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Research-Oriented Faculty

Access resources, answers to FAQs, sample templates, and tools specific to Basic, Translational, and Clinical Science Researchers/Coordinators.

Best Practices

View articles and tips to help you with your research.

Abstract Examples

View examples of well-written clinical and basic science abstracts.

Pearls/Pitfalls: Grant Writing

As a Research-oriented Faculty a large portion of your time is spent on writing grants. View helpful resources.

Funding Resources

Explore potential options for funding your research.

Conducting Clinical Trials
Interacting with Institutional Review Boards/Code of Federal Regulations

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides answers to basic questions regarding Institutional Review Boards (IRBs): FDA IRB FAQs page

The Code of Federal Regulations guidelines are another helpful place for industry-wide guidance/expectations.  The most relevant codes are:

Negotiation

Discover negotiation suggestions and strategies.

Serving on a Study Section

Gain knowledge and skills in writing grant applications by reviewing others' grants.

FAQs

How to recruit patients for clinical trials
View NIH research team's appoach to Talking to Your Patient About a Clinical Trial.
How to get help with statistics

Most universities have free or reduced programs to help with statistics. Check with your university's clinical resource center for more information.

Additional resources:

How to recruit and mentor individuals on your research team
How to manage a laboratory
How-to Series by ScienceMag.org features: How to Manage a Lab and Staff

Events and Key Dates

Events
AAN Programs
AAN Leadership Programs
Non-AAN Programs

Stay Connected

  • ResearchGate is a forum for your research and gives you the ability to check on how many people are downloading, viewing, and citing your work. 
  • Stackly is a tool for collecting, storing and organizing research materials.

Testimonials

Hear fellow Research-oriented Faculty discuss overcoming challenges, the best parts of their role, advice, and recommendations.

Nicholas Elwood Johnson, MD, Junior Scientist

Nicholas Elwood Johnson, MD, Junior Scientist, University of Utah School of Medicine 

I am a junior scientist doing both basic and clinical research, still on a NIH training award. To get to this point, I utilized training resources at my institution to develop the skills I need in research.  Also, the institution provided some funds to generate preliminary data.  Importantly, I also had early funding from disease-specific foundations.  The combinations of these funds generated enough data to receive NIH support. I think it is really important to remember these other sources of support, which can combine with NIH funding to accelerate and expand your research program. 

Some of the challenges early in career include choosing a mentor, and understanding how to manage a team. It was difficult to find a mentor with similar interests, so I focused on finding mentors with skill sets that I needed to learn. Also, this is the first time in your career that you are managing a team.  Hiring good personnel, motivating, and directing them can be challenging at times, and may distract from your research. However, dedicating time early on to train personnel and rewarding progress is the key to a successful team. 

For my time in research, I enjoy seeing projects come to fruition, and achieving progress in diseases that we care for in the clinic. Being able to take this knowledge back to patients is the ultimate reward. 

I think that anyone thinking about a career in research should be excited with the new tools, technologies, and therapeutics available to us. When you start in research with a big new idea, it can be frustrating to see the pace of progress. Remember that progress comes in incremental steps, but that the most successful researchers keep hold of the larger vision.

Massimo Pandolfo, MD, FAAN, Translational Scientist

Massimo Pandolfo, MD, FAAN, Translational Scientist, Universite Libre De Bruxelles

After my residency training I did a lot of basic science with a very focused clinical activity linked to my research. I was a gene hunter, so I spent most of my time in the lab trying to map and clone disease genes and I only saw patients with the diseases I was working on. Then things changed, now I do a mix of basic science in the lab, genetics, cell biology, work with animal models and experimental therapeutics, but also clinical research in the wider sense, including natural history studies, biomarkers, and of course therapeutic trials. Using a fashionable term, I think I became a “translational scientist”.

Research has inspired my entire career. When I started neurology in 1980 it was very clear to me that this discipline had a lot of important and fascinating questions that were still unanswered. I saw myself from the beginning as someone who would try to contribute to address some of those questions rather than being a full-time practitioner. This was a very personal choice, based on my passion for science, which goes beyond clinical medicine. I have the highest esteem for my “pure” clinical colleagues who critically adopt what comes from research and integrate it with their knowledge and experience to provide the best patient care. I consider it essential to work hand-in-hand with them, but I am not one of them. Now, as the head of a neurology service in a major university hospital, I am doing my best to help my younger colleagues to develop their careers according to their motivations and passions, some following a path similar to mine, others becoming full time clinicians with a critical understanding and appreciation of what comes from research.

