The Clinical and Translational Research (CTR) Scholar Program is a three-year program created to support research career development for health professionals or individuals with research doctoral degrees who wish to pursue formal training and a career in clinical and translational research.
The SC CTSI Workforce Development (WD) group (formerly Education, Career Development, and Ethics-ECDE) has funding through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to award up to four Clinical and Translational Research (formerly KL2) candidates every year. Scholars will be provided an opportunity to acquire and refine the core knowledge and skill sets needed to become future clinical translational investigators, and be taught the skills to complete a grant that would have a high probability of being funded.
About the Program
The fundamental training and career development elements revolve around structured didactic coursework; bi-monthly seminars in the design, conduct and analysis of clinical research in a team-based setting; engagement in related career development activities (e.g., conferences and a mentoring program); and hands-on conduct of a research project under the supervision of mentors.
Scholars are selected by a committee, which considers the applicant's prior training, research, and commitment to a clinical or translational research career, as well as potential to excel in the program.
Scholars are encouraged to obtain an advanced degree in the Master of Science in Clinical, Translational, and Biomedical Investigations (CBTI) from the Keck School of Medicine of USC which requires completion of the required 29 units of coursework or they may obtain a Certificate for completion of 15 units.
Benefits and Support
The Clinical and Translational Research Scholar Award includes financial benefits to support the Scholars' educational, research and other program expenses.
CTR SCHOLARThe award has provided the following financial coverage:
- Scholar’s salary support up to $120,000 of NIH salary cap plus fringe for effort devoted to the program (a minimum of 75% is required for non-surgical specialties, 50% for surgical specialties).
CTR SCHOLARTuition/research costs of up to $50,000 for two years ($25,000/year)
- Travel Stipend (Year 1): Scholars may spend up $5,000 as part of the $25,000 on travel related to their research which must be completed in Year 1 of the program. A portion of travel stipend (approximately $2500) must be used to cover hotel, transportation, meeting registration, food, and printing of poster presentation for the Translational Science Meeting in Washington, DC (mandatory attendance in first year of training to this conference.)
- Travel Stipend (Year 2): Scholars may spend up $2500 as part of the $25,000 on travel related to their research which must be completed by Year 2 of the program.
The CTR Scholar program curriculum includes didactic coursework, seminars, individual and group research, and professional conference attendance and research presentation.
The SC CTSI has developed three Clinical Translational Research courses (CTR 1, 2, 3) totaling 12 units which are given under the Department of Preventive Medicine. These courses provide an overarching understanding and view of research from the clinical translational perspective. The courses use interactive teaching methods that require participation and engagement by Scholars. The curriculum also includes courses in informatics and research in diverse populations. They must complete 3 units of directed research as well to obtain a Certificate in CBTI (total of 15 units). Completion of MS in CBTI will require total of 29 units.
Career Development Seminar Series (CDSS)
These bi-monthly seminar sessions are an additional education component to the program. Sessions are intended to develop leadership, scientific, and communication skills. Each session covers a different topic led by an expert facilitator which have included the following USC/SC CTSI departments:
- SC CTSI Community Engagement program
- SC CTSI Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Resources program
- USC’s Center for Excellence in Teaching
- Marshall School of Business and Experiential Learning Center
- Annenberg School of Communication
- Health, Technology, and Engineering Program (HTE@USC), School of Engineering
To provide networking opportunities, seminars are open periodically to the following USC programs and organizations:
- Health, Technology, and Engineering program (HTE@USC)
- 5th Year Medical Student Fellowship program
- MD/PhD Program
- Keck Postdoctoral Association
Scholars will be able to present their research project in poster or PowerPoint presentation to a larger audience of colleagues, peers, and mentors at the annual Translational Science Conference organized by the Association for Clinical and Translational Science (ACTS).
Approximately every six months, Scholars give a presentation on their ongoing research. This provides them with an opportunity to receive feedback from their respective colleagues in the program, their mentors, the SC CTSI Workforce Development program leadership, and other audience members. Work-in-progress presentations will occur in place of seminar session topics.
Translational Science Meeting
All Scholars are expected to attend the annual Translational Science Conference sponsored by the Association for Clinical and Translational Science (ACTS) in the first year of the program. These meetings focus on education sessions designed to provide information on the latest developments in techniques and processes vital to successful clinical translational science. Also, it provides Scholars an opportunity to share their research through presentations and discussions with a large audience of colleagues, peers, and mentors.
