CHIPS Summer Institute

Posted on July 27, 2009

Neal Ryan (bio) describes how the CHIPS Summer Institute promotes career advancement.


CHIPS is an R25 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, and it's in the child division, and this particular R25 provides a summer institute for junior career investigators who want to study child treatment, prevention, or child services research. Each summer we take about 16-18 post-docs, assistant professors, departments of psychology, psychiatry, social work. We have a weeklong institute, and then we connect them with one of the faculty members of the institute to be a mentor over the coming year.

What we've learned is a couple of things, one of which is that for a lot of people it's connecting with a few more mentors across the country, helping them think through how to write a grant so it'll be convincing to other people because a lot of times you have a good idea yourself, you know why it's a good idea, but you don't express it clearly enough, and so that's not a convincing or likely-to-be-funded grant application, as meritorious as it may be. So a lot are really strong and it's just buffing a little bit.

On the other hand, certainly you get people sometimes with an idea that interests them a whole lot, and it may be an idea you wish you could study that would help the world if you could do it, but the methodology just isn't there to make advances on that. Or maybe it's an idea that is interesting but not fundamental enough in terms of teaching broad principles and not high enough health priority for the U.S. to be particularly likely for funding. So there can be a range of things. Those are the easy ones, and those are what we're able to help most people with.

Every once in a while you get a harder problem. Like you get a really good candidate who's just at a place where there's not enough resources or not the right mentor and then you have to help them. They're going to decide, but you have to help them think about sort of some hard alternatives. Can they be effectively mentored by someone at a different city? It's doable but it's tough. Do they have to move? Well, you know, it's easy for anybody to recommend. It can be straightforward or impossible depending on their life circumstances. So you get some people like that.

When we select people, we do try to match them with a particular faculty mentor here with their strengths, and it's good because we have two MDs, a social worker, PhD, psychologist. We have a range of different strengths in the parts of the domains that we're studying and the credentials of the mentors, and so I think that's worked out well.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2009 CHIPS Summer Research Institute in Tempe, AZ.


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