Postdoctoral Translational Scholars Program (PTSP)

The Postdoctoral Translational Scholars Program (PTSP) is a multidisciplinary career development award designed to prepare individuals with a PhD in a biomedical science or social science discipline for independent careers in translational research. The program invites a broad array of scientists from many disciplines to apply.  View the 2015 PTSP cohort.


The PTSP is tailored to the individual's research training needs, but includes the opportunity to pursue a variety of educational offerings such as a clinical immersion experience and didactic course work in regulation sciences, research ethics, biostatistics and/or specialty electives related to the person’s field of interest. Scholars are required to complete a translational research project. All scholars have a cross-disciplinary mentoring team to assist them with their career development and the research project. Award funding can be used to support the individual's salary, course work, and/or research activities. Postdoctoral Translational Scholars will be expected to commit 50-75% of full time effort to the program. Scholars can apply to the general PTSP and to any of the three theme-based programs, if they choose: U-M Injury Center, Metabolomics Program, and Organogenesis. 

Who is eligible?

  • Individuals with a PhD who are interested in obtaining additional training in translational sciences
  • Program provides trainees with a $100,000 career development award
  • Funding can be utilized over 2-3 years
  • The program begins June 1, and runs for two years.

Check here for frequently asked questions.

The application deadline is March 1, 2016, with a letter of intent due January 12, 2016.  Submit your letter of intent.  

Please apply for the PTSP Award through the Competition Space website--Apply Now!

Theme-based PTSP programs: The Organogenesis PTSP program supports scholars who are interested in applying a basic science research background to translational organogenesis. Other requirements are 1) engage in the Center for Organogenesis; 2) participate in an interdisciplinary working group of two or more labs focused on organ-specific research; and 3) interact with one of the UMHS Destination Programs or similar clinical programs aligned along an organ system theme.

The Metabolomics  PTSP supports scholars who are interested in applying a basic research background to the emerging area of metabolomics in clinical or translational research. Potential areas of study include: interventional or epidemiological studies in human nutrition; human disease biomarker discovery; elucidation of metabolic pathways in human tissues in vitro or transplanted ectopically and evaluation of metabolism in response to disease, nutrients, drugs, environmental toxins or ionizing radiation.

The U-M Injury Center PTSP supports Ph.D. scholars trained in the fields of social science, public health, engineering, basic science, or computational science who are interested in conducting and translating injury research into practice and policy to reduce the burden of injury. Research on intentional and unintentional injury prevention and control will be supported. Potential areas of study include: transportation safety , substance abuse including prescription drug misuse and overdose, traumatic brain injury/ concussion/ or violence, such as child maltreatment, intimate partner violence, youth violence, community violence, or suicide. The relationship of injury to other public health issues, such as disparities, gender issues, health, race/ethnicity/culture, maternal/child health, mental health, and risk behavior, is also of interest.

The Head and Neck SPORE PTSP program is an interdisciplinary translational research program committed to advancing clinical and basic research in the biology, prevention and cure of head and neck squamous carcinoma. The program involves multiple collaborative translational projects and is supported by extensive Tissue Repository, Biostatistical Core and Administrative Core services. Future development of head and neck cancer translational research is critically dependent on supporting and enhancing early career development of investigators committed to cancer research, and the recruitment of superb scientists from a variety of basic science fields. There is currently a critical lack of translational scientists committed to head and neck cancer research. Our aim is to attract basic scientists to collaborate in translational research linked to one of the major Head and Neck SPORE projects for an intensive 2-yr immersion in clinical research. For more information, please contact Dr. Gregory Wolf.

"My PTSP award has enriched my understanding of the ways in which social science research on intimate partner violence and reproductive health are translated into clinical practice."

-Yasamin Kusunoki, PhD

Our 2015 PTSP Cohort:

Elizabeth Brisbois, PhD (Chemistry) will study the development of a new generation of thromboresistant and bactericidal intravascular catheters via the use of electrochemically modulated nitric oxide (NO) release from the inner reservoir of simple inorganic nitrite salt. Blood-material interactions are critical for the success of medical devices used in millions of patients every day (e.g., catheters, stents, extracorporeal artificial organs). Success of this project could lead to a new generation of low-cost intravascular catheters that will dramatically reduce risk of common catheter related infections and thrombosis. Mentors: Robert H. Bartlett (Department of Surgery) and Mark E. Meyerhoff (Department of Chemistry).

