Columbia Mailman Offers Early Career Training in Data Science and Omics

January 28, 2022

The Columbia Mailman Precision Prevention program is launching a new training program in data science and omics—a rapidly advancing science dedicated to studying the genome, epigenome, metabolome, microbiome, and other biological and environmental markers of health. Funded by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the Career MODE (Careers through Mentoring and training in Omics and Data for Early-stage investigators) training program is open to post-doctoral researchers and newly appointed faculty in the United States (detailed eligibility criteria are posted online).

Career MODE aims to empower a diverse cohort of early career researchers to establish independent, successful careers in omics and data sciences. Intended to supplement trainees' current work, the eleven-month program will provide intensive training and mentoring from a nationwide network of more than 70 mentors. Program leaders include Andrea Baccarelli, a renowned authority in epigenetics; Iuliana Ionita-Laza, a leading data scientist and statistical geneticist; and Gary Miller, the author of an authoritative book on the exposome.

“Omics and data science are the future of biomedical research yet there is a scarcity of early-career researchers trained in these techniques,” says Baccarelli, coordinator of the Columbia Mailman Precision Prevention program and chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences (EHS). “This program aims to fill that gap through a robust program of technical and professional training and mentoring.”

Through virtual and in-person coursework and learning activities, Career MODE will offer training in omics, including laboratory and population health-oriented research; data science course offerings include machine learning, relational database management, and other advanced techniques. Beginning in the early summer, participants can elect to take up to two courses through the Columbia Mailman SHARP (Skills for Health & Research Professional) bootcamp program.

Participants will also learn professional skills, including leadership and team management, grant writing, goal setting, and strategy development, communication and teaching, scientific rigor, transparency, reproducibility, responsible conduct of research, and health equity. The program also seeks to enhance collaborations and networking and foster teams for breakthrough research projects and grant proposals, further career development, and help secure tenure-track positions and faculty promotions. All participants will pursue a research project and can pursue grant funding. Career MODE is expected to begin in May.

“Our goal is to accelerate the progress of early-career scientists so they can secure grants and tenure-track positions at a younger age, especially women and individuals from marginalized groups who face steeper obstacles, particularly in technology-intensive fields such as omic sciences,” says Baccarelli.

Career MODE has a participation fee, however, need-based scholarships are available for half of all accepted trainees. In addition, all attendees will have training, mentoring, and travel-related expenses covered by the program (the participation fee covers only a small portion of total costs). Applications for 25 slots are due in March.