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Stanford Molecular Imaging Scholars (SMIS)

Craig S Levin

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National Institutes of Health (NIH)
The Stanford Molecular Imaging Scholars (SMIS) program is an integrated, cross-disciplinary postdoctoral training program at Stanford University that brings together 45 faculty mentors from 15 departments in the Schools of Medicine, Engineering, and Humanities and Sciences. Molecular imaging, the non-invasive monitoring of specific molecular and biochemical processes in living organisms, continues to expand its applications in the detection and management of cancer. We train, on average, ~7 postdoctoral trainees per year. SMIS faculty mentors provide a diverse training environment spanning biology, physics, mathematics/biocomputation/ biomedical informatics, engineering, chemistry, biochemistry, cancer biology, immunology, and medical sciences. The centerpiece of the SMIS program is the opportunity for trainees (PhD or MD with an emphasis on PhD) to conduct innovative molecular imaging research that is co-mentored by faculty in complementary disciplines. SMIS trainees also engage in specialized coursework, seminars, national conferences, clinical rounds, including ethics training and the responsible conduct of research. The three-year program culminates with the preparation and review of a mock grant, in support of trainee transition to an independent career in cancer molecular imaging. During this initial 3.7 year period, 14 trainees have entered the SMIS program; 8 are currently enrolled and 6 have completed the program as of this writing. Two additional trainees will complete in August, 2010, bringing the total number of "SMIS graduates" to 8. Those who have moved on are either in faculty positions, other academic positions, or working in biotechnology. Demand for the SMIS training is high; we now receive, on average, more than 20 applications per year from qualified candidates seeking placement in our program, which can accommodate only 2-4 new trainees per year. For the upcoming cycle, we propose an enriched SMIS program that achieves the following: expands our recently added Program Area in Nanotechnology; strategically selects additional faculty mentors; presents improvement in all other training and career development components; expands leadership for our mock grant program and our clinical exposure component; and pursues rigorous recruitment of underrepresented minority candidates. The goal of the SMIS program is to continue to provide talented young investigators with the scientific and professional education/career development opportunities to become leaders in the field of molecular imaging of cancer.

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