Interdisciplinary research program expands to include Alda Center training

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Missed deadlines. Inappropriate comments. Badly written emails. Poorly run meetings.

These are just a few of the problems that may arise to delay the careers of young professionals. They are also the problems that a new partnership, between the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and the Medical Science Training program, will address in the fall.

“Our biomedical students graduate with extensive knowledge and master over their academic subjects, and they go on to lead highly productive and rewarding careers,” said Dr. Markus Seeliger, associate professor of pharmacology at Stony Brook University. “With this partnership with the Alda Center, we will be able to ensure our students are also graduating well prepared to navigate the transition from student to professional leader.”

Stony Brook University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and Brookhaven National Laboratory have collaborated for more than 30 years on the Medical Science Training Program to offer expanded and interdisciplinary research opportunities to students working toward doctoral degrees, as physicians and scientists. Its graduates have gone on to work at leading universities, university hospitals, the National Institutes of Health, and biotechnology or pharmaceutical groups.

For the first time this fall, a cohort of 16 students in the program will also participate in the Alda Communication and Professional Skills Program (Alda CAPS Program), a series of workshops focusing on professional communication with faculty from SBU’s Alda Center. Over the course of the pilot program, the students will participate in a series of three-hour communication workshops, focused on professional conduct, teamwork, cultural competence, difficult conversations, and negotiation, among other topics.

The Alda CAPS Program aims to give the students a better understanding of how to communicate across job functions, work as part of multidisciplinary teams, and respond appropriately and effectively to different situations that affect early-career professionals.

The 16 participants will be surveyed before and after the program to evaluate their attitudes and abilities to identify and resolve professional communication issues. The survey results will be used to evaluate changes in their attitudes, after the course and over time, and assess the efficacy of the training on their long-term success.

“For a decade, the Alda Center has trained scientists and medical professionals to empower them to share their work and their stories with different audiences,” said Dr. Laura Lindenfeld, executive director of the Alda Center and interim dean of SBU’s School of Journalism. “Increasingly, scientists and medical professionals are working across disciplines, and have the opportunity to make incredible discoveries. The Alda Center workshops will prepare these young scientists to engage, communicate, and collaborate with their colleagues in ways that advance their team and their work.”