BCM hosts national conference for postdoctoral scholars

Aug. 1, 2011

Dr. Gayle Slaughter, director of the REACH IRACDA program

Dr. Gayle Slaughter, director, REACH IRACDA program

Baylor College of Medicine along with the University of Houston – Downtown, the University of St. Thomas and Prairie View A&M University were hosts to the 2011 National Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards (IRACDA) Conference in June.

The program allows postdoctoral scholars to combine research with teaching at minority-serving institutions in the community. At BCM, the Research Education and Career Horizon (REACH) IRACDA program allows BCM postdoctoral scholars to teach at the University of Houston – Downtown, the University of St. Thomas and Prairie View A&M University.

The three main goals of the program include:

  • To facilitate the progress of postdoctoral candidates towards research and teaching careers in academia
  • To motivate the next generation of scientists at minority-serving institutions
  • To promote linkages between research-intensive institutions and minority-serving institutions that can lead to further collaborations in research and teaching
Dr. Joan A. Steitz, keynote presenter

Dr. Joan A. Steitz, keynote presenter

This year's keynote presentation was given by Dr. Joan A. Steitz, Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Her presentation was entitled "Transforming Undergraduate Science Education: Changing the Face of Those Who Teach."

More than 250 postdocs, faculty and program administrators from 50 institutions attended this year's conference, which focused on revisiting the BIO2010 recommendations, which evaluated the current state of undergraduate education and made recommendations towards instituting science education reform. The report recommended the following:

  1. Build strong foundation in mathematics, physical and information sciences to prepare students for interdisciplinary learning
  2. Design new courses that integrate concepts (such as quantitative biology)
  3. Provide new learning materials (such as teaching modules)
  4. Integrate problem based learning labs
  5. Promote independent research for all undergraduate science majors
  6. Present cutting-edge seminar type courses

The conference provided opportunities to discuss how these recommendations have been implemented, whether they have been successful and how IRACDA fellows can incorporate these recommendations into course design.

"IRACDA postdocs from across the nation are creating innovative science courses and updating curricula to educate American students from every population to become the scientists and physician scientists of the future. Our own BCM post-docs are an amazingly dedicated group of scientist and educators who benefit from the expertise of wonderful teaching mentors at our partner campuses. The conference provided a great opportunity for people to share their exciting ideas and educational tools with each other," said Dr. Gayle Slaughter, director of the REACH IRACDA program at BCM and senior associate dean of graduate studies and diversity at BCM's Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

For more information about BCM's REACH IRACDA program, visit.