Download the Information Booklet for details about the program, curriculum and the academic calendar.
Mentors are an integral part of the CTR Scholar program. Each Scholar must have a primary mentor and a co-mentor from a different discipline. The primary mentor should have sufficient independent research support to cover any costs of the proposed research project that exceed the Scholar research funds provided by the CTR SCHOLAR award.
During the CTR Scholar’s tenure in the program, mentors are expected to:
- Ensure that the CTR Scholar has 75% protected time to be spent in clinical research and training activities.
- Provide the CTR Scholar with the required guidance and mentoring, and seek the assistance of other faculty and departmental/institutional resources when necessary.
- Attend all CTR work-in-progress and mentor meeting sessions.
To be considered for the CTR Scholar program, applicants must be pursuing a career path in clinical/translational research. Our program strongly encourages applications from a variety of schools and disciplines (medical, health science, pharmacy, social work, psychology, biomedical engineering, etc.), as well as from individuals from our partner institutions including but not limited to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Applicants do not have to have a clinical degree to apply to the CTR Scholar Program, but their career goals and interests must be in multidisciplinary clinical research.
- MD, Pharm D, DOT, DSN, DNP, DPT, DDS degrees are examples of CTR Scholar-eligible professional doctoral degrees.
- Research Ph.D. degree-holders are eligible.
- Junior faculty or those who anticipate promotion to faculty status (Fellows) at the start of the award.
- Have a primary appointment at an SC CTSI partner institution (Children's Hospital Los Angeles).
Scholars must hold a doctoral level degree and be in an early stage of their career as junior faculty who plan to conduct, or are conducting, clinical research. Some Scholars may be at the tenure-track or assistant professor level when they enter the program, but the ideal Scholar could be at an earlier stage. We expect that Scholars will become tenure-track clinical research faculty once in the program.
Fellows are eligible for the CTR Scholar program if in their final year of fellowship and have the support from their department to promote them to junior faculty status upon completion of their fellowship. This must be stated in the letters of support from the department/division chair as part of the application submission process.
In accordance with NIH policy, these awards are only for U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals or permanent residents. Individuals on who possess a temporary or student visa this includes H1B and J1 visas) are not eligible to participate. A non-citizen national is a person born in one of the outlying possessions of the United States, including American Samoa and Swain’s Island, to a parent who is a non-citizen national. This is a person who is a U.S. national but not a U.S. citizen.
All applications will be judged first on their merit, with diversity of the cohort considered primarily among those applications that are judged to be sufficiently meritorious. Applicants from divisions where CTR Scholar Scholars have already been selected are encouraged to apply nonetheless. Given the high quality of applicants that we receive, successful applicants from all Departments/Divisions/Schools will usually need to exhibit extraordinary capabilities, research questions and potential.
Multiple K Awards
The timing of a K23, K08, and CTR Scholar application should be discussed with the WD leadership and your mentors. You are not allowed to have both a K-series grant and be a CTR Scholar at the same time. The timing of your application should take this into consideration. Please contact the SC CTSI Workforce Development team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The NIH allows for each Scholar to be sponsored by K-series programs for no more than 5 years in total. Since the minimum amount of time that any one Scholar may spend in this CTR Scholar program is two years, CTR applicants may not have had more than three years of support under a previous K program. Furthermore, applicants must justify additional mentored research training or training in a team context.
Receiving a CTR Scholar award does not make one ineligible to apply for a future K08 or K23, however, the total combined K award time cannot exceed 5 years. Therefore, after 2 years on a CTR Scholar grant, a Scholar would be eligible for only 3 years under a K23 or another K award. The anticipation is that CTR scholars will submit K23s, K08s, R-type or U-type grant applications (e.g. R03, R21, R01, and U01) during their time in the program.
Those who have had a T32 fellowship are eligible for up to 5 years on the CTR Scholar Award after being supported by a T32.
Combining with Clinical Fellowships
The Clinical and Translational Research Scholar Award funds cannot be used to support clinical fellowship training. However, CTR applicants in clinical fellowships must be in the final year and have confirmed departmental support to be promoted to junior faculty status upon completion of their fellowship to be eligible for the CTR Scholar Program.
Applicants will be able to submit their applications through e-GATE , an electronic Grant Application and Tracking Environment developed by SC CTSI.
Before you begin the application, please download and review the CTR Scholar (Post-doctoral) Program Application Guidelines.
