin-producing cells of the pancreas in type 1 diabetic patients. He is a primary inventor on a number of patents related to gene, cell, and nanoparticle vaccine therapy for autoimmunity and he is one of the founders of RezQ Bio, a biotechnology entity leveraging dendritic cell and nanoparticle vaccine therapy for autoimmunity. He is a regular member of the NIH NIDDK NRSA Fellowship panel and the NSF Drug Delivery and Drug Development SBIR panel.



2021-2022 Research Series