In Italy we say that sometimes in life one ends up connecting two points not with a straight line but with an arabesque. Getting to my current role was the result of a long trajectory that took me through four different countries (Italy, USA, Canada, and Belgium) and different contexts. I started in Italy with my clinical training, but also with my first contact with basic science. I entirely focused on basic science, genetics, during my two stays in the USA, first at UC Irvine, then at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. In Montreal I continued doing basic science, but with a more direct link with the clinic and I went back to seeing patients. In Brussels I took the responsibility of directing a neurology service in addition to doing research and teaching neurology, which was a huge stress for me. I had contacts with my current institution when I was still in Canada because of a collaboration in editing a book. When the position was opened it looked a great opportunity to finally do what I always wanted to do, which is now called translational research. I was fortunate enough to find an institution that appreciated my research-oriented profile and took the risk of giving me the responsibility of a clinical service.

It is definitely not easy to do good research and still be an acceptable clinician. One finds very smart people in both fields, which is a challenge, but also a plus when, as it is the case with most smart people, they are willing to fruitfully interact. Many difficulties of course came, and still come, from the need of finding the resources to do research. Never give grants for granted…. I honestly never had a really hard time in finding support for myself, initially as fellowships then as faculty positions, although some difficulties in moving forward with my career were part of what prompted me to leave Italy.

In research, challenges are constant even when you succeed to get sufficient means, failures are inevitable and too frequent, technical problems may constitute formidable hurdles, and good ideas do come but not as often and clearly as one would hope. Nevertheless, the joy and excitement of discovery is a great payback that makes it all worth doing-at least for me, and even if it only rarely comes.

When you want to be in the clinic as well, you must be aware of the challenge of being as good as our patients need. I really felt this challenge when I came to Brussels after many years of research as my exclusive or main activity. And coming with a leading role increased the challenge. I think humility here helps a lot, in particular to recognize the need of constantly improving one's clinical knowledge and not being ashamed of asking the advice of colleagues.

I always considered teaching fun, a real pleasure, and I think I have the gift of expressing myself clearly and effectively. So, I really never experienced major difficulties when I took up teaching responsibilities, although I had to struggle a bit with the French language (I teach in French).

Finally, the administrative responsibilities that came with my current role have been and still are a challenge for me. However, running a clinical service cost effectively while maintaining the highest standards of care, and at the same time finding ways to support research, are essential activities that require effort and dedication, but also can give great satisfaction. Maybe some additional political skills, which I lack, would have been helpful.

I think the best part of my role is how great it is to participate in the creation of new knowledge-which is an enormous satisfaction by itself-and at the same time participate in its translation into better care. And of course, it is even better if this is accompanied by helping smart and motivated young people to find their way.

If you are considering a career in research, make sure of your real motivation. Sometimes it is necessary to test it with the difficulties of real life before understanding how solid it is. Do not insist if you don't really feel like it, but if you are one of those who have the right mix, be resilient and persistent. I know how difficult and frustrating it is to deal with the obstacles and temporary failures that are part of the scientific enterprise when one is moved by enthusiasm and passion, but in the end the payback is much greater. You have to believe it if you want to do research. Humility is also essential, but at the same time be confident of your true value, don't put limits to what you may eventually accomplish. Look carefully at all opportunities you may have, when you think something can be good for you go ahead and try, if you don't ask you will not get anything.

Raymond P. Roos, MD, FAAN, Translational Bench-type Researcher

Raymond P. Roos, MD, FAAN, Translational Bench-type Researcher, University of Chicago Medical Center 

I consider myself a translational bench-type researcher who is involved in disease-oriented research. I am also a clinical neurologist.  Because of my focus on research, I have had a laboratory with PhD students and post-doctoral fellows that is supported by research grants. Because of my additional role as a clinical neurologist, I generally attend the neurology inpatient unit for two weeks, the consult service for two weeks, and see patients in the out-patient clinic for one day a week. Additionally, I run an hour rounds with the residents once a week.