Applications are reviewed using a dual review system. First, they are reviewed by up to two external reviewers who are content experts in the specific area of research, have experience reviewing mentored career development applications, and who do not have a conflict of interest. The required components of the application which will be reviewed and scored include the: mentoring plan, educational research plan, environment, significance, approach, and candidate as investigator.
The following NIH scoring guidance is used to evaluate and rank applications:
The applications are then evaluated, scored, and ranked accordingly by the internal review committee (SC CTSI Workforce Development program Directors and Co-directors), taking into account the external review committee scores and comments. Applicants with the highest scores and their primary mentor are invited for an in-person interview with the internal review committee. These interviews are to evaluate what the candidate's commitment will be to the program and what their goals are for a career in clinical translational research.
Completing Your CTR Scholar Application: Instructions and Tips
It is extremely important that your application be completed correctly and completely. Please adhere to these guidelines as you assemble application materials and information.
Letter of Intent
The information in the letter of intent allows us to better plan the review process, and assist potential applicants as necessary.
This letter must not exceed 2 pages in length and should contain:
- Applicant’s contact information
- A brief paragraph describing what you hope to achieve through participation in the program
- A paragraph describing educational and mentoring goals
- A brief paragraph describing the research including the project title that you would like to perform as a part of the program
- The name, contact information, and specialty of the primary mentor and co-mentor
- Applicants must include their curriculum vitae and biosketch along with their Letter of Intent (2 page limit) in a combined PDF document. CV may exceed the 2 page limit.
Section 1: Basic Data
Please note all elements of this section must be completed in order to process all awardee paperwork in a timely manner. In some cases, applicants may already have an eRA Commons user name through the Department of Health and Human Services. If an eRA Commons user name has already been obtained, please enter the user name in the area provided for this section. If you do not have an eRA Commons user name, you may register an eRA commons account through the NIH website. The area of expertise must be completed with the appropriate code. The coding list is provided via drop-down menu word search within the online application form.
Section 2: Additional Information Required by NIH
Demographic information such as citizenship, residency status, country of birth, gender, race, ethnicity is asked within this section.
The information asked in this section is CONFIDENTIAL and COMPLETELY VOLUNTARY.
Section 3: Education/Academic Honors/Work Experience
List all schools attended in chronological order.
Post-graduate Training Appointments
- Include internships, residencies, fellowships, post-doctoral positions, and other appointments (if applicable).
Academic Honors and Honorary Societies
- Indicate if you are currently enrolled or have been accepted into other graduate degree programs at the University of Southern California.
- Include academic, research and professional experiences (full and/or part-time) in the last 3 years.
Board or Other Certification Status
- This question is primarily for physicians to answer regarding your board eligibility.
- If yes, please add your certification status.
Section 4: Letters of Recommendation
Guidelines for Letters of Recommendation and Supporting documents for Mentors and Division Chief/Department Chair
Letters of recommendation (maximum 2 pages) should be provided to the applicant as a PDF file by the Primary mentor, Co-mentor, and Division Chief or Department Chair. Applicants should provide contact information for the Primary mentor, Co-mentor, and Division Chief/Department Chair in the application.
Guidelines for Mentors/Co-mentors
Applicants must obtain letters of support from the mentors identified on their applications (primary mentor and at least one co-mentor). These letters must ensure that they are willing to dedicate the time to be a mentor. Keep in mind that a potential mentor must be well-established in their career and have substantial funding of their own, as well as experience serving as a mentor.
Applicants must ask both the primary and co-mentor to address the items listed below, as well as any other pertinent information. (Adapted from http://grants.nih.gov/grants/peer/critiques/k.htm):
- A copy of each mentor’s NIH biosketch (no more than 4 pages, follow NIH guidelines for format and content) must be uploaded as a PDF file within the appropriate section of the online application. This is not a required element for the department chair/division chief.
- The candidate’s potential and his/her strengths and areas in need of improvement.
- Plans for monitoring and evaluating the scholar’s progress toward independence.
- Description of the quality and extent of the mentor’s proposed role in providing guidance and advice to the candidate.
- A list of previous Scholars who worked with each mentor over the past ten years. Provide up to 5 publications of the mentees as a primary author. Include information on their current positions. This information must be uploaded as a PDF file within the appropriate section of the online application. (Not a required element for the department chair/division chief.)
- The mentor’s previous research productivity and peer-reviewed support.
- The mentor must comment on applicant’s qualification relevant to study of clinical/translational research and applicant’s commitment to a career in clinical or translational research.
