Masters of Science Degree Program in Translational Research
The objective of the Master of Science in Translational Research (MTR) program is to provide students with in-depth instruction in the fundamental skills, methodology and principles necessary to become a well trained translational investigator. The program is designed to meet these objectives through:
- the provision of didactic course work,
- a formal mentorship program,
- formal laboratory training,
- and specific ongoing guidance with hands-on exposure to protocol and grant development.
Trainees are expected to complete a primary research project of their own design under the supervision of their primary mentor. The primary mentor will also play a role in helping the student identify a feasible research question for a thesis. The thesis should consolidate students' knowledge of the principles and practice of translational research, and provide their first experience in writing a comprehensive NIH grant style proposal.
Upon successful completion of the MTR program, graduates are expected to have developed a strong foundation in the fundamental techniques of translational research. They should be able to apply contemporary research tools to clinically relevant areas of investigation. The goal of the MTR program is to produce clinical researchers who are competitive in seeking research support and who are knowledgeable about the complex issues associated with conducting sound translational research. The MTR program will also assist in the promotion of translational research as a discipline within the Penn community.
Students may also elect to enroll in a specialized track. The translational therapeutics track focuses on discovery of new treatments in an academic setting and transfer of this technology to industry for implementation in clinical practice. The regulatory science track trains students in the "science of developing new tools, standards and approaches to assess the safety, efficacy, quality and performance of FDA-regulated products." The entrepreneurial science track offers the opportunity to translate biomedical research into innovative solutions and to develop approaches to commercialization.
To obtain further information about the MTR program policies, procedures and administration, please refer to the student handbook (PDF). For eligibility requirements, tuition costs and applying to the MTR program, please visit the application page.
ITMAT Education Program Coordinators:
The primary objective is to produce a cadre of highly trained and sophisticated investigators adept in the skills necessary for the translational investigator; to prepare students for an academic career and to position them for future careers as successful academic researchers who will become leaders in their field of research interest.
The program is designed to meet these objectives though the provision of didactic in-depth instruction, a formal mentorship program, formal (wet or dry) laboratory training, and specific ongoing guidance with hands-on exposure to protocol and grant development. Individuals in this program are provided with the expertise and methods to attain their goals through learning the basic components of scientific training, the specific methods associated with their translational research interest, as well as training in biomedical research ethics and good clinical practice. MTR students learn how to independently formulate meaningful hypotheses, design and conduct interpretable experiments, adhere to good laboratory and clinical practices, analyze results critically, understand the broad significance of their research findings, and uphold the highest ethical standards in research. The development of additional skills—including oral and written communication, grant writing, and laboratory management—are considered integral to this training.
Students are required to engage in a research project of their own design under the supervision of the primary mentor. At the time of application, each student specifies the project they will pursue, along with the primary mentor who will supervise the research project. Students will use class material and homework assignments to assist in protocol development.
The research should be translational in nature and involve direct measurements on patient-derived samples or the use of innovative therapeutic or diagnostic techniques with laboratory-based elements. There should be demonstrable clinical relevance. Use of the outpatient and inpatient facilities of the CTRC is encouraged. The protocol is to be designed by the student under the direct supervision of the mentor. Where appropriate, dual mentorship should be considered; including a basic scientist expert in the technology being used and a clinical investigator expert in the condition being studied. The primary protocol should account for at least 75-80% of the student's commitment to the program.
Trainees are expected to complete a thesis that involves designing a research project, writing a formal research proposal, performing the study described in it, preparing 1-2 comprehensive scholarly scientific paper(s) reporting the results, and presenting and defending the thesis at a public seminar. The defense portion of the seminar will be a formal oral defense of the thesis with three examiners.
An essential component of the MTR degree program is the mentoring program. Effective mentoring is critical not only for research training but also to allow the trainee to develop into an independent investigator. Mentoring requires that the primary mentor dedicate substantial time to ensure personal and professional development. A good mentor builds a relationship with the trainee that is characterized by mutual respect and understanding. Attributes of a good mentor include being approachable, available, and willing to share his/her knowledge; listening effectively; providing encouragement and constructive criticism; and offering expertise and guidance. We recognize the importance of these attributes and the significant time required to mentor effectively. For this reason we have in place the MTR mentoring program. Read more here (PDF). Upon enrollment, students and their mentor review and sign the mentor compact (PDF). This compact is intended to initiate discussion and clarify expectations and responsibilities of both parties.