Background and Overview/Postdoctoral Training

Introduction

The Division of Comparative Medicine (DCM) at MIT has trained veterinarians in the field of laboratory animal medicine since 1982. Since that time, over 75 veterinarians have successfully completed a residency in our training program, and have gone on to establish themselves in positions of prominence throughout the laboratory animal community. DCM postdoctoral veterinarians have authored or co-authored more than 300 scientific papers in respected peer-review journals, and have authored over 50 chapters in field textbooks. Our postdocs have contributed extensively to the scientific programs of the national meetings of a number of professional societies, and are well networked in the field. Performance in the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM) board examination has also been exceptional.

Monika Burns
Former Postdoctoral Fellow, Monika Burns is involved in pipetting technique.

Objective

The objective of the DCM training program is to educate and train postdoctoral veterinarians in the conduct of biomedical research in a comparative medicine setting. The program consists of a minimum of 3 years of cohesive practical and didactic training in research and medicine that promote a multidisciplinary approach to questions in biomedical science. The training is designed to expand upon the unique comparative knowledge, skills, and perspectives that veterinarians bring to biomedical research. In addition to the training program, postdocs have the option of pursuing an advanced degree through MIT's Department of Biological Engineering or through the interdepartmental Microbiology Graduate PhD Program. An optional six-month rotation of clinical training is also available and strongly recommended.

Format

The basic format of the program is research in one of the Division’s many areas of inquiry interspersed with rotations vital to a comparative medicine program.  The combined duration of research and rotations is three years.  The Transgenics, Pathology and Diagnostic Laboratory, Molecular Biology and Clinics & Surgery rotations are required. Pathology and Clinics & Surgery are typically completed near the start of the postdoc program.  Transgenics can be scheduled around research responsibilities, while Molecular Biology training occurs in conjunction with a research project. The Committee on Animal Care (CAC) rotation is a part time, 6-month experience that may be concurrent with other rotations. Two additional rotations:  Rodent Facility Clinical Rotation and Techniques of Rodent Experimentation are strongly encouraged though not required.  Research interests and available projects are matched through conversations with the Director and a mentor group.  The mentor group consists 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.

Transgenic Rotation:

The rotation coordinators, Susan Erdman and Monika Burns will direct the activities of the postdoc.  The objective is to provide an overview of the transgenic animal resources program.  The postdoc will share responsibility for the maintenance of donor and recipient animals in the transgenic colonies, will help coordinate hormone injections, breeding, and surgical implantations, and will become familiar with all aspects of gamete manipulations in transgenic research and assisted reproductive technologies.

Pathology and Diagnostic Laboratory Rotation:

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

Molecular Biology Rotation:

The rotation coordinator, Zhongming Ge, will direct the activities of the postdoc(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 biology techniques that are routinely used in our research projects. The postdoc will perform experiments, analyze the obtained data, and discuss the results with the rotation coordinator. Available techniques are listed in Appendix L. The postdoc can choose to learn all or some of these techniques depending on personal interest, experience, and research projects.

CAC Rotation:

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

Clinics and Surgery Rotation:

The rotation coordinators Monika Burns, Jennifer Haupt, Alison Hayward, and Mary Patterson will direct the activities of the postdoc. The objective is to integrate veterinary care principles with surgical model use and development, initiate a research project on some aspect of medicine, surgery, or model development, and promote a general knowledge of the biology of nonhuman primates and other laboratory animal species. The postdoc will develop proficiency in the medicine and surgery of nonhuman primates and other laboratory animal species and learn about clinical and behavioral monitoring of these species, as well as their basic husbandry, through participation in care and oversight.

Optional Rotation-Rodent Facility Clinical:

The rotation coordinators, Scooter Holcombe, Jennifer Haupt, and Susan Erdman, will direct the activities of the postdoc. The objective of this rotation is to integrate veterinary care principles with rodent model use and development and to provide postdocs with experience in the challenges of the rodent facility environment.

Optional Rotation-Techniques of Rodent Experimentation:

The rotation coordinators, Scooter Holcombe, Jennifer Haupt, and Alison Hayward, will direct the activities of the postdoc. The objective of this rotation is to assist investigators in learning new techniques or refinement of established techniques and research models and develop expertise in these procedures sufficient to instruct investigators.

Research

The Division sponsors research in several general areas:  molecular pathogenesis, infectious gastroenterology, and carcinogenesis.  Faculty members funded in these areas are Drs. James Fox, Susan Erdman, Zhongming Ge, Hilda Holcombe, and Alex Sheh.  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.