Welcome from the Director of Research Training for the Residency

Katharine A. Phillips, M.D.
Director of Research Training
General/Adult Psychiatry Residency
Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior
Alpert Medical School of Brown University

The Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior (DPHB) offers outstanding research opportunities for residents. The Department’s research activities have remarkable breadth and depth, and our department is considered one of the most outstanding academic psychiatry departments in the country. We have excellent faculty who are known not only for their research and other scholarly activities but also for their collaborative spirit, accessibility to residents and other trainees, and dedication to research mentoring. The DPHB has an R25 grant funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which offers research training and protected research time for residents. We are one of the few departments in the country with an R25 grant, which attests to the excellence of our faculty and our residents. These characteristics make Brown a terrific place for residents to do research. 

Why do research as a resident? Research is exciting – it is about generating new knowledge, exploring unanswered questions, and moving the field forward. Doing research is extremely rewarding intellectually, and it ultimately improves the care and well-being of patients. Getting involved in research during residency will enhance your training and education. It may also help you meet your future career goals. If you are interested in a research career, doing research as a resident will be an invaluable experience. Getting involved with research as a resident will also be valuable if you decide to pursue other types of careers. Brown University is an outstanding place to get additional research training after residency; the department offers many post-residency research fellowships that provide additional research training to further prepare for a research career.

In collaboration with Drs. Jane Eisen and Tracey Guthrie, my goal is to make research accessible to all interested residents -- to help you learn about research, offer a wide range of research opportunities, help you find a research mentor in your area of interest, and make research a valuable and rewarding part of your training. A research experience is optional, and it can be a large or small part of your training at Brown. Our NIMH-funded R25 grant gives selected residents increased opportunities to do research during residency. Our goal is to tailor a research experience to each person, so it fits your needs and enhances your training experience.

The DPHB has many outstanding researchers with whom residents can work. Residents who are interested in pursuing basic science or translational research may also work with outstanding faculty in departments at Brown such as the Department of Neuroscience and the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences.

If you have any questions about research opportunities at Brown, please email me at Katharine_Phillips@brown.edu. If you come to Brown University for your residency, I look forward to meeting with you to discuss research opportunities in our Department and to develop an exciting and rewarding research experience for you.

Specific Research Opportunities for Residents Available at Brown

Brown is an outstanding academic institution with many research opportunities for interested residents. Some of our major strengths include the following:

  • An R25 grant funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that offers research training and substantial protected research time for selected residents from PGY-1 through PGY-4.
  • Outstanding research faculty who are accessible and enjoy mentoring residents.
  • A broad range of research topic areas, ranging from basic neuroscience to clinical research to services/public health research.
  • Numerous and ever-expanding collaborations among research faculty in the DPHB and other departments and schools at Brown, such as the Department of Neuroscience; the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences; the Department of Engineering; the Department of Neurosurgery; and the School of Public Health.
  • Brown University’s substantial commitment to ongoing growth in the basic and clinical neurosciences/psychiatry, which will provide an even richer array of research opportunities for residents in coming years.

Our goal is to help interested residents learn about and participate in research activities and to tailor research experiences to each resident’s interests and goals. A research training experience during residency can greatly enhance one’s training and learning experience. It can also help residents meet their future career goals, especially if their goals focus on research or other scholarly activities.

The outstanding research faculty in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior are highly productive and have approximately $45 million a year (direct and indirect costs) in sponsored research (this includes research awarded directly to Brown and to DPHB faculty in the seven Brown-affiliated hospitals and centers). In addition to the department’s well-known strength in treatment research on mental illness and addictions, the department has substantial research activity in biological bases of behavior and psychopathology. Ongoing research in the department covers a very broad range of topics. Much of the research is interdisciplinary, encompassing psychiatrists and psychologists within the department, as well as collaborations with pediatricians, primary care physicians, neuroscientists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, engineers, educators, epidemiologists, and economists outside the department.

Outstanding research that is relevant to mental health is also being done in departments on the Brown University campus. These departments include Neuroscience, Molecular and Cell Biology, Engineering, and Cognitive, Linguistic & Psychological Sciences. These scientists collaborate on projects with researchers in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior.

Because of this high level of research activity, there are many opportunities for residents to get involved in research projects. In addition, Brown has a track record of commitment to training residents to conduct research. Brown’s excellent faculty are renowned not only for their research and other scholarly activities, but also for their collaborative spirit, accessibility to trainees, and dedication to research mentoring.  

