The qualification program rests on three columns of:
- Shared structured curriculum
- Interdisciplinary research training
- Individualized supervision strategy
A) The structured curriculum includes several components:
Group specific courses
Internal group meetings, supervised by the speaker, represent the most regular and core component of the study program and are held bi-weekly. Here, students present their ongoing/planned projects at least twice a year. These meetings include two formal project presentations by doctoral students of their research project. These meetings alternate with external events, in which we will invite visiting national and international speakers (meetings are mandatory). Here, the students are given the opportunity to meet these experts and discuss scientific questions and their projects.
Electronic Learning Environment for Neuroscience of Aggression (ELENA) via learning management system (LMS): To strengthen and intensify the international educational interaction, our IRTG will implement electronic media and create an LMS. We will install a media library of recorded lectures held within the IRTG, thereby making them available to generations of students as well as across locations.
Online course modules
Students will receive a Penn ID at the beginning of their PhD training, required during Figure 3: Exemplification of the PhD education time line, course structure on both sides their mobility period. This will give them the unique chance to participate in the online CITI program, the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative. The CITI offers web-based training materials in many curricular areas, which can be combined into a package that fits the needs of each subscriber, such as Biosafety and Biosecurity, Animal Care and Use, Good Clinical Practice, Human Subjects Research and Responsible
Conduct of Research, and others.
At Penn, the IRTG course structure includes regular IRTG meetings in the BBL (Brain Behavior Laboratory, supervision Ruben C. Gur). These are also work in progress seminars, open for all IRTG members to attend and present their work.
- IRTG students will attend monthly seminars in the Silvio Conte Center (NIH-funded P50 Center grant, R.E. Gur, PI), and • The Center for Neurobiology and Behavior (CNB).
- IRTG students also attend bi-weekly seminars in the Clinical Neuroscience Training Program
(CNST), which are made available via ELENA to students in Aachen.
- Weekly Grand Rounds are also available in the appropriate Departments (Psychiatry, Neurology, Radiology, Computer Science, also available via ELENA).
- Regular ’soft skills’ workshops are offered at Penn throughout the year. The IRTG students
also participate in the structured activities and meetings of their respective laboratories.
Individualized Development Plan (IDP)
Students will set up an IDP that meets the specific educational requirements for his/her research project. This individualized training will be discussed
and decided upon with both supervisors and within the thesis committee. Although the IDP will be set at the beginning of the first year it will be updated after 6 and 12 months.
Methodological workshops/lectures will provide training for important methodological skills. Students can choose workshops based on the relevance to their research subject. The workshops involve methods used by most of the students, ranging from statistics (connectivity (DCM, PPI), multivariate, resting state analyses) to basics in neuroimaging methods (joint fMRI-EEG, PET, NIRS, neurofeedback, tDCS), morphometry, behavioral epigenetics, mouse models, analysis techniques, basics in programming (Matlab, Presentation), as well as topics such as experimental design and special topics to be added based on the constellation of students within a given cohort.
Clinical workshops and lectures focus on clinical training (see clinical education) encompassing diagnostic skills, psychopathological assessment,
psychopharmacology, and knowledge on aetiology, neurobiological bases and symptomatology as well as current therapeutic approaches. These workshops will provide the necessary clinical background as well as the research skills needed for clinical projects.
The clinical rotation of 2 weeks (within the first 3 months within the IRTG) is obligatory for all students who have no prior experiences in a neuropsychiatric setting. This guarantees that students gain experience with patients and get an impression on the psychopathology of aggression and impulsivity. Students with experience in this field due to their educational background are not required to complete the clinical rotation. For those working in the methods or cellular section it provides valuable insight into the clinical domain and should provide a first step into translational research education.
Modellstudiengang – School of Medicine, RWTH. The course of studies in the Medical Faculty will complement the qualification program of each IRTG member. The “Modell-Studiengang Medizin Aachen” aims (1) to implement modern strategies in learning (interdisciplinary approach centered on organs and systems, connecting preclinical and clinical topics, e-learning), (2) to shorten the preclinical part of the studies and acquire practical abilities
from the second semester on, and (3) to offer individual qualification profiles.
General Course Program – RWTH/Jülich. For members of the IRTG working on methodological questions, courses of the RWTH Masters program in Biomedical Engineering will be of special interest. For all students aiming at getting the “Dr. rer. medic.” at the Medical Faculty a course in medical terminology is obligatory (also offered in English). The program will be complemented by courses from medical statistics and the course program and lectures offered at the FZ Jülich.
General Course Program – Penn. In most American universities, PhD students are integrated into highly structured doctoral programs. This is also the case for the American students in the IRTG. They are therefore required to participate in a number of courses from the general course program to fulfill basic degree requirements. Of primary relevance for the American students of the IRTG is the Neuroscience Graduate Group (NGG). It is an interdisciplinary PhD program, part of the Biomedical Graduate Studies (BGS) program at the University of Pennsylvania and is closely associated with the Mahoney Institute of Neurological Sciences (MINS). Doctoral IRTG students will be authorized to participate in this program and take core and advanced courses in neuroscience and related courses in other disciplines. They also participate in extra-curricular courses.
The annual Spring Schools, held alternatively in Philadelphia or Aachen/Jülich, have been each year’s highlight within the IRTG 1328 with about 70-80 participants. They will be kept as a scientific conference experience. Here, the mutual scientific exchange between the partner universities takes place as well as one of the thesis committee meetings. German and US students give scientific presentations on their projects and get valuable feedback by their supervisors as a very important part of their scientific training. These meetings furthermore will lead to high group coherence and strengthen cooperation between researchers of both countries.