The Division of Comparative Medicine

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Postdoctoral Training, Background and Overview



MIT provides a superb intellectual environment for the comparative veterinary scientist embarking on a career in biomedical research. MIT is recognized internationally for its excellence in both undergraduate and graduate biomedical science education. Capitalizing on these resources, DCM began training veterinarians in comparative medicine in 1982 and has been a recipient of an NIH training grant for the past 28 years. We recognized the urgent need to provide the biomedical research community properly trained veterinarians, particularly those who can effectively work in research and academia. To date, of 54 postdoctoral fellows trained by DCM, all but five are employed in academic or research and development units. DCM provides postdoctoral training for veterinary scientists for careers in biomedical research. This will be accomplished in part by providing 1) a strong emphasis in the development of research skills needed for veterinary scientists pursuing a research career, 2) a core curriculum of graduate courses in biomedical sciences, and 3) an intellectual and simulating setting for research in the biomedical sciences. Postdoctoral trainees will hold DVM/VMD degrees and some may have additional advanced degrees as well. The program consists of three years of in-depth research training with an option to pursue an advanced degree.

Postdoctoral Student, Monika Burns is involved in pipetting technique

Participants in the training program include professional and technical personnel within the Division of Comparative Medicine and the Department of Biological Engineering. Two other academic units - the Harvard Medical School and Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine are involved. MIT faculty contribute to the core course work; training in research is provided by established investigators at MIT and other designated research laboratories at Harvard and Tufts. Research training emphasizes formulation of a significant research project, its design and implementation, critical reviews of pertinent scientific literature, data analysis and statistical evaluation, formal presentation of data at national and international meetings and publications of research in peer reviewed journals.

NIH also funds DCM to employ summer veterinary fellows; the summer fellows program introduces motivated, bright veterinary students to the field of biomedical research. These students spend a summer in the same research environment in which DCM postdoctoral fellows conduct their research.

Since 1982 54 veterinarians have completed the training program and have gone on to establish themselves in positions of prominence throughout the laboratory animal community. Seventeen other scientists have completed postdoctoral studies in the Division as well (see former and current postdoctoral fellows). DCM postdoctoral veterinarians have authored or co-authored more than 150 scientific papers and chapters during their tenure at DCM and have contributed extensively to the scientific programs of the national meetings of a number of professional societies. Performance in the ACLAM board examination has also been exceptional.


The objective of the program is to train postdoctoral veterinarians in the conduct of biomedical research in a comparative medicine context. The program is comprised of a minimum of 3 years of integrated practical and didactic training in research and medicine that promote a multidisciplinary approach to questions in biomedical science. The training is structured to expand upon the unique comparative knowledge, skills, and perspectives that a veterinarian brings to biomedical research. Postdoctoral fellows have the option of pursuing an advanced degree through MIT's Department of Biological Engineering or the interdepartmental Microbiology Graduate PhD Program or Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine. An optional six months of clinical training, funded outside the T32 training grant, are also available and strongly recommended.


The basic format of the program is 3 consecutive, three-month rotations followed by research in one of the Division’s many areas of inquiry. The combined duration of research and rotations is three years. The Transgenics, Pathology and Diagnostic Laboratory, and Molecular Biology rotations are required and typically completed at the start of the fellowship. The Committee on Animal Care (CAC) rotation is a part time, 6-month experience that is concurrent with other rotations in the first 18 months. Two additional 3-month rotations, MIT Clinics and Surgery are strongly encouraged. Research interests and available projects are then matched through conversations with the Director and a mentor group. The mentor group is comprised of several members of the Division’s senior staff. Extramural faculty may be engaged in this research depending on existing collaborations and the requirements of the project.


Mentor sessions are formal opportunities to meet with a mentor group, comprised of the Director and other staff members. Meetings are held twice yearly and augment less formal conversations. Fellows should organize and schedule meetings and come prepared to discuss their progress, research interests and associated issues. A written outline facilitates the process.


The rotation coordinator will direct the activities of the fellow. The objective is to provide an overview of the transgenic animal resources program. The fellow will share responsibility for the maintenance of donor and recipient mice in the transgenic breeding facility, will help coordinate hormone injections, breeding, and surgical implantations, and will become familiar with the spectrum of embryonic manipulation in transgenic research.


The rotation coordinator will direct the activities of the fellow. The objective is to provide an overview of the pathology and diagnostic laboratories and activities. The fellow will share responsibility for necropsies, tissue processing, histopathologic evaluation, serologic and immunocytological assays, hematology, parasitology, and microbiology. The fellow in pathology will be available by pager for the purpose of assisting the pathologist.


The rotation coordinator will direct the activities of the fellow(s); the rotation will be placed in the Molecular Biology Laboratory of DCM. The objective is to provide an overview, hands-on experience, and basic principles of molecular techniques which are routinely used in our research projects. The fellow will perform experiments, analyze the obtained data, and discuss the results with the rotation coordinator.


The rotation coordinator will direct the activities of the fellow. The objective is to familiarize fellows with Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) procedures and activities. Fellows will attend scheduled meetings, perform site visits, evaluate protocols, and complete a project.


There are two optional rotations, which are predominantly clinical in nature and funded by the Institute. These are MIT Clinics and Surgery rotations. They are each three months in duration.


The Division sponsors research in several general areas: molecular pathogenesis, infectious gastroenterology, and carcinogenesis. Faculty members funded in these areas are James Fox, Susan Erdman,, Zhongming Ge, Mark Whary, Sureshkumar Muthupalani and Jonathan A. Runstadler. They interact with a number of intramural and extramural collaborators. Research interests and available projects are matched through conversations with the Director and a mentor group. Research responsibilities include protocol development, experimental design; materials preparation and procurement; manipulation and care of experimental animals; data collection, management, and analysis; manuscript preparation; and public presentation.