A research experience is optional, and it can be a large or small part of a resident’s training at Brown. In collaboration with a research mentor, residents can participate in ongoing projects or initiate their own research project. Protected research time is available from PGY-1 though PGY-4. Residents may also attend a resident research seminar and journal clubs; as their time allows they can attend research meetings in their mentor’s laboratory, T32 postdoctoral research seminars, or other lectures and seminars in the Brown University community that are relevant to their research interests. Residents are supported in carrying out and completing one or more projects, and they are encouraged to publish their work and present their findings at local and national meetings.  

The residency provides monetary support for travel to scientific conferences. Additional support is available to residents who present their research data at conferences. 

R25 Grant to Support Resident Research Training Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health

Our residency program has been awarded an R25 grant from the NIMH to support research training for residents. We are one of the very few residencies in the country to have this type of research training grant. This reflects the excellence of our department, our faculty, and our residents, and our commitment to research mentoring.

Overview of the NIMH-funded R25 Research Education Program (REP)

The R25 grant gives selected residents protected research time during their training. Residents increase their involvement in the research track with each successive year. The four core components of the R25 Research Education Program (REP) are the following: 

1) Individualized longitudinal mentored research training experience: An individualized “hands-on” longitudinal mentored research training experience is the core of each resident’s REP experience. This research training experience may have a clinical, translational, and/or basic science focus, all of which are strengths at Brown. Based on research content areas, trainees are matched with R25 faculty mentors and use a majority of their protected time doing research under their mentor(s)’ supervision. Residents progress from closely supervised introductory work in their mentor’s lab to greater independence and responsibility for their work. Residents are encouraged from the beginning of the program to develop their own ideas for more independent work, and all residents are expected to conduct their own project by PGY4 at the latest. Each resident’s research training is individualized to ensure an optimal training experience.

2) Research-focused didactic curriculum: All R25 residents also have dedicated time to participate in an individualized research-focused didactic curriculum consisting of courses and seminars. Seminars/courses cover key content areas that provide a conceptual framework for residents’ research, stimulate new ideas, facilitate their research, fill knowledge gaps, and provide a strong foundation for a future research career. Topics include translational neuroscience, treatment research, research methodology, ethics, statistics, grant writing, professional development skills, and other areas. Senior researchers lead most seminars/courses. Some didactics are required, which provide fundamental knowledge important to all R25 residents, regardless of their specific research focus. Other didactics are tailored to individual trainees’ research focus, stage of training, and unique educational needs.

Seminars/courses are sponsored by various Departments and Institutes at Brown; thus, R25 residents are exposed to trainees from other disciplines (e.g., psychology post-doctoral students, neuroscience graduate students), which enriches their training experience and offers opportunities for innovative cross-disciplinary research collaboration.

3) Career development: R25 residents are assisted with the development of their careers to enhance their future success as physician-scientists. This occurs via: 1) didactics that focus on career development skills; 2) attendance at a career-planning seminar; 3) mentoring by individual mentors and the R25 Program Directors; and 4) sponsoring residents to participate in research-related activities and meetings at the national level, with the goal of fostering networking and the acquisition of knowledge and skills that are relevant to residents’ future careers.

4) Products and Outcomes: Specific productivity goals are established for each R25 trainee using individualized metrics. Products/outcomes include (but are not limited to) publications, poster presentations at local and national meetings, oral presentations, generation of pilot data for grant applications, and applying for research-related awards, especially those that enable residents to present and receive feedback on their research plans and ongoing projects. More advanced residents are encouraged to apply for grant funding.   

The R25 Research Education Program in Each PG Year 

Residents are expected to increase their research productivity and independence over the course of the residency. The protected time described below is dedicated to all four elements of the REP plan (see above). 

PGY-1: Residents apply for the REP during the PGY-1 year. Two or more residents are selected to participate in the REP during this year. From January-June, R25 residents have 10% protected time (one-half day a week).

PGY-2: Residents have 10% protected time (excluding the two night float months). Two or more residents are selected to participate in the REP during this year.

• PGY-3: Three R25 residents each have 33% protected time during this year. Building upon groundwork laid in PGY-1 and PGY-2, residents work more intensively on all elements of the REP, including their hands-on research project. During this outpatient year, R25 residents are encouraged to develop clinical expertise in an area relevant to their research focus, in addition to having a broad enough caseload to meet all ACGME requirements.

• PGY-4: Three R25 residents each have 80% protected time for research training. They are expected to work more independently and generate more R25 products than in prior years. Residents work more intensively on plans to transition to the next career stage. 

