<figcaption> Credit: Mark Evans</figcaption>
Credit: Mark Evans

NIH To Student Loaners: Let's make a deal

Struggling to make your student loan payments? The National Institutes of Health has a deal for you. In exchange for a two or three-year commitment to conduct specific research at your university or nonprofit institute, the NIH will repay up to $35,000 per year of your undergraduate and graduate school debts as well as any resulting increased tax liabilities. In exchange, you agree to spend at least 50% of your time (a minimum of 20 hours per week) on the agreed upon research.

Why the generosity? The NIH wants to encourage scientists and health professionals to pursue careers in specific areas, including those addressing medically underserved populations. "It tries to offset student loan debt as an inhibitory factor for going into these areas," explains Alfred Johnson, acting director of the NIH Office of Loan Repayment and Scholarship. The NIH...

New NIH Career grant for Foreign Postdocs

The National Institutes of Health wants to give postdocs from other countries a leg up in getting their first jobs. A new career transition program will offer international scientists postdoctoral training at the NIH and then placement in staff positions at research institutes and universities in their home countries. "Science is international. This program strengthens the overall quality of postdoctoral fellows in the intramural research labs at NIH," says Louis Simchowitz, director of the NIH International Research Career Transition Awards program (http://fellowshipoffice.niddk.nih.gov/NIH-DFG).

<figcaption> Credit: Mark Evans</figcaption>
Credit: Mark Evans

The two-stage awards are limited to recent (within four years) PhD and MD graduates. The first phase of the program will bring postdocs to the NIH to conduct basic science or clinical research at any institute or center for two to three years. The NIH will provide standard postdoc stipends and benefits, based upon years of experience, as well as transportation costs. In the second phase, the scientists will return to their home countries and work as principal investigators at universities or institutes for an additional two to three years. Their countries' governments or foundations will provide salaries and funds to cover laboratory personnel, research support, and supplies. Each country will select up to 15 postdocs.

The German Research Foundation and France's INSERM are participating, and their review committees are evaluating applicants. Agreements with other countries are pending.

When two degrees are better than one

Students enrolled in the University of Minnesota's Joint Degree Program in Law, Health, and the Life Sciences (www.jointdegree.umn.edu) are apt to hear jokes about their burgeoning conflict of interest: Will they sue themselves? But for students interested in the legal and public policy issues that run through medicine, biology, and public health, the program is no joke. It offers joint degrees in law and the life sciences in less time and cost than if pursued separately.

Students must first apply separately through the law and medical schools. Once accepted, the joint degree program kicks in and lets students shave off at least one year in the process of getting two degrees - a JD with an MS, MPH, MD, or PhD - by allowing up to 12 credits in each program to count as requirements in the other. Currently, 26 students are enrolled.

Students are exposed to an array of such critical issues as bioethics, intellectual property, and public policy. The program, which began in 1999, has been growing at the rate of five additional students per year. The curriculum is being developed in consultation with major law firms. "A lot of these students will spend time in academia, government, and private practice," says program director Susan Wolf. "These are broad-gauged thinkers and their range of options is also broad."

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