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A Critical Mass

Posted on November 21, 2007

Training in research methods and finding mentors in your area is important, says Andrew A. Nierenberg (bio).


There are several very important things that I think people who are starting out in this field need to know. One is that they really need to have good training in research. They really need to understand research design. They have to understand statistics, and they have to understand how to use them. If they don’t get that really as formal training, it becomes a little difficult to be able to do the enterprise.

The other thing is to be able to find a place where there is a critical mass of good researchers at least around the area that one is interested in. So in particular with bipolar disorder, it’s good if you find somebody who has a track record in bipolar disorder, and it’s even better if they have some interest that’s at least consistent with your own. It’s very important to do that.

The other thing is to be able to find somebody who can give them honest feedback about their own work, who will really critique them in a very caring way. So rather than having somebody just beat them up, have them be able to give them constructive criticism and to be able to help them along the way. They also need somebody to help them understand what their research trajectory ought to be and how to get there and if they’re not getting there, what they need to do differently and adjust.

There are lots of ways to try to get funding now from the Stanley Foundation, from NARSAD, from trying to get a K Award and other things like that. So you really need to have somebody who’s going to help and is going to be a good coach, will help cobble together the funding, will help actually give them the opportunities to develop not only clinical expertise, but also protect their time.

So it’s just absolutely essential that they find the critical mass and somebody who's supportive and a good mentor.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2007 Career Development Institute for Bipolar Disorder in Pittsburgh, PA.

NARSAD, Apply for a Grant
Stanley Medical Research Institute


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