Where do I learn about Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards or IRACDA?

What other California universities have IRACDA-funded programs?

What is UPLIFT?

UPLIFT is an acronym for “UCLA Postdocs Longitudinal Investment in Faculty Training.” It is UCLA’s unique blend of teacher training that includes courses, seminars and workshops combined with career preparation and mentored research in a UCLA PI’s lab along with a limited, mentored teaching experience at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA). UPLIFT is funded primarily by the new UCLA IRACDA grant of which Drs. Michael Carey and Tracy Johnson are PIs at UCLA, while Dr. Katrina Yamazaki is the partner teaching coordinator at CSULA.

What is the goal of UPLIFT?

A major goal of the program is to produce a workforce in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) with a strong commitment to teaching diverse undergraduates, particularly at institutions that have a history of training underrepresented students. Another goal is to foster research interactions and collaborations between the institutions partnering in the program.

What does the UPLIFT teacher and career training at UCLA involve?

The purpose of the IRACDA program is to train a diverse group of postdocs in college level teaching and biomedical research to fulfill national workforce needs. Therefore effective teaching and career training are essential. We are in the initial years of the program and UCLA just became a member of the CIRTL (Center for Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning) network: (http://www.cirtl.net/), whose online seminars (including the CIRTL Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs) will be used as components of our training curriculum. UPLIFT fellows will be awarded CIRTL certificates, documenting your achievements at multiple stages in the training curriculum. In addition to preparing UPLIFT fellows for teaching at the college level, this elite educational experience will support your research through strong and consistent faculty mentoring.

Teacher and Career training for UPLIFT fellows at UCLA will include the following components:

  1. All years. Participation in UCLA’s CIRTL community. http://www.cirtl.net/
  2. Year 1 and 2. Begin training using CIRTL online seminars. Complete MOOC1 and MOOC 2 on evidence-based undergraduate STEM teaching and one additional online CIRTL course on a topic that interests you. The schedules for these courses are posted on the CIRTL website. These asynchronous courses allow you to complete most of the online coursework at your leisure. Some on-campus meetings are also required (no more than once per week during the same timeframe as the online CIRTL course offering), providing time for discussion with teaching experts about different instructional methods coupled to opportunities for putting theory into practice.
  3. Years 1-3. Attendance at select pedagogy workshops and teaching seminars presented by UCLA’s Center for Education Innovation & Learning in the Sciences (CEILS) such as the weekly STEM Education Research journal club and other related events. http://ceils.ucla.edu/
  4. All years. Participation in appropriate career preparation seminars advertised on UCLA’s Career Hub. https://grad.ucla.edu/careerhub/author/careerhub/
  5. Annual attendance at the national IRACDA conference (this is required but fun!).
  6. All years. Scheduled meetings with Co-directors and CIRTL coordinator/CEILS director.

What does the mentored teaching experience at CSULA involve?

Successful candidates, after training, will engage in a mentored teaching experience at CSULA. The program is just beginning so the timing and requirements for 2016-17 will be a bit different than in subsequent years. Once the program reaches a steady state, year 1 will involve nearly full time research in your faculty mentor’s lab with CIRTL online training in teaching and CEILS seminars. In year 2 of the program, the UPLIFT fellows will continue CIRTL and CEILS training and observe either a biochemistry, biology or physiology course at CSULA in fall or spring semester, and give a small number of lectures under the mentorship of one of three CSULA Faculty. Fellows will be expected to interact with and assist their CSULA teaching mentor at various times and will together with other UPLIFT fellows, time permitting, set up a weekly undergraduate journal club during the semesters they teach. In year 3, fellows will present multiple lectures under the mentorship of the same CSULA faculty member from year 2. Now equipped with CIRTL/CEILS training, fellows are expected to incorporate innovative pedagogical techniques into their lectures. On days that the lectures are occurring, fellows will be expected to spend up to half a day (a bit more on some occasions as this is evolving – also some preparatory visits will likely be necessary) at CSULA. Most current courses that UPLIFT fellows will co-teach are scheduled to meet only two days per week although some are offered three days per week. Fellows will know their teaching assignments well in advance of the term they are teaching so research and other activities can be planned accordingly.

When do fellows perform biomedical research?

Year 1 is mainly research. The teacher training in year 1 is required but requires only a modest amount of time to perform online training and attend the CEILS seminars/training forums. In years 2 and 3, the fellows are expected to be performing research at UCLA on days that they are not at CSULA and are also expected to be at UCLA to perform research either before or after CSULA classes and office hours. Learning how to properly manage your time and fulfill both research and teaching obligations is an essential skill for becoming a successful professor and is a major objective of the IRACDA program. The fellow must take time management seminars at the UCLA Career Center as advertised on the Career Hub (see FAQ 6). The fellow will also receive personalized instruction in time management from the CSULA coordinator. Year 4 of the program is dedicated to research and preparing fellows for job applications. Overall, 75% effort is required for research while funded by IRACDA.