Fellows are required to satisfactorily complete four semester-long courses in disciplines related to research. A course in molecular biology is required and must be completed within the first year of the program. A course in technical or scientific writing is encouraged. Other subjects have included immunology, toxicology, and statistics. Courses must be approved in advance by the Director. In addition to these courses, fellows must complete a course in ethics which is held annually during the Independent Activities Period (IAP) and is offered by Brain and Cognitive Sciences.


Fellows may choose to enter degree programs with which the Division is affiliated. Advanced degrees are offered through the Microbiology Graduate PhD Program, ( and Biological Engineering Graduate Studies in Applied Biosciences; ( Advanced degrees are also offered through Tufts School of Medicine. Formal application, followed by successful completion of a qualifying exam, thesis preparation and defense are required. The degree options must be discussed in advance with the Director.


Fellows have required reading, training and clinical service responsibilities. These are described under their relevant headings in the appendices.

Postdoctoral Program General Requirements


Short Courses

Postdoctoral fellows are entitled to participate in three extramural short courses during their tenure. They are the Charles River Short Course, the Pathology of Laboratory Animals (POLA) Course, and a pertinent course at The Jackson Laboratory.


This course covers topics in comparative medicine, husbandry, regulatory medicine and other pertinent topics. Fellows will attend this course in their first summer. It is held in June in the greater Boston Metropolitan Area


With the approval of the Director, fellows may attend a course during their second year from among Jackson’s course listing.


The POLA course is given every other summer (most recently in 2014) in Bethesda, Maryland, by the faculty of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. A comparative medicine conference on select topics immediately precedes the course and may also be attended. Fellows may attend during their second or third summer depending upon availability. Those attending in their second summer should attend an approved course at The Jackson laboratory in their third year.


Attendance at training, symposia, AALAS workshops and other special courses exclusive of these three short courses will require the approval of the Director.

PRIM&R (Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research): The PRIM&R meeting is sometimes held in Boston and fellows may attend. Research ethics and topics important in IACUC deliberations are covered. Dates and offerings vary.

Extramural Meetings

Fellows are expected to attend regional, national, and international meetings for the purpose of presentation of their research findings. Abstract submission deadlines for these meetings are announced as they become available. Meetings that fellows have attended in the past include AALAS, AVMA, DDW, EHSG, and ASM*. Fellows must have material to present in order to attend these meetings.

CHRO – Campylobacter, helicobacter related organisms international meeting
*AALAS – American Association for Laboratory Animal Science
AVMA – American Veterinary Medicial Association
DDW – Digestive Disease Week
EHSG – European Helicobacter Study Group
ASM – American Society for Microbiology

Intramural Meetings


Coordinator - James Fox. Research seminars are held most Fridays at 9:30 AM in the DCM conference room (16-802). Attendance is mandatory. Staff members, graduate students, fellows, and invited speakers present formal and informal updates on their research efforts. The meeting is a forum for communication and discussion of progress and challenges in the research efforts of the Division.


Coordinator - Bob Marini. The Comparative Medicine Seminar Series is the primary vehicle for didactic education of the biomedical research enterprise as it pertains to experimental animals. It is held weekly throughout the year and is organized according to species with periodic special topics. Meets Mondays at 1-2 PM , in the DCM Conference Room (16-802). Attendance is mandatory. Speakers are predominantly members of the Division; fellows are expected to present seminars on a rotating basis.


Coordinators – Suresh Muthupalani and Vasu Bakthavatchalu. The CPC aims to enhance your understanding of clinically relevant pathology, as well as helping to expose you to as much “classic” exam-style pathology as possible in preparation for the ACLAM board certification examination. The pathologist typically drives the session, although the exact format may vary from a session that requires advance preparation on your part, to one that requires you to merely interact on the day, with no preparation required (interactive quiz sessions, for example). Meets bi-weekly, Mondays at 2 PM (following the Comparative Medicine Seminar Series) in the DCM Conference Room (16-802). Attendance is mandatory.


Coordinators- Zhongming Ge, James Fox. The DCM Research Journal Club meets every other week during the academic year (not during the summer) in 16-802. It lasts approximately 1 hour, and will be scheduled to avoid conflicts with other regularly scheduled meetings and events. Every other Friday from 1:30-2;30 PM is the typical time slot. Total contact time is approximately 20 hours each year. Attendance is mandatory for DCM Fellows.


Coordinator - Mark Whary. The Laboratory Animal Journal Club takes place once monthly, on the last Monday of each month, from 3-4 PM in the DCM Conference Room (16-802). The purpose is to promote fluency with the laboratory animal literature. Fellows provide short synopses of a number of articles to which they are assigned.


Leader – Mark Whary. The CAC meets at 2:30 PM on the first Thursday of each month exclusive of December and August. Fellows are invited to review protocols and attend all meetings of the CAC. Each fellow will have mandatory participation during a 6-month period. The responsibilities of the fellow will be outlined by Dr. Whary (Appendix S).


Leader – Bruce Brown. The staff meeting is a venue for communication of housekeeping matters within the Division. Participation is mandatory. Discuss clinical issues arising during weekend clinical rounds. Monday (or Tuesday if there is a Monday holiday) morning – 9 AM, DCM Conference Room (16-802).


Leader - Mary Patterson or Bob Marini. Weekend rounds are discussed. Attendance is mandatory. Meets Monday or Tuesday morning after the staff meeting.

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