Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Developmental Biology Training Grant

Training Related Activities

Besides graduate group specific activities, the Graduate Training Program in Developmental Biology offers trainees specifically designed activities. Currently, the program offers the Training Program specific activities listed below.

Annual Symposium of the Graduate Training Program in Developmental Biology

A day-long event that includes a keynote seminar from a prominent scientist in the field of developmental biology, research talks by current and former trainees, as well as informal round table discussion over lunch or dinner with the keynote speaker. Research talks are open to the entire Penn community, and Training Grant mentors are strongly encouraged to attend.



Lunchtime meeting with PENN faculty

Trainees meet for an informal lunch with a faculty guest of their choosing. The intention is to promote informal discussions centered around the faculty’s field of research, how it relates to clinical issues, the translation of scientific discoveries to address medical problems, and to discuss general issues such as lab management or career path decisions.


‘Show and Tell’ research day with talks and hands on experience

To provide trainees with the opportunity to hone their teaching skills, we hold a regular ‘research teaching day’ event. These half-day events will start off with research presentations by trainees with the focus on explaining the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of their thesis projects to other trainees. This will be followed by an ‘hands on’ lab experiences organized and led by each trainee. This portion varies dependent on the trainee’s project, but is aimed to complement the presentation with a lab experience.


Professional development activities

  1. Seminars with invited speakers.  This will include “Careers in Science” presentations with invited speakers who will discuss career options in, for example, federal research institutes such as the NIH, the FDA or the DOD; in industry; in small liberal arts institutions, or in scientific publishing. Whenever possible, we will draw from PENN alumni from BGS graduate programs. Speakers from Penn’s own Center of Technology Transfer will discuss careers in this area and in Intellectual Property. These events will be followed by a question and answer panel discussions, which will be extended into an informal lunch with the speaker and the trainees.
  2. Mini-writing course (5 x 2.5 hour meetings over 5 weeks, every other year, alternates with experimental design course, below) to further develop trainees’ writings skills (Granato). This mini-course discusses most chapters of “Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace” by Williams and Colomb. While graduate students in all graduate programs take an introductory writing class in year 2, this mini-course moves beyond reviewing the rules of writing, and focus on aspects critical for 3 and 4th year graduate students: how to write abstracts for meeting or scientific manuscript (concise writing), and writing a Specific Aims page and other parts of a F31 research proposal. Trainees apply the learned rules and concepts to samples, which will be discussed and critiqued as a group. In class, trainees share documents via GoogleDrive/Docs and modify together and in real time the writing sample with the trainer’s guidance. Discussions go back and forth between the trainees and the trainer to give the trainees a real sense how long writing takes and that only repeated modifications will eventually lead to a concisely and clearly written document.
  3. Experimental Design mini course (5 x 2 hour meetings over 5 weeks, once a year, alternates with mini- writing course, above). Despite the importance that experimental design plays in the biological sciences, only very few graduate programs offer an introductory course to this topic. The training program will hold a mini course in experimental design. For this a faculty trainer team will review and discuss with the trainees the steps of planning a well-designed experiment using the trainees ongoing experiments/projects as a foundation. Discussion topics will include: how to generate a detailed experimental plan, and how to effectively discuss this with a faculty mentor; how to generate flowcharts to prioritize experiments; best practices for how to get started with an experiment; best practices on maintaining an (electronic) notebook; and Rigor and Reproducibility as it pertains to experimental design in ongoing trainees research and to research proposal.
  4. Teaching mini course (four meetings; once a year) designed as an introduction to teach college courses and to help students develop as instructors. Each session will use hands-on activities to help students reflect on their own teaching goals and style. The course will be given under the leadership of Penn’s Center for teaching and leadership (
  5. Public speaking workshop (one day, every other year). Learning how to communicate their own research in a clear and vivid way is an important part of graduate education. While trainees regularly present their research and receive feedback from two faculty trainers at the DSRB Research Talk series, there is perceived need for more formal training in public speaking. The Training program will organize a one day workshop and the goal of this workshop is to provide professional guidance on how to effectively connect and engage with an audience, how to communicate research in clear and vivid ways to scientific but also to a general audience, and learn how to effectively respond to (unexpected) questions from the audience.
  6. Teaching mini course. Designed as an introduction to teach college courses and to help students develop as instructors. Each session will use hands-on activities to help students reflect on their own teaching goals and style. The course will be given under the leadership of Penn’s Center for teaching and leadership (
  7. Daylong visit to pharmaceutical company. This activity is designed quite differently than the typical seminar-style discussion of career options. Rather, it is a daylong visit to explore different facets of working in a translational, non-academic career tracks. For this activity, we have established a partnership with Merck Inc. in West Point PA. We will continue with this partnership, and as the program matures, develop additional opportunities in the areas of translational research, government science laboratories, and consulting. We will let the interests of the trainees guide us in our efforts to develop meaningful opportunities that are relevant to them.