Who should apply?

Prospective or current postdocs with less than 1.5 to 2 years of postdoctoral experience, who are US citizens and permanent residents, whose career goal involves teaching at a college or university and demonstrating a commitment to diversifying the workforce by teaching and mentoring under-represented students in the biomedical sciences. If you are on the fence or are strongly contemplating a career in industry, this program may not be the right one for you due to the level of commitment required to complete all aspects of the teacher and career training curriculum and in meeting IRACDA program objectives. The program is open to all beginning postdocs and we particularly encourage applications from individuals underrepresented in the biomedical workforce.

How do I apply?

See the “Program Application” in the menu provided on the UPLIFT site.

How will my application be assessed?

An UPLIFT selection committee will evaluate your application for suitability for the program based on your Statement of Interest, past and current/proposed research. You must have extensive PhD experience in biochemistry or biology. You will also be interviewed by a member of the committee and by the CSULA faculty member that we would likely assign you to for the mentored teaching experience in order to ensure compatibility with the mentor’s course.

What if I am not selected or ineligible for UPLIFT but I wish to participate in training activities?

We encourage you to participate in UCLA’s CIRTL program and in the CEILS activities. This training will prepare you for college teaching. Completion of the teacher training curriculum would qualify you as CIRTL scholars. Please email uplift@ceils.ucla.edu for further details about this option. At present, we cannot formally assign you to CSULA mentors for the teaching practicum; however, our campus CIRTL coordinator will work with you to identify teaching experiences on UCLA’s campus.

How will I be funded?

UPLIFT is intended to be a 4-year program where the mentor funds you for the first year and IRACDA funds years 2-4. Specifically, your UCLA faculty mentor will pay your first year salary and benefits. During this time you will begin taking CIRTL courses and attending CEILS seminars. For postdocs who have already begun their postdoctoral appointment and are within at least 9 months but less than 1.5 years of their initial postdoctoral appointment start date (As of Sept. 1, 2016), your mentor will have already met their obligation and you will be likely be placed on IRACDA funding immediately. Training for the 2016 UPLIFT cohort will begin in Fall 2016 with fellows assigned to a CSULA class and mentor for Spring 2017. Your research mentor will make up the small difference between IRACDA allocation and your salary/benefits. You will teach again at CSULA with the same teaching mentor for the same course (should also be the same semester in 2017-18 as it was in Spring 2017). If successfully completed, you will receive a full year of funding for dedicated research in 2018-19. For incoming or newer postdocs, you must begin your teacher training in Fall 2016 and will be funded by IRACDA funds in years 2 (2017-18 academic year) and 3 (2018-19) but your mentor must make up any small differences between the UPLIFT allocation and your salary/benefits.  In year 4, assuming you have successfully completed program requirements, i.e., training and your mentored teaching assignments, you will receive an additional year of IRACDA funding to complete your research.  Note that the funding will be re-considered each year and you will be funded only if you have successfully met the program obligations as assessed by the UPLIFT advisory and selection committees.

If I am an UPLIFT mentor, what should I expect from my fellow and what are my obligations?

Your major obligation is to fund the first year of the fellow’s postdoctoral appointment from your research grants or other funds and make up the difference between the IRACDA funding and the postdoctoral salary/benefits in the subsequent three years. You should expect high quality research from your fellow. However, all mentors should also be familiar with the teaching commitments of the trainees. IRACDA objectives are different than T32 training grants. T32s provide primarily one or two years of funding for research. The UPLIFT program, as it currently stands, will provide up to three years of nearly full salary/benefit support. Applicants to this program will have already decided that teaching is their passion and a central component of their academic career objectives. As mentors, we expect quite a bit of research from postdoc level scientists in our groups. But we also understand that our goal is also to provide our trainees with skills that allow them to successfully transition into the workforce. UPLIFT gives the postdoc valuable skills that will benefit them when applying for academic positions with teaching as a significant component of the job description, i.e., many primarily undergrad institutions actively search for IRACDA program trainees. There will be some time dedicated to teacher training and career seminars. Occasionally, such training will conflict with group meetings or research seminars. UPLIFT will attempt to minimize such conflicts but an understanding of UPLIFT objectives and flexibility by the mentor is essential.  Additionally, during the practicum at CSULA, postdocs will be missing from lab for two half-days per week for one semester in years 2 and 3. We expect to create a culture where the fellows are in lab either before or will be back in lab after their half-day teaching obligation is complete. The fellows will be instructed in time management by a CSULA faculty who completed the IRACDA program at UCSD and managed to publish multiple papers in their field during their postdoctoral appointments. We will work with CSULA faculty teaching the courses to ensure that there is some flexibility so fellows can best meet their research obligations during their teaching practicum. This balance works very well at UCSF, UCSD and Stanford, who host IRACDA-funded programs and have established cultures compatible with IRACDA’s objectives.

Still have questions? Email us at uplift@ceils.ucla.edu.