I worked in a lab at the NIH for two years before my residency and pursued a two- year laboratory fellowship after my residency and prior to starting my academic job at the University of Chicago. During my years as a faculty member in the Department of Neurology at the University of Chicago, I spent one year on Sabbatical in a basic science lab at the University of Utah and another year on Sabbatical in a basic science lab at the University of California, Irvine.

The main challenge I have faced, especially recently, is grant funding to support my research. Another challenge I have faced is finding time time to write grants, run a lab, see patients and respond to their needs, teach residents/students/fellows, and have a life outside of work.

As a researcher, one has the opportunity to impact the world with respect to providing new ideas, knowledge, and disease treatments. As the head of a lab, one has the opportunity to build the careers of students and trainees. 

A career in research is a wonderful one because one can have an impact on the world. It is also an exciting one because of the fast pace of scientific discoveries. On the other hand, it is very demanding of one's time and can have low points, so one needs to be motivated to pursue this career. 

Natalia Sana Rost, MD, FAAN, Clinician Scientist

Natalia Sana Rost, MD, FAAN, Clinician Scientist, Director, Acute Stroke Services, Massachusetts General Hospital

I think the reason why people go into research is to be able to find answers to the questions that arise from their clinical work. I ask at least one question every time I see a patient. To find answers, one might search past knowledge. Alternatively, each question you might have about patients you are privileged to take care of could lead you to seek new knowledge. This road begins with designing a research study. It's the motivation, the intellectual curiosity. It's all about advancing the knowledge about real life patient dilemmas and pushing the edge of conventional wisdom.

I knew I was interested in neurology since my first year in medical school. Once I chose my specialty, I had the opportunity to work with the mentors, Drs. Carlos Kase and Philip Wolf, who were also actively involved in clinical research at Boston University School of Medicine. Working on a research project at the Framingham Heart Study, I got a taste of that intellectual curiosity and excitement about clinical research that can be nurtured, when you are an integral part of an academic group. I went into a neurology residency program (Partners Neurology - Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)/Brigham and Women's Hospital) that strongly encouraged and supported residents in developing their research careers. My MGH mentors (Drs. Walter Koroshetz, Jonathan Rosand, Steven Greenberg, and Karen Furie) guided me through the steps of this process. After my clinical fellowship in stroke and vascular neurology, I was well on the way to a career of a clinician-scientist supported by the National Stroke Association and the Bugher Foundation of the American Stroke Association Clinical Research Training Fellowships.  This training prepared me for a successful application for the Career Development Award (K23) from the NIH-NINDS.

The most important issue in developing a career in research is finding a mentor. Your mentor can make you or break you, in the proverbial sense. My advice to the aspiring clinician-scientists is to find a mentor who you are excited to work with, someone you respect as a human being and who respects you. Someone whose career path you admire and wish to emulate. This might be the most important relationship of one's professional career and it can serve as a springboard for future success. A good mentor is not easy to find, but the key is being proactive and thoughtful about it. Whose research work inspires you? Would you actually want to run a lab like theirs? Are you excited about publishing papers like they do? Once you find a good fit, don't hesitate to approach your potential mentor- the excitement to work together will most likely be mutual.

Other challenges that beginners in academic medicine face are those related to navigating the academia! Consider job searches (academic job market is entirely different for researchers versus clinicians, for example) and intricacies of the academic appointments. One will have to become savvy about promotion criteria, and navigate through all sorts of issues: publishing, collaborations, writing successful grants, etc.  If you have a good mentor and good start, you have an advantage before you hit the next wall, and you can work through any problem.

The best part about being a clinical scientist is that I'm never bored.  Being on both sides of our work- as a practicing stroke neurologist, as well as investigator- it always keeps you going. It's intellectually challenging. There's the opportunity to meet new people who are passionate about what they do for all the right reasons. There's the motivation to do something to solve real problems, to save real lives, and to help real patients. There's variability. There are tons of opportunities such as forming groups and communities of scientists and belonging to professional societies like AAN-being part of select group of neurologists. That's a huge perk.

My advice is to find a mentor. Whether you're in medical school, a residency, fellowship program, or a junior faculty member, start talking about opportunities with someone who is interested in helping develop your career. Someone who will be there when you have questions and who will support you when you are going through difficult times. Also, pick a line of research that truly makes you tick. This enthusiasm will carry you through all the possible highs and lows, and will enrich you both professionally and personally-every day of your long and successful career as a clinician-scientist.  Best of luck!