- The qualifications of the applicant to conduct the proposed research project.
- Elaborate on how this award would benefit the applicant in continuing an independent career in this field.
- Elaborate on the potential of the candidate to perform the research project and understand its implications for human disease and improvement of human health, particularly in urban populations.
- Mentors must ensure that they will uphold the required protected time of 75% effort for Scholar.
- If the primary mentor is providing research space and/or financial support, they must submit a separate letter addressing this resource component.
Example of mentor's trainee list with publications.
Guidelines Department Chair/Division Chief Letters
Items the letter of support submitted by the Department or Division Chair must address:
- The department chair/division chief must complete the letter of recommendation component, but does not need to submit an NIH Biosketch or list of previous mentees.
- A guarantee to provide a minimum of 75% protected time for the applicant for two years for CTR Scholar.
- Comment on the resources that they will provide to support the applicant’s research for the years the applicant is in the program (i.e., specific as to the amount of space, number and kind of staff, clinical and lab resources, and dollars they will make available to the applicant).
- The applicant’s potential for an independent clinical research career in academics.
- The applicant’s current status and his/her potential to obtain a faculty appointment.
- If the CTR candidate does not hold junior faculty status during application process, the department/division chair must provide assurance that the candidate will be promoted to junior faculty position upon the start of the award.
Section 5: Proposed Mentoring Plan
In a collaborative effort with mentors, please provide up to a one page outline/timeline for each of the following components as part of the mentoring plan:
- Career Development Goals (one page): Provide a description of career development goals including timeline and strategy proposed to meet the goals (e.g., communications skills (written, oral, multidisciplinary interaction, teaching, and research skills). Please include information on the frequency, duration, and when mentoring meetings will be initiated.
- Research Project Timeline (one page): Provide specific benchmarks and anticipated completion of research project, and
Extramural Funding, Manuscript, Meeting Presentation Timeline (one page): Provide expectations regarding submission of application for extramural funding, manuscripts, and meeting presentations.
Please provide a separate page for each component stated above using at least 11-point font. Do not combine all three components on one page. The header should include applicant's name, section title, and the following mentoring plan component(s) (ex. Applicant: John Doe, MD, Proposed Mentoring Plan, Career Development Goals).
Section 6: Proposed Education Plan
Please provide a one page statement (in 11-point font) on applicant’s plans for educational development during the award (intention to pursue a Certificate or Master of Science in Clinical, Biomedical, and Translational Investigations, or other coursework, tutorials, or training).
Include and describe structured activities, such as coursework or technique workshops as well as specific benchmarks, and anticipated dates of completion. This portion of the application needs to include didactic courses that will be incorporated into the career development and mentored research experience. Also, explain how this educational plan will facilitate overall long-term career development goals.
The header should include applicant's name and title of this section (ex. Applicant: John Doe, MD, Proposed Education Plan).
Section 7: Proposed Research Plan
a) Personal/Career Development Statement by the Applicant (one page): A personal statement by the applicant describing his/her career goals, future commitment to clinical translational research, and how this research project would help him/her to achieve these goals. Elaborate on future goals, not on the past. Stress the new, enhanced research skills and knowledge that will be acquired as a result of the proposed award. Address how this award will allow you to accomplish your career/training goals. If an applicant has considerable research experience in the same areas as the proposed research, reviewers may find that the program will enhance their research career.
Please provide a separate page for each component stated above using at least 11-point font. Do not combine all three components on one page. The header should include applicant's name, section title, and the following mentoring plan component(s) (ex. Applicant: John Doe, MD, Proposed Research Plan, and Personal Statement by the Applicant).
b) Project Title
c) Research Project Address CTSI’s Translational Priority Areas: Please check at least one of the boxes provided on the application. The research project should address at least one of CTSI’s translational priority areas.
d) Structured Abstract: The abstract is a summary of the proposed research project. The following sections must appear as part of the structured abstract (350 word limit):
- Background: Provide background information on the research topic.
- Research Question/Hypothesis: Concisely state the study hypothesis.
- Design: Describe the study as retrospective or prospective. Identify the study design. Interventional studies should be listed as a randomized clinical trial, non-randomized clinical trial, interventional case series, or interventional case report. Observational studies should be listed as a case control study, cross-sectional study, cohort study, or observational case series. A perspective, meta-analysis, or auto-designation study should be indicated, as appropriate.
- Participants/Animal: State the number of persons/animals and/or the number of controls if a separate control group is included.