Internship for trainees

This is a weeklong internship to explore different facets of working in translational, non-academic, or other career tracks. Trainees  will have the opportunity to 'shadow’  professionals in the pharmaceutical/ biotech sector, scientific publishing or intellectual property sector. This is not meant to be a research experience, but rather to provide a practical understanding of what a typical week entails in this very different environment and provide a unique opportunity for ‘networking’ and establishing contacts outside the academic environment.  We will let the interests of the students guide us to select meaningful shadowing opportunities.


Individual career development plan

Currently, all UPENN trainees are required to develop and review annually an Individual Development Plan ( with their thesis mentors. The training grant directors meet with each trainee once a year to provide an additional platform to discuss each student's immediate and long-term goals.


Previous Activities

11/10/2015 'Show & Tell' Presentations Presenters: Patti Murphy, Katy Ong and Sheng Teng
11/13/2015 Professional Development Activity Guest: Dr. Tony Wiemelt
01/22/2016 Professional Development Activity Guests: Drs. Alison Dell and Jodi Shottenfeld-Roames
01/26/2016 Annual Symposium Guest: Dr. Rebecca Burdine, Princeton University
05/23/2016 'Show & Tell' Presentations Presenters: Danielle Sanchez and Joe Zinski
09/09/2016 Professional Development Activity Guests: Drs. Valerie Schneider and Keith Mintzer
11/04/2016 Professional Development Activity Guests: Drs. Laura Gordon and Mark Engleka
11/07/2016 'Show & Tell' Presentations Presenters: Hannah Greenfeld and Terra Kuhn
12/02/2016 Professional Development Activity Merck Visit — Hosts: Drs. Julie Waterbury and Stephanie Corey
01/11/2017 Annual Symposium Guest: Dr. Alexander Schier, Harvard University
03/27/2017 'Show & Tell' Presentations Presenters: Tanner Robertson and Ryan Cheng
11/14/2017 'Show & Tell' Presentations Presenters: Aimee Juan and Samantha Russell
02/19/2018 Annual Symposium Guest: Dr. Blanche Capel, Duke University
05/01/2018 Professional Development Activity 5 week mini course centered around manuscript writing
09/20/2018 Professional Development Activity Merck Visit - Hosts: Drs. Peter Wuelfing and Stephanie Corey
10/26/2018 Professional Development Activity Guest: Dr. David Glass - Experimental Design Workshop
10/31/2018 'Show and Tell' Presentations Presenters: Kelsey Kaeding and Elizabeth Howell
02/11/2019 Annual Symposium Guest: Dr. David Van Vactor, Harvard Medical School
04/23/2019 'Show and Tell' Presentations Presenters: Erin Doody and Olivia Farrelly
05/14/2019 Professional Development Activity Guest: Dr. Jonathan Moreno - Lunch with Penn Faculty
10/23/2019 'Show and Tell' Presentations Presenters: Derek Liberti and Ana Petracovici
02/12/2020 Annual Symposium Guest: Dr. Karen Lyons, UCLA