Maximizing Your UCSF Post-Doc Experience

CTSI offers opportunities to expand your post-doctoral development

By Alexandra Folias, PhD

As I explore a career makeover at the end of my post-doc at UCSF, I realize there were several missed opportunities over the last few years that I discovered too late in the game.

One of the main challenges for post-docs transitioning out of academia is the lack of “industry,” “clinical,” and “corporate” experience that is now widely expected along with a PhD and research expertise. Translational research, the ultimate goal of biomedical science, offers a great opportunity to gain exposure to all of these areas while simultaneously pursuing your post-doc.

Translational research involves transforming scientific findings into innovations that improve health. This process requires collective support from a range of partners, including academia, industry and venture capitalists. These multi-partner interactions can be difficult for scientists to navigate, which unfortunately limits the development of promising medical advancements. As a post-doc, direct involvement in aspects of these partnerships can either be nonexistent, or limited to an academic setting.

The Clinical & Translational Science Institute (CTSI) at UCSF has taken steps to address this issue by creating programs designed to provide the training, funding, infrastructure, and support necessary to accelerate translational science. What I wish I had learned earlier is that CTSI offers several opportunities that enable post-docs to diversify their skills, improve their quality of research, and obtain relatable experience relevant to all areas of translational science.

Alexandra Folias, PhD

Directly impact your research: It’s clear that collaboration is integral to innovative and comprehensive scientific discovery. CTSI is facilitating networking and collaboration between researchers with tools such as UCSF Profiles, a searchable online resource that makes it easy to find UCSF researchers with a particular expertise or interest. Similarly, CTSI helped to develop the UCSF Cores Search, where users can browse all UCSF instruments and services scattered across 24 sites in San Francisco. For those with a burning question about an unfamiliar area, CTSI also provides Consultation Services (initial consultations are free!) in 20 subject areas ranging from ethics in research to bioinformatics. These services can be especially helpful to researchers learning how to address particular, and sometimes painful, regulatory and compliance requirements that accompany the human and business side of science.

Funding: CTSI’s Accelerate website is also a helpful resource to find available post-doc funding opportunities. These include several career development awards that can facilitate the transition into an independent faculty position. Additionally, the Catalyst Awards Program is a particularly unique opportunity available to post-docs with mentor sponsorship. Awardees receive critical feedback, funding and expert consultation tailored to translate their particular finding into commercial implementation and clinical practice. Awards are given to innovative projects that have the potential to improve health in four categories:  therapeutics, diagnostics, devices and digital health.

Training and exposure: For post-docs not currently engaged in translational research, CTSI offers classes that provide specific training and certification that can facilitate a clinical career transition. There are also several courses available on topics including grant writing, career development and current issues in health care and policy.

The Catalyst Awards Internship Program also offers an amazing opportunity for post-docs, regardless of their project, to be exposed to the process of product development. This internship allows direct interaction with academic and industry experts as they evaluate the discovery and product potential of Catalyst Awards recipients.

Lastly, CTSI is involved in several outreach programs aimed at solving health challenges or unmet needs in the community. If interested in becoming more involved in a particular area, post-docs can easily contact faculty and staff affiliated with these programs to learn more.

UCSF's CTSI is a member of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards network funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (grant Number UL1 TR000004) at the National Institutes of Health. Under the banner of "Accelerating Research to Improve Health," CTSI provides a wide range of resources and services for researchers, and promotes online collaboration and networking tools such as UCSF Profiles.