The Research Concentration within the MGH/McLean Psychiatry Residency Training Program provides an individualized and mentored research training experience. Pictured above is the team in 2013.

Research Concentration Program

The purpose of the Research Concentration program is to prepare residents for careers as investigators in academic psychiatry by facilitating greater exposure to research activities and training during residency. Up to four individual trainees will be selected annually, two to three at the PGY-1 level and up to two from current MGH/McLean residents.

The pillars of the research concentration program are mentorship, committee oversight, and a research curriculum tailored to each resident’s research focus and stage of training.

Any current or matched resident in the MGH/McLean Adult Psychiatry program are invited to apply for the RC program. Please see our application requirements for details on how to apply.

Mentored Research Experience

Starting with recruitment, residents in the program are matched with two proven mentors who share their research interests. The RCP Faculty assign each resident a Research Career Mentor basied on the resident’s area of research interest. The goal of the Research Career Mentor is to provide each resident with unbiased guidance as they navigate the available opportunities and potential pitfalls of finding the best fit for mentor/lab and selecting a project that is both feasible during residency and would maximize their options for obtaining extramural funding following residency.

Partnered with the Research Career Mentor, the RCP staff will help identify well suited scientific mentors based on many factors, including (a) the mentor’s track record of prior post-doctoral level supervision, (b) available resources in the mentor’s lab (e.g., research assistant time, project funding, other post-docs in the lab, etc.), and (c) the potential for the mentoring relationship to propel the resident onto a trajectory toward independence as a psychiatric scientist. A key ongoing function of the program committee is to review mentors’ demonstrated commitment to the program based on the these criteria.

Each spring (before the start of internship, during PGY-1, PGY-2, and PGY-3), residents will formulate a research plan for work to be completed over the following academic year. The program committee will review research plans in light of each resident’s stage of research training and access to additional resources.

Benchmarks & Barriers Meetings

Each resident in the RCP will have annual meetings with RCP faculty and their mentor(s) to review their progress and discuss their plans for the following six month period. B&B meetings are typically held in September/October during PGY2 and March/April during PGY3 and PGY4. At these “Benchmarks & Barriers” meetings, residents present their work to discuss progress, setbacks, plans, and anticipated obstacles, receiving feedback from both mentors and RCP faculty that is then reviewed at the next meeting.

Typical benchmarks include:
  • enrollment and completion of research didactics,
  • submission and approval of IRB protocols,
  • collection and analysis of study data,
  • preparation and submission of manuscripts,
  • participation in local, regional and national conferences,
  • participation in professional societies, and
  • application for other sources of funding and recognition.

Individualized Research Curriculum

Each resident in the program is expected to develop a didactic curriculum tailored to their research focus and stage of training. At the begging of PGY3 and PGY4 years each resident is expected to submit a formal research didactic curriculum for the coming year. Residents should actively review available course offerings through the medical school, Harvard Catalyst program, as well as individual workshops, journal clubs, and other educational opportunities in their field of study. The research concentration program office maintains a list of selected course offerings, seminars, and lab meetings in order to support residents in developing curricula.

Protection for Focused Research Activities

Every resident pursuing research during residency encounters a set of challenges unique to the nature of their work and stage of training.  The RCP is designed to flexibly address each resident’s challenges and opportunities in a proactive, pragmatic way.  Due to a desire to spend PGY1 and PGY2 fully immersed in clinical training, or if a planned project is not yet mature enough to require dedicated time, some residents defer their research time into the PGY3 or PGY4 years, once a lab and project have been selected and more focused, meaningful time is possible.

RCP residents who meet approved research benchmarks and maintain good standing within the clinical training program will have the opportunity to spend significant additional time pursuing research activities during the PGY1, PGY2 and PGY3 years for research training, didactics, and mentored research experiences.  Decisions about protected research time are made annually each Spring on the basis of the resident’s research plan for the following academic year.  All residents graduating from the program meet ACGME requirements for Board Certification in Psychiatry within a coordinated, resource-rich, supportive environment.

