The Glycoscience Skills Development Core will be headed by Umesh Desai, Ph.D., and Kuberan Balagurunathan, Ph.D., with each principal investigator playing an important role in the establishment and operation of the core. The PIs will form the primary body that coordinates efforts on the development of skills. At least six scientists, some already engaged in research with the PIs, will form the focus group for glycoscience skills engagement. These six individuals will work under the direct supervision of their PIs. In addition, the PIs will train new graduate and postdoctoral students. Finally, the six senior scientists will be expected to engage additional junior members (graduate or undergraduate students) of the laboratory so as to cultivate supervisory skills for a future independent faculty position. Overall, the four teams of the Programs of Excellence in Glycosciences expect to train six senior scientists and 10 new students (postdoctoral and graduate) in glycoscience research.
The development of skills in a researcher is a continuous engagement exercise with a specific effort of building three types of skills — cognitive, perceptual and motor skills. Cognitive skills relate to stimulating proactive thought processes, and perceptual skills relate to interpretation of presented information, while motor skills relate to hands-on experience. An ideal skills development program will emphasize all three types of skills in a highly individualized environment. For example, a good new postdoctoral student may have well-developed experimental skills (motor), but less developed predictive skills (cognitive). In comparison, a starting graduate student may have no motor skills. Thus, the PEG will utilize a combination of learning methodologies for its participants.
We believe that the Core will increase the opportunity to discover and nurture research and teaching interests in glycan chemistry and biology. The cohesion provided by faculty members in the Core will be a key element for engaging junior scholars. Overall, we view the Core as fostering cross-disciplinary thinking among the participants (seniors as well as juniors); as forcing effective, wide-audience teaching and research presentation skills; and as a mechanism to write clear, compelling manuscripts and proposals. The overall skills development program will contain: 1) a boot camp, 2) direct hands-on training in individual laboratories, 3) didactic teaching at a local level, 4) participation in workshops on research and teaching techniques organized at various levels, 5) participation in proposal writing and reviewing workshops, 6) community service and 7) training on responsible conduct of research.