In perspective

By David Chao, PhD, President and CEO

The future of biomedical research depends on instilling a passion for science and discovery in talented, driven students and on preparing them to serve as future leaders of the scientific enterprise.

Scientists learn their craft through a combination of formal training and informal apprenticeship. At first, undergraduate and graduate coursework provides young scientists with the conceptual frameworks and basic facts that form the foundation for a lifetime of learning. Later, as graduate students, postdoctoral researchers or even young independent investigators, junior scientists hone their skills and develop a wider understanding of science through their relationships with more senior mentors. Coached and motivated by their advisors, young researchers learn how to identify a significant and solvable question, how to design experiments and get them funded; how to write and publish a paper; how to grab and command an audience’s attention and how to navigate critical junctures in their careers. Almost all successful scientists fondly recall the nurturing and care of at least one mentor who served as a continual source of wise counsel and inspiration.

Conversely, scientists leave a lasting legacy not only through the discoveries they have made but also, and perhaps more enduringly, through the protégés they have trained. Mentorship is such an important measure of success that scientific resumes (called curriculum vitae) list all of an investigator’s protégés and their current positions. The legacy of investigators at the Institute will be defined as much by subsequent generations of scientists whose professional development they have guided and encouraged as by their scientific discoveries. Investigators’ long-term impact will reach far beyond the body of knowledge contributed over the years, no matter how significant their experimental results prove to be.

The dedication and commitment of senior scientists enable the Institute to offer training opportunities that attract young scientists from around the world. Currently, the Institute hosts about 180 undergraduates, predoctoral research fellows and postdoctoral researchers, recruited from over thirty countries. As part of the Stowers Summer Scholars program, undergraduates can try their hand at the bench, many for the first time. At the same time, predoctoral research scholars from the Open University, the University of Kansas and other institutions perform their dissertation research in the labs of Stowers investigators. The undergraduate and predoctoral scholars are joined by an international group of postdoctoral scientists, many of whom are taking the final step before launching an independent research career. This fall, we are especially pleased to welcome the first group of predoctoral researchers to the Institute’s new graduate program.

In this issue of the Stowers Report, many of the Institute’s scientists describe the joy and satisfaction of coaching and mentoring the next generation of scientific leaders. I hope you will enjoy reading about the various ways the Institute helps prepare young researchers for a career in science and will come to share my unwavering view that their passion, energy and talent bode well for the future of biomedical research.