A. Gordon Smith, MD, FAAN, Clinician Scientist

A. Gordon Smith, MD, FAAN, Clinician Scientist, Professor and Vice Chair of Research Chief, Division of Neuromuscular Medicine, University of Utah School of Medicine

My research is clinical, although we collaborate with translational researchers, and my research focuses on diabetic and idiopathic neuropathies, and the role of obesity, dyslipidemia, and prediabetes in neuropathy development. We are particularly interested in how to measure treatment effect, how to design better clinical trials, and the potential role of lifestyle interventions to reduce neuropathy risk or improve outcomes. All of these topics are of immediate relevance to our patients with peripheral neuropathy, and in many respects our clinic is our laboratory. My research focus is very closely aligned with my clinical activities.

The path I have taken is non-traditional (as I expect is the case for many clinician investigators). My research is founded on the observation over 20 years ago that patients with idiopathic neuropathy share many phenotypic characteristics with diabetic patients. After a clinically based fellowship in neuromuscular medicine and EMG, I partnered with colleagues in an attempt to further our understanding of this initial observation. Our first studies were retrospective and clinically based. Our research program grew organically from there using institutional seed grant funding, followed by an NIH R01 in response to a request for applications for clinical pilot projects. We have since grown and diversified our research using a variety of funding mechanisms and sources, including NIDDK, NINDS, and foundation grants, and industry awards. I now spend time supporting our other institutional neuroscience research programs, particularly as they relate to clinical trials.

Trying to balance the demands of a research career while maintaining a busy clinical practice is challenging, particularly when you throw in the administrative and educational missions. There is, of course, the uncertainty of research funding, and the reality that projects almost never develop as one had anticipated. Some studies are negative and others face unanticipated challenges, particularly regarding participant recruitment and retention. As a clinician investigator/educator, I have diversified interests and funding sources, which mitigates many of these risks and challenges. One also is constantly reminded of why this all matters as we see patients in clinic.

What we do matters a great deal, both at the individual patient level as a clinician, and also for the larger patient community because of our research findings.  Perhaps the most exciting part of my role is watching the early career clinicians and researchers in our department grow and thrive, while doing whatever I can to clear the path for their success.  My job is also great fun.  I learn new things regularly, interact with colleagues and friends, teach, and do the best I can to alleviate suffering and improve my patients' quality of life.  Every day is different, which is exciting.

A career in research can be very fulfilling, exciting, and enjoyable. The likelihood of success can be maximized by taking advantage of opportunities during fellowship or early in one's career to learn research methods. The most important advice I have is to be persistent, directed, and collaborative. All successful researchers have overcome disappointments and setbacks, and not infrequently these setbacks evolve into successes. One's career satisfaction and likelihood of success are both significantly enhanced by working closely with colleagues and mentors. Most importantly, have fun with what you do.

Aleksandar Videnovic, MD, MSc, Clinician Scientist

Aleksandar Videnovic, MD, MSc, Clinician Scientist, Massachusetts General Hospital, Neurological Clinical Research Institute 

I am a clinician scientist focused on clinical research related to movement disorders and sleep. I feel a sense of responsibility to be a part of the research force in neurology. Contributing to research is the only way we will be able to reduce burden of neurological disease. The experience has been very rewarding and stimulating.  

I entered my neurology training with a strong interest in clinical research. Years spent in training helped me define my focus, and many mentors nationwide provided inspiration and much needed support for a career in clinical research. Additional formal training in clinical research methodology equipped me with a tailored knowledge base for this kind of work. At the end of my fellowship training, I had my first investigator-initiated project that gave me my start and fueled me to persevere. 

One of the main challenges of this career is to take your first project off the ground. Everything after that is much easier. Funding was, is, and will be one of the main challenges. Life-work balance is always an issue, and without the support and understanding of my family, all this would be much tougher.

Every day I help my patients through clinical care. I also have the privilege to do clinical research and contribute to the advancement of neurological science. I am blessed to do all this along with many very knowledgeable, supportive, and dedicated colleagues.

My advice to anyone considering a career in research is to persevere, work and think hard, learn from your patients, and contribute to neurological research.

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