Lora Cope, PhD (Psychology) will study how genetic variation in the dopaminergic system affects reward—and impulsivity—related brain activity and personality traits related to addiction, and how genetics, brain activity, and personality affect substance use outcomes. This project will result in a better understanding of individual differences in liability for substance use problems. Knowledge gains from these studies may help tailor treatment strategies in order to be both more effective and efficient. Mentors: Mary Heitzeg, Kirk Brower, and Jonathan Morrow (Psychiatry).
  Ewa Czyz, PhD (Psychiatry) will study the development of a brief intervention for adolescents hospitalized due to suicide risk. She will examine characteristics associated with patterns of coping to manage suicide risk in the critical post-discharge period. This project may lead to the development of an individualized intervention for hospitalized teens to reduce suicidal behavior after discharge and may help to improve strategies for intervening with youth at risk for suicide. Mentors: Cheryl King, Ph.D. (Psychology and Psychiatry) and Inbal Nahum-Shani, Ph.D. (Institue for Social Research).

Kari Debbink, PhD (Internal Medicine) will study the diversity and structure of intrahost influenza populations in infected patients using next-generation sequencing technologies and advanced ecological metrics. She will examine both the mechanisms of vaccine failure and oseltamivir resistance in order to identify evolutionary mechanisms that can be exploited to improve vaccine design and therapeutic strategies. Mentors: Adam Lauring (Internal Medicine), Kathleen Collins (Microbiology and Immunology), Carol Kauffman (Internal Medicine), Donna Shewach (Pharmacology).

Chad R. Frasier, PhD (Pharmacology) will be studying the connection between the brain and the heart in Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). He will be looking at how mutations in ion channel genes found in pediatric epilepsy patients affect heart function using a combination of induced pluripotent stem cells from patients and animal models. By using this combination he hopes to discover novel mechanisms of SUDEP as well as potential biomarkers to identify patients at risk for SUDEP. Mentors: Lori Isom (Pharmacology) and Jack Parent (Neurology).

Carina Gronlund, PhD, MPH (Epidemiology) will study how health and built environment characteristics, including housing, green space and air pollution, increase vulnerability to extreme-heat-related deaths, hospitalizations and emergency room visits. During this research, she will engage with members of the Detroit community and local and state government involved in climate change adaptation planning. Dr. Gronlund, an environmental epidemiologist, aims to incorporate the knowledge and address relevant needs of local community members and officials involved in climate adaptation planning, as well as disseminate research results promptly to Detroit stakeholders. Mentors: Amy Schulz (Health Behavior and Health Education) and Marie O'Neill (Epidemiology/Environmental Health Sciences).
  Myria Petrou, MB ChB, MS (Radiology)

Jillian Hardee, PhD (Addiction Research Center, Department of Psychiatry) will study if sex differences moderate the relationship between problem drinking in young adults and the neural circuitry responsible for impulse control and emotion processing, using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Sex differences in the neurobiology of addiction are understudied, and a more careful examination of these differences would be beneficial to the development of targeted intervention and prevention programs. Mentors: Mary Heitzeg (Psychiatry), Kirk Brower (Psychiatry), and Jill Becker (Psychology, Psychiatry).

Amanda Huber, PhD (Neurology) will study whether the transcriptional regulatory epigenetic modifications of histone methylation and acetylation are responsible for IFN-β (type I Interferon (IFN)--an immune regulatory molecule) responsiveness in patients who suffer from relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. To date, no marker is currently able to separate those who respond to IFN-β treatment from those who do not. The role epigenetic mechanisms have on gene expression in specific immune cell subsets during IFN-β treatment in these patients remains unknown. This is the first step leading to a biomarker for responsiveness and may lead to more effective therapies. Information obtained from this study may in the future be useful for hepatitis C, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosis, and Sjögren’s syndrome cases where type I IFN responses have been shown to be important. Mentors: Dr. David Irani MD (Neurology) and Dr. Amr Sawalha MD (Rheumatology).

Daniel A. Jacobs, PhD (Kinesiology) will investigate wearable sensor technologies for at-home safety monitoring and powered orthotic devices for improving walking performance in people with multiple sclerosis. This research will help translate current advances in robotics into technologies for improving mobility, community participation, and quality of life for people with multiple sclerosis. Mentors: Daniel Ferris (Kinesiology), Tiffany Braley (Neurology), and Edmund Chadd (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation).

