Michelle Martin Romero
About Our Training Program
The Carolina Consortium on Human Development (CCHD) postdoctoral training program includes core features of our 30-year program that have proven to be invaluable experiences for our former trainees, such as intensive research apprenticeships with mentor faculty, participation in the CCHD proseminar and class, and guidance from an individual advisory committee. Postdoctoral trainees customize their training activities by engaging in a mixture of core and individually-tailored activities.
For quick answers to common questions about our program, refer to our CCHD Postdoc Quick Glance 2019.
Core components of training include:
- Research apprenticeships
- A Developmental Science seminar
- The CCHD seminar series
- A professional development series
- Creation of an Individual Development Plan
- An advisory committee
Individually-tailored components of the training can also include:
- Professional development consultation
- CCHD and FPG workshops and training forums
- Inter-institutional coursework
- Inter-institutional training events
- National and International training forums
Research apprenticeships between trainees and mentor faculty are designed to offer mastery or depth in a focused area of study as well as multidisciplinary breadth that is integrated through a Developmental Science perspective. Postdoctoral trainees are admitted to work with a mentoring team that includes a primary mentor (typically offering mastery training in an area of shared research interest) and a secondary mentor (typically offering multidisciplinary breadth).
Given the challenges and necessity of accelerated productivity during the postdoctoral training period, we begin trainees’ research collaborations in a familiar area of research. We add depth to their discipline-specific knowledge and research skills during the first year as trainees become familiar with the mentor faculty, develop an IDP, and begin to collaborate with cross-disciplinary mentors with whom they may work more earnestly beginning in the second year of the fellowship. The cross-disciplinary collaborations offered by each mentoring team enrich the trainees’ theoretical perspective and research skills and serve as models for working in a transdisciplinary setting. Efforts to effectively and efficiently coordinate these collaborations are led by the primary mentor with guidance from the cross-disciplinary advisory committee and the training grant directors.
To provide an orientation and solid grounding in the Developmental Science perspective, we offer a Developmental Science Seminar that all trainees attend during their first semester. This seminar includes an overview of the Developmental Science perspective as well as guest speakers from the mentor faculty who explain the connection between their ongoing research and the Developmental Science perspective. Emphasis is placed on developmental concepts (e.g., trajectories, bidirectional influences, multilevel systems) and methodological strategies that allow for the application of these concepts to health.
The Carolina Consortium on Human Development proseminar is nationally recognized as an outstanding speaker series and classroom experience for trainees and is the intellectual cornerstone of the CCHD. The speaker series is organized around current issues in Developmental Science by a CCHD faculty mentor and an inter-institutional and inter-disciplinary organizing committee that includes a postdoctoral trainee. Examples of recent CCHD topics include The Developmental Science of Health-Risk Behaviors, Getting the Social “Under the Skin”: Developmental Perspectives on Embodiment, Developmental Mechanisms in Racial and Ethnic Minority Children and Youth, and Causal Inference in Developmental Science. While at the CCHD, national speakers meet individually and in small groups with CCHD faculty and trainees throughout the day, providing an invaluable opportunity for trainees to obtain consultation, advice, and feedback on their work from leading Developmental Scientists in the country. Local and national speakers have a professional development lunch with select trainees before the speaker’s presentation and then meet with those enrolled in the consortium class after the presentation.
Our Professional Development Series takes place in monthly meetings. Each year we focus sessions on developing the IDP, working with advisory committees, preparing for the job search (developing materials, giving job talks, and interviewing), responsible conduct of research, and grant writing. The format of these sessions is both didactic and discussion-oriented; we include in this series guest speakers such as former trainees, recently hired CCHD faculty, program officers from federal agencies (NIH, NSF, IES) as well as private foundations (Wm T Grant, Spender), and senior investigators with grant experience.
All trainees complete an Individual Development Plan (IDP) in their first semester. Following national trends, the IDP includes a self-assessment and a statement of long-term goals, short-term goals that are feasible for the training period, and associated training activities and deliverables (i.e., manuscripts, conference presentations). Trainees develop the IDP in collaboration with mentors, review the IDP with the advisory committee, and update the IDP each semester based on feedback, resources, and opportunities identified during the training period. Additional feedback impacting the IDP comes from trainee-initiated meetings with CCHD proseminar speakers and CCHD faculty (in addition to advisory committee members) regarding professional development and opportunities as well as through consultation with campus resources including the UNC Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (which offers opportunities for reviewing job application materials, practicing interviews, etc.) and the Office of Faculty Excellence (which offers training for new investigators on managing research projects and assistance in developing teaching portfolios).
Each trainee’s experiences are guided by an interdisciplinary Advisory Committee composed of the mentor faculty members, a training grant director, and 2-3 additional CCHD mentor faculty. Each semester, the trainees are charged with conducting the meetings and providing an agenda which includes a brief research presentation, review of the IDP and feedback on specific career development and research training issues. In addition to these core activities, trainees may select from a variety of individually-tailored opportunities such as the following.
Professional Development Consultation is offered to all trainees through the advisory committee and mentors as well as the training directors. Notably, the Associate Director for Training meets intensively with trainees in preparing them for the job market (reviewing their materials, arranging audiences for practice job talks, making professional contacts through our extensive CCHD alumni network, and conducting mock interviews).
We offer several Workshops and Training Forums throughout the year for CCHD trainees and faculty. Recent examples include a 3-day intensive writing workshop led by Dr. Robert Kail (former editor of Psychological Science and current editor of Child Development Perspectives), a 4-session introduction to behavioral genetics led by Dr. Karen Sugden (Duke University), a 1-day workshop on Integrative Data Analysis led by Dr. Patrick Curran (CDS faculty member), and our monthly Stump-the-Chump quantitative methods series.
Opportunities for Inter-Institutional Coursework are clearly outstanding, as trainees have access to courses offered in dozens of departments across disciplines and institutions. For example, trainees frequently take advantage of the world-class quantitative methods training provided by the L.L. Thurstone Laboratory in the Department of Psychology at UNC-CH which offers advanced coursework in multilevel modeling, structural equation modeling and latent growth modeling.
Training opportunities extend beyond the CCHD to include a large number of Inter-Institutional Training Events focused on such topics as grant writing and administration, responsible conduct of research, statistical analysis, fMRI analysis, bioinformatics, and a variety of substantive issues relevant to Developmental Science. These include seminars at centers with which our faculty are associated or direct (the Child and Family Research Network at UNC-G, the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke, the Carolina Population Center at UNC-CH) and dozens of departmental colloquium series.
Our trainees also participate in various National and International Training Forums that include professional conferences and research collaborations. For example, trainees participated in the 19th International Workshop on Methodology of Twin and Family Studies, the International Workshop on Statistical Genetics sponsored by the Institute for Behavior Genetics, and two International Institutes on Developmental Science. Our trainees traveled to The Netherlands, England, and California for extended times to develop productive collaborations. They also interact with visiting international scholars affiliated with the CCHD.