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Bridging Animal Model and Human Subject Research

Posted on February 18, 2013

Susanne Ahmari (bio) recounts her experience requesting a grant to do translational research early in her career.


Most people told me not to put humans and animals in the same grant at my stage, which actually had confused me at that time because I thought, "NIH wants people doing translational research. They like to have people who are basic neuroscientists who also are going back and forth from the clinic, right? This is what everyone says. This is what's on the web pages."

So I didn't believe people. It was a little bit of a naive response to it. I'm like, "No. It'll be fine." And so I put in the first submission, and one of the comments back was essentially, "It is very difficult to have expertise in these two vastly different areas, and to have expertise, you're going to have to focus."

I didn't like that answer because I still really wanted to do both, but I had to acknowledge that, "Hey, I'm hearing this from multiple different sources at this point, and so there may be something to this."

But, that said, I still didn't take it out. I still didn't change the overall structure. I cut a lot on one of the aims, but I still kept in humans and mice. And that time it did go through. But I think what I also did was I acknowledged a little bit more that I recognized that this is an ambitious goal, but as a training goal, it's a good goal. And it's one that the NIH should try and support. And that may have helped as well.

But I think it's a challenge, and I think what the model they're trying to use is actually for people who are clinical researchers and basic science researchers to collaborate. So you specialize in your one area, and a clinical researcher specializes in their area, and you collaborate. But then as you get more senior and you're directing more people, you should be able to then incorporate the two together.

So I'm doing it a little bit not in the traditional way, I guess, and I still do like my path, actually, because I feel like from the beginning I'm actually getting a sense of what the challenges are on both ends.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2012 Career Development Institute for Psychiatry in Pittsburgh, PA.


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