Qing Kang, PhD (Internal Medicine, Hematology/Oncology) will apply digital PCR and next generation sequencing technologies to studying circulating tumor DNA from breast cancer patients’ blood and urine as noninvasive biomarkers to identify tumor genetic information. The translational platform developed through this research will improve noninvasive monitoring that allows for early detection of cancer treatment response and for identifying emergence of resistance. Mentors: Muneesh Tewari (Internal Medicine), Norah Henry (Internal Medicine), Sofia Merajver (Internal Medicine).

Guadalupe Lorenzatti Hiles, PhD (Department of Urology and Translational Oncology Program) will study the disintegring function of the ADAM15 protein in the metastatic progression of bladder cancer. This project will also develop and test novel peptide and peptide mimetic inhibitors targeting the ADAM15 disintegrin function. Advanced bladder cancer is a deadly disease where remissions are not durable and cures are rare. Successful development and testing of these inhibitors will lead to new and highly needed therapeutic options for metastatic bladder cancer. Mentors: Mark L. Day (Department of Urology) and Maha Hussain (Division of Hematology/Oncology).

Sergey S. Seregin, PhD (Hematology/Oncology, Internal Medicine) will study the role of the Nod-like receptor (NLR) member, Nlpr6 in pathogenesis of ulcerative colitis (UC), the most common form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) worldwide. This project will delineate specific Nlrp6-dependent roles of Ly6Chi monocytes in animal model of UC and establish function of Nlrp6 in mediating protection form UC in human patients. Outcomes of this project are expected to aid in the development of therapeutic strategies to treat human IBD, which remains to be a crucial public health mission. Mentors: Grace Y. Chen (Hematology/Oncology, Internal Medicine), and Peter D. Higgins (Gastroenterology, Internal Medicine).

Xioafeng Zhou, PhD (Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine)

Our 2014 PTSP Cohort:

Aqeel Ahmed, PhD (Department of Medicinal Chemistry, College of Pharmacy) will study the use of computational biology to repurpose existing drugs using the Binding MOAD (Mother Of All databases) dataset of protein-ligand complexes. If we can find new uses for existing drugs, we can bring new treatments to patients. These treatments can be developed much more quickly and with much less expense than traditional drug development. Mentors: Heather Carlson (Medicinal Chemistry) and Kathleen Stringer and Mike Dorsch (both of the College of Pharmacy).

Elizabeth Austic, PhD MSW MSI (Institute for Research on Women and Gender, Injury Center) will evaluate a preventive intervention designed to reduce injury by promoting safe use, storage, and disposal of stimulant medication among adolescents with ADHD. The study will explore the ABCD, an original, innovative preventive intervention that uses medication agreements and text messages to prevent medical misuse, diversion and improper disposal of stimulant medication, as well as injuries secondary to these behaviors. Mentors: Maureen Walton (Psychiatry, School of Medicine) and Carol Boyd (School of Nursing).

Elise Demitrack, PhD (Molecular and Integrative Physiology, School of Medicine) will study Notch regulation of human gastric cancer progression. Gastric cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide; however, the signaling pathways that initiate pre-cancerous changes in the stomach are largely unknown. This study aims to identify the role of such pathways in driving the early, pre-cancerous cellular transformations that take place prior to cancer development. Mentors: Linda Samuelson (Internal Medicine, Molecular and Integrative Physiology) and Juanita Merchant (Internal Medicine, Molecular and Integrative Physiology).

Emily Gardinier, PhD (Movement Science, Kinesiology) will study walking performance and knee loads, using a powered ankle-foot prosthesis. The results of this study will give health professionals and patients information about the ability of a new, powered ankle-foot prosthesis to improve walking performance and reduce loading in their non-amputated knee, which may reduce the risk for knee osteoarthritis later in life. Mentors: Deanna Gates (Kinesiology) and Brian Kelly (Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation).

Michele Gornick, MA, PhD (Center for Bioethics and Computational Medicine (CBSSM), Internal Medicine and VA Center for Clinical Management Research) will study precision medicine by assessing critical barriers clinicians face integrating large, complex and often ambiguous amounts of genomic information into patient care. This project will develop and evaluate prototype test reports for cancer related genomic sequencing findings through user-centered design. Mentors: Angela Fagerlin (CBSSM, Internal Medicine) and Elena Stoffel (Gastroenterology, Internal Medicine).

