NIH-based training grants are becoming increasingly competitive, and thus it is critical that students appointed to them make a long-term commitment to carrying out research in the relevant subject area. All training grants have requirements which must be fulfilled to justify the financial support of the student (tuition, fees, and stipend).
For the Cancer training grant, these include the following:
Cognate: Trainees must complete their cognate in an area related to cancer. The specific courses and theme should be developed by the student along with their advisor and the Training Grant director(s); all cognates must be approved as part of the final program by the Director of Graduate Studies. Some examples of cognates completed by past funded students include cancer epidemiology, biomarkers in cancer research, or cancer genomics.
Coursework: There are no specific courses required for this training grant other than the cognate as described above, but trainees should complete coursework that supports their biostatistical research in cancer-related applications, which may include courses such as cancer biology, clinical trials, cancer genomics, gene-environment interactions, or cancer epidemiology.
Summer Project: After their first year in the PhD program, trainees must complete a summer project with clear ties to quantitative methods in cancer research. Projects may be methodological in nature, but then at least one application to an appropriate cancer dataset should be included. All summer project proposals should be discussed with and must be approved by the Training Grant Director. Students are expected to participate in research activities of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) in both their first and second summers, working under the supervision of faculty mentors affiliated with this program.
Seminars/Working Groups: Trainees must attend the Quantitative Issues in Cancer Research Working Group meeting and, beyond scheduled courses, must make every effort possible to avoid conflicts with this meeting. They are also strongly recommended to attend the How It’s Done series at DFCI any departmental colloquia in the area of cancer research. Students interested in cancer genomics are also encouraged to attend, and present at, the cancer genomics get-together at DFCI, and participate in the Program in Quantitative Genomics (PQG) program activities.
Dissertation: Trainees should have dissertation topics which are either directly related to quantitative methodology in cancer research, or which include applications to cancer research problems. Proposals for incorporating cancer-related applications in student dissertation work should be included as part of the oral qualifying exam. Even if students are no longer funded on this grant during the period of their dissertation research, it is expected that support over previous years in the PhD program will be acknowledged by focusing on a cancer-related applications.
Progress Report: Trainees will be asked to provide an annual progress report including details on how their training relates to cancer, to be included in annual NIH progress reports.