Funding Support

Residents who are granted additional protected time for research activities have a portion of their salary covered by the R25 grant, proportionate to the amount of time protected. This privilege comes with some professional responsibilities (e.g., grant reporting, etc.) that are required to maintain good standing and remain eligible for future salary support.

Limited additional funds are available through the residency’s R25 grant to any resident (RCP or otherwise) to be used toward sanctioned  research activities or to meet approved training benchmarks.  To optimize use of program funds, requests for research funding support will be approved only if (1) they demonstrably help the resident meet current training goals and (2) are not more appropriately covered by other sources of funding, including the participating department or the mentor.   Eligible activities include attending meetings where the resident is presenting work (or would demonstrably bring the resident closer to a research training goal); attending courses or workshops that are not available through less costly equivalents (e.g., from other lab members, readings, online material, auditing, etc.); purchasing some lab supplies; poster printing, etc. The RCP staff is available and eager to help residents find financial solutions to issues that arise during their research, including finding alternatives to direct support from the R25.

Collaboration and Community

In addition to the mentorship provided by program leaders and the individual research mentors, residents are supported by dedicated training directors, including graduates of the Research Concentration program. Residents meet for monthly dinners with program directors to share the progress of their work with each other and discuss experiences within the Research Concentration Program. The residency Research Concentration program is assisted by program and research coordinator staff to ensure residents receive the research support they need in a variety of capacities.

During PGY-1

  • During medical internship, up to 4 weeks of elective time can be used for research.
  • The resident will meet with RC program directors (Drs. Denninger, Ongur, and Baker) and PI’s (Drs. Fava and Greenfield) to support finding a research mentor(s) and choosing a research setting that best complements and advances their research interests.
  • By the end of PGY-1, the resident should establish a research mentor to work with during the residency.  The mentor is expected to help the resident select an appropriate project, remain focused on a limited feasible set of goals, and navigate the ever-present temptations to participate in low-yield activities (e.g., workshops or meetings without clear training value, publications in non-peer-reviewed journals or books, etc.).

During PGY-2

  • Four weeks are available for focused research time to residents at a stage where they can demonstrably take advantage of this time to further their specific research goals.
  • During these Four weeks, residents granted protected research time spend nearly 4 days per week working with their chosen mentor and research group.   Wednesday Didactics (4 hrs/wk), half-day outpatient Clinic (5 hrs/wk) , and call duties (variable) remain core professional requirements for all members of the PGY2 class, and are still required of RCP residents during research blocks.
  • By the end of PGY-2, the resident should establish a research project within their chosen lab.  Many residents choose to participate in one existing project (as a collaborator and potential co-author on any resulting manuscript), while laying the groundwork for their own primary work (as PI and first-author on any resulting reports) which can flourish in PGY3 and PGY4.

  • During PGY-3

    • During PGY3, all residents (RCP and otherwise) are expected to spend 1 day per week (10 hrs) pursuing academic or research interests during the eight months of the year not on the MGH Consult Liaison Rotation.  How they spend this time is typically left to residents, in consultation with their academic/research mentor, Training Mentor, the Training Director, and other supervisors.
    • An additional 1 day per week (10 hrs) is available for protected research time for RCP residents who can demonstrably take advantage of this time to further their specific research goals.  Decisions about additional research time are made each Spring.
    • During these eight months, residents granted protected research time typically spend two days per week (20 hrs) working with their chosen mentor and research group.  Wednesday Didactics (4 hrs/wk), Outpatient Clinic (2.5 days/wk) , and call duties (variable) remain core professional requirements for all members of the PGY3 class, and are still required of RCP residents during research blocks.

    During PGY-4

    • Up to 35 hours per week is available to spend in research activity.
    • Funding opportunities for PGY-5 and beyond are readily available within and beyond the Harvard Psychiatry Research Grants Programs and will be pursued under the guidance of the research mentor.
    In residency, I have tried to build on my graduate work and expand my research skills. During my fourth year and beyond, I will be looking at the neural correlates of rumination and self-processing in depression and bipolar disorder. I am also engaged in a longitudinal study investigating the neural correlates of psychodynamic psychotherapy, which includes looking at the effects of psychodynamic therapy on rumination in depression. Sharmin Ghaznavi, Class of 2012