Yasamin Kusunoki, PhD (Assistant Research Scientist, Survey Research Center/Population Studies Center) will study the dynamics of intimate partner violence (IPV) within young women’s intimate relationships and the extent to which IPV influences their contraceptive behaviors. The study will provide a more nuanced understanding of a highly prevalent yet still poorly understood issue and inform prevention, intervention, and treatment strategies aimed at reducing IPV and reproductive health disparities among young people. Mentors: Marc Zimmerman (Health Behavior Health Education, School of Public Health) and Vanessa Dalton (OBGYN, School of Medicine).**

Yasamin Kusunoki recently contributed a piece on research in the Fall 2014 Population Studies Center (PSC) newsletter on pages 8-9. 

Jiajia Luo, MSE, PhD (Mechanical Engineering) will study the development of an ultra-flexible disposable sensor array to simultaneously measure urethral closure pressure and striated sphincter muscle electromyography. This project seeks to design the next generation ultra-flexible multi-point measurement device to accurately measure static and dynamic urethral and sphincter behavior free of artifacts. The goal is to provide patient specific recommendations for treatment and to guide prevention strategies to address injury mechanisms, for this priority women’s health issue. Mentors: James Ashton-Miller (Mechanical Engineering) and John DeLancey (OBGYN, School of Medicine).

Robert Nidetz, PhD (Mechanical Engineering ) will study a high-throughput microfluidic immunophenotyping assay platform for real-time diagnosis of pediatric post-cardiopulmonary bypass surgery immunoparalysis. The easy to implement platform developed through this research will also benefit patients receiving immune suppression therapy (e.g. transplant recipients, those with autoimmune diseases, etc.) and the core technologies can easily be adapted for use to detect and diagnose other illnesses and assist researchers in developing therapeutic tools to aid in the patient’s survival. Mentors: Katsu Kurabayashi (Mechanical Engineering) and Timothy Cornell (Pediatrics and Critical Care Medicine).

Gautam Rajpal, PhD (Neurology, School of Medicine) will study the identification of FDA approved drugs to treat SCA3. No treatment currently exists for SCA3, a neurodegenerative disease, and drug companies are not researching the disease due to its rarity and complexity. Academic research provides the only hope in finding a treatment. This research is the first attempt by any lab to use FDA approved drugs target the disease-causing protein. Mentors: Henry Paulson (Neurology) and Nouri Neamati (Medicinal Chemistry, College of Pharmacy).

Kelli Sas, PhD (Nephrology, Internal Medicine) will study the role of altered glucose flux in human diabetic nephropathy. Diabetic nephropathy is associated with serious consequences including end stage renal disease, increased cardiovascular risk and mortality, high socio-economic costs and poor quality of life. This study will determine the role of metabolic alterations in the progression of diabetic nephropathy and will provide new therapeutic targets for disease prevention and treatment. Mentors: Subramaniam Pennathur (Nephrology, Internal Medicine, School of Medicine) and Rodica Pop-Busui (Metabolism, Endocrinology and Diabetes, School of Medicine).***

Anna Seekatz, PhD (Infectious Diseases, Internal Medicine) will look at the dynamics of C. difficile and the gut microbiome in recurrent C. difficile infection. The proposed research is designed to identify the specific host-associated and pathogen-associated bacterial disease determinants important in recurrent C. difficile infection. These studies will greatly improve future treatment options for C. difficile infection. Mentors: Vincent Young (Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine) and John Kao (Gastroenterology, School of Medicine).

Michael Taveirne, PhD (Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine) will study the structure of the human gut microbiota and its influence on dynamics of Campylobacter infection. Knowledge on virulence mechanisms and pathogenesis of Campylobacter in human disease is lacking. Using high-throughput sequencing tools and novel animal models, Dr. Taveirne will advance the knowledge of how this pathogen causes disease in humans. Mentors: Victor DiRita (Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine), and N. Cary Engleberg (Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine).

Jessica Werner, PhD (Pathology, School of Medicine) will study the identification and Analysis of Pathobionts in Sarcoid Tissue. The cause of sarcoidosis remains unknown, and current treatments have limited effectiveness and decrease quality of life for sarcoidosis patients. Determining the factors involved in the generation of sarcoidosis granulomas is critical to improving therapies for these patients, and improving their overall quality of life. Mentors: Gabriel Nuñez (Pathology, School of Medicine) and Eric White (Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine).

*Organogenesis PTSP
**Injury Center PTSP
***Metabalomics PTSP

Dr. Bethany Moore, former director of the MICHR PTSP, explains the value of the PTSP fellowship, reflecting on her own path from basic scientist to clinical/translational researcher:


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