Selection of Residents for the R25 

PGY-1 residents apply for the REP during the PGY-1 year. Selection is based on residents’ past research training and experience, previous research awards and honors, past research productivity, letters of recommendation, and the residents’ career goals and evidence of commitment to a research career. The R25 Advisory Committee selects applicants for the REP. Once selected into the REP, residents progress to subsequent years of the REP with the Advisory Committee’s approval. The R25 has three slots in PGY-3 and three in PGY-4; therefore, if more than three residents participate in PGY-1 and in PGY-2, residents must apply for the PGY-3 positions. The three PGY-3 residents continue the REP in PGY-4 with the Advisory Committee’s approval.

Other Research Opportunities for Residents

Residents may also pursue research interests without participating in the NIMH R25 REP. This section describes these opportunities. Although non-R25 residents may start doing research as early as the PGY-1 year, this is not required. We recommend that non-R25 residents who wish to do research begin doing so no later than the middle of their PGY-3 year to give them sufficient time to do meaningful work on a project and, ideally, participate in presenting and publishing their research findings.

All residents in all PG years are welcome to attend a resident research seminar that is overseen by the Director of Research Training (R25 residents are required to attend). The seminar covers a broad range of topics relevant to doing research. It includes didactic topics (for example, selecting a research topic, study design, ethics, writing a manuscript for publication) and career development issues. It also provides a forum for residents to discuss their research ideas and projects, practice presentations, and discuss manuscript drafts. As their time allows, residents may attend the R25 Career Planning Seminar as well as research seminars and lectures offered by Brown’s federally funded T32 research fellowships, the Brown Institute for Brain Science, and other Centers, Institutes, and Departments at Brown.

PGY-1: During the PGY-1 year, residents select a research mentor. Residents are matched with a research mentor through meeting with the Director of Research Training, meeting with potential mentors, understanding the resident’s interests and goals, and the resident’s becoming familiar with the various projects being conducted in the department. After selecting a research mentor, residents are encouraged to begin working on a research project in the PGY-1 year.

PGY-2: Residents meet on a regular basis with their selected research mentor. They begin to develop a suitable research project. Residents who started a project in the PGY-1 year will continue their project(s). During this year, residents attend the regularly held resident research seminar that is described above. Residents also attend a weekly journal club conducted by faculty at Rhode Island Hospital and can attend other lectures and seminars in the Brown community as their schedule allows. 

PGY-3: Residents continue to work with their mentor on their research project(s). They may use one afternoon a week for research. Residents also continue to attend the resident research seminar, journal club, and other relevant meetings and seminars in the Brown community as their schedule allows. In addition, they are encouraged to participate in relevant national research mentoring activities. They are also encouraged to present a poster at the department’s annual research day and at a national meeting.  

PGY-4: Residents use a portion of their elective time to continue working on their research. They continue to attend the above-noted seminars and meetings plus an additional journal club, and they are encouraged to give a presentation of their work at the resident research seminar (they can also do this during the PGY-1, PGY-2, or PGY-3 year). They are encouraged to participate in relevant national research mentoring activities (for example, those sponsored by the APA). Residents prepare a poster(s) presentation based on the results of their project(s), and they are encouraged to present this work at the department’s annual research day and at a national meeting (this may also be done earlier in training). Residents are encouraged to write up their results for publication in a journal, in collaboration with their faculty mentor (this, too, is encouraged in earlier years). As their schedule allows, residents can attend other lectures and seminars in the Brown community.  

Research Elective During PGY-4

The research elective rotation is an elective training experience for residents who do not participate in the R25. During this rotation, residents gain additional knowledge, skills, and experience relevant to conducting research. This rotation enables residents who are not participating in the R25, under the mentorship of a researcher faculty member, to conduct a research project, learn research methods, and gain other research-related skills. The rotation requires an interest in research, a commitment to conducting a research project, a high degree of organization and efficiency, commitment to developing an analytic thinking approach, and a strong commitment to professionalism (in particular, adherence to ethical principles pertaining to research).

This rotation occurs during PGY-4. The rotation is a minimum of one month and may be longer. It is expected that residents who participate in the full-time elective described here will have had some involvement in research or related scholarly activity earlier during their training.

The goal of this research elective is to enable residents to learn about research and participate in a research project that is tailored to each resident’s interests and goals. During this elective, residents learn about research methods and work on a research project under the mentorship of a faculty researcher in the department. Other research activities will be determined by the resident’s interests and research productivity to date. 

Post-Residency Research Fellowships at Brown

Residents who are interested in a research career are encouraged to apply for a position in a Brown University postdoctoral research fellowship, which provides additional research training after residency to further prepare for a research career. There are currently five federally funded research training fellowships (T32s) at the medical school that are affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior. In addition, the Department of Neuroscience has a postdoctoral T32 research training grant that is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.