- Methods/Approach: Concisely, describe the principal treatment(s), procedure(s), test(s), or observation(s) to be performed in order to answer the research question.
- Main Outcome Measures: Defines the main parameter(s) being measured (e.g., intraocular pressure, vision, electroretinography, inflammation, etc.).
- Innovation: Briefly summarizes the anticipated research results or innovative contributions/impact.
e) Specific Aims (one page using 11-point font, and including applicant's name in the header): State concisely the goals of the proposed research and summarize the expected outcome(s), including the impact that the results of the proposed research will exert on the research field(s) involved. List succinctly the specific objectives of the research proposed, e.g., to test a stated hypothesis, create a novel design, solve a specific problem, challenge an existing paradigm or clinical practice, address a critical barrier to progress in the field, or develop new technology that can be developed to improve health or health care.
f) Research Strategy (no more than four pages using 11-point font, and including applicant's name in the header): Organize the Research Strategy in the specified order and using the instructions provided below. Start each section with the appropriate section heading (Significance, Innovation, and Approach). Study details should be cited using the Bibliography and References Cited section and need not be detailed in the Research Strategy.
- Significance/Relevance: Explain the importance of the problem or critical barrier to progress in the field that the proposed project addresses. Explain how the proposed project will improve scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice in one or more broad fields. Describe how the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field will be changed if the proposed aims are achieved. State the relevance to health problems in general and to health problems in urban settings where relevant.
- Innovation: Explain how the application challenges and seeks to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms. Describe any novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation or intervention(s) to be developed or used, and any advantage over existing methodologies, instrumentation or intervention(s). Explain any refinements, improvements, or new applications of theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation or interventions.
- Approach: Describe the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses to be used to accomplish the specific aims of the project. Include how the data will be collected, analyzed, and interpreted. Discuss potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success anticipated to achieve the aims. If the project is in the early stages of development, describe any strategy to establish feasibility, and address the management of any high risk aspects of the proposed work.
g) Preliminary Data (no more than two pages using 11-point font, and including applicant's name in the header): Include relevant preliminary data (graphs, tables, micrographs, etc.) that support the hypothesis and are in line with the Specific Aims. (Note: The purpose of preliminary data is to demonstrate, where relevant, work that the candidate has already initiated on his/her research project, but not to demonstrate full competency in the applicants’ research approach. If no preliminary data is available, relevant data from outside sources maybe used for this section. Please reference outside sources under the cited literature section of the application).
h) Literature cited: Authors, title, journal, volume, pages, and year. Do not exceed 25 references. Cited Literature must be specifically related to the applicant’s research. Please use 11-point font, and include applicant's name in the header.
i) NIH Bio Sketch of the applicant (four pages using 11-point font, and including applicant's name in the header): An NIH Biosketch (Postdoctoral fellowship version) is a format used by the NIH to collect and document pertinent information about people involved with NIH research. View an example here. Please refer to the NIH website for formatting and additional information.
j) Reprints: Please provide PDF copies of the first page of the reprints of applicant’s previous publications related to applicant’s current research proposal. The first page of the reprint must include the abstract.
Section 8: Applicant's Financial Information
Please complete all salary information under the corresponding application type (CTR Scholar).
All questions pertaining to current award status and financial aid must also be completed.
Section 9: Signature Page
Applicant and mentors’ signatures must be obtained to complete the submission process.
Please download the signature page form and have all required signatures signed. Required signatures:
- Primary Mentor
- Co-mentor and additional co-mentors
- Department or Division Chair
Once signatures have been obtained, upload a PDF copy of the signature page to complete the submission process. Please note digital signature with a time stamp will be accepted if original signature is not obtained.
Section 10: Miscellaneous Formatting Information
- Please use an Arial, Helvetica, Palatino Linotype or Georgia typeface, a black font color, and a font size of 11 points or larger.
- A Symbol font may be used to insert Greek letters or special characters; the font size requirement still applies.
- A smaller type size is acceptable but it must be in black ink, and readily legible for figures, graphs, diagrams, charts and tables.
- Use at least one-half inch margins (top, bottom, left, and right) for all pages, including continuation pages.
- Since a number of reviewers will be reviewing applications as an electronic document and not a paper version, applicants are strongly encouraged to use only a standard, single column format for the text.
- Avoid using a two column format since it can cause difficulties when reviewing the document electronically.
- The application must be single-spaced.