Past Trainee Testimonials

Below you will find several testimonials from past trainees in the CTRD program. The individuals below have become experts in the field of reproductive diversity since moving on from the CTRD program. They have shared their experiences and thoughts on our program below and we hope that you find them useful and enlightening.

Jennifer Akst

The best part of the CTRD program are the people who comprise it. The faculty (in particular, my advisor, Mike Wade, and my committee members Ellen Ketterson, Greg Demas, Curt Lively, Troy Smith) are second to none. They are a gracious and open team of researchers, and I feel fortunate to have been adopted by them as part of the CTRD family. And, of course, the student members of CTRD during my time at IU made the experience as valuable as it turned out to be. And the CTRD breakfasts were often the highlight of my academic week! I really enjoyed the open and diverse discussions that took place, which served the purpose of broadening each of our perspectives on science. Plus, the intimate setting also forced us to get to know each other quickly and well – like a second lab family in addition to our primary research groups. It’s beneficial for both one’s own research and one’s sanity to share in these experiences with fellow students and researchers. The financial support that CTRD offered was an added bonus.
Jennifer AkstJennifer Akst, Senior Editor at The Scientist magazine

Yaniv Brandvain

The reproductive diversity-training grant was a great learning opportunity in which I interacted with students with diverse interests united by the study of reproduction. As such, it helped me identify what about my work is broadly of interest to a larger academic community, as well as where I could teach and learn from others.
Yaniv BrandvainYaniv Brandvain, Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota

Amanda Gibson

During my year as a pre-doctoral trainee of the Common Themes in Reproductive Diversity training grant, three things stand out as being of particular value to my dissertation research and my scientific career.

First, the CTRD training grant allowed me to focus exclusively on research in the third year of my PhD. This additional time for research allowed me to develop and successfully defend my dissertation proposal, to make significant advances in my proposed projects, and to travel to New Zealand for my field season. My research focuses on a host-parasite system, native to New Zealand, that has proven to be the best system for studying how coevolutionary interactions between hosts and parasites can influence the evolution of reproductive strategies in nature. Because my field season is in January and February, it conflicts with the academic year and thus I cannot travel if I have to teach to earn a stipend. With the CTRD stipend, I was able to have a full field season and developed two very promising long-term projects.

Secondly, in addition to the stipend, the CTRD training grant provided me with both research and travel funds. The research funds helped pay for the plane ticket to New Zealand for my field season as well as necessary supplies and shipping of frozen samples from New Zealand to Indiana. These expenses were critical to my research. My advisor currently lacks funding, so the research funds from CTRD were essential. The travel funding allowed me to attend the 2013 Evolution meeting in Snowbird, UT where I presented a poster on the evolution of mating systems in the Nematode family. This poster earned the American Society of Naturalist’s Ruth Patrick Student Poster Award for best poster at the meeting.

Thirdly, as a CTRD trainee, I was welcomed into a group of researchers with whom I had not previously had the opportunity to interact. During the monthly CTRD breakfasts, I was able to talk with and hear about the research of students and faculty in biology, psychology, and neuroscience. The researchers who participate in these breakfasts are friendly, supportive, and collaborative. I have benefited greatly from joining their ranks and learning about the diverse ways in which our different approaches to research overlap.”
Amanda GibsonAmanda Gibson, Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia

Britt Heidinger

The CTRD fellowship greatly enhanced my graduate experience. It made it possible for me to engage in two very valuable collaborations, one domestic and one international, which were key to my dissertation. I went to Austin, Texas to measure corticosterone binding globulin (CBG) in Creagh Breuner’s lab and I traveled to France to measure prolactin levels in Olivier Chastel’s lab. Both of these experiences exposed me to new laboratory techniques, allowed me to make valuable connections with scientists in my field at different institutions, and resulted in publications. I also really valued having the opportunity to interact with other CTRD fellows.
Britt HeidingerBritt Heidinger, Assistant Professor at North Dakota State University

Aubrey Kelly

The CTRD training grant has been a critical component of my graduate training. The program aided in my growth as an independent scientist by giving me the opportunity to present my research to a broad audience at a monthly meeting where I received extremely valuable feedback from colleagues across various scientific disciplines. Attending these monthly talks given by different faculty and students helped broaden my perspective about the way I think about scientific research. Particularly, CTRD has acted as a mechanism to bridge the gap between two disciplines that I have been trained in: psychology (my B.A. background) and biology (my PhD background). In my undergraduate psychology courses/labs I was “taught to think like a psychologist,” and in my graduate biology courses/labs I was “taught to think like an evolutionary biologist.” The interdisciplinary platform of CTRD allowed for broad conceptual scientific thinking, and provided an wonderful atmosphere that helped me shape my critical thinking skills to span multiple disciplines. The interdisciplinary nature of the CTRD training grant has been of the utmost importance in my training. It has helped me grow as a scientist and encouraged me to foster an open-minded, interdisciplinary environment that I intend to carry with me and expose to students that I will someday mentor as a postdoc and as a faculty member at a university.

In addition, the CTRD training grant has provided me with opportunities to take ethics courses and attend Responsible Conduct of Research workshops, which have informed me of the professional standards of research and how the adherence to these standards is essential for the continuation of scientific progress. Lastly, receiving a CTRD predoctoral traineeship allowed me to allocate the majority of my time to conducting research, which has resulted in a very productive graduate career, and in turn has made me competitive for postdoctoral positions and training grants. As a graduate student that is now competing for postdoctoral positions, I also found it particularly informative to be included in the CTRD trainee postdoc search process. Being exposed to the interview process helped prepare me for my own journey into the postdoc market. I have been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to be funded by and to participate in the activities under this grant, and I can only hope that it will be funded in the future to provide other graduate students with the same opportunities and remarkable experiences it has given me.
Aubrey KellyAubrey Kelly, Assistant Professor at Emory University

Joel McGlothlin

Being a member of the CTRD training grant was a hugely valuable experience for me. In addition to providing me with extra time to complete and improve my dissertation research and submit my work for publication, CTRD provided me with the opportunity to interact with a large number of scientists from across campus. Being exposed to the diverse perspectives of faculty and students from departments such as Psychology, Anthropology, and The Kinsey Institute significantly broadened my scientific outlook and improved my ability to think across disciplinary boundaries.
Joel McGlothlinJoel McGlothlin, Associate Professor at Virginia Tech

Dawn O’Neal

CTRD has very much shaped the way I think about science education and mentorship. Courses like Techniques in Reproductive Diversity demonstrated that with careful instruction and hands-on experiences, topics across a variety of disciplines can be accessible and influence both overall scientific literacy and future research experiences. I currently teach a high school program modeled after the Techniques class, bringing in researchers from all over the country to introduce ecological concepts and methodology, because of the great impact that course had on my research and the way I thought about science- so much so that I wished I had taken it sooner in my research career. Additionally, the breadth and depth of concepts covered has given me a solid science background and made me very flexible when it comes to mentoring students and speaking to the general public. I don’t shy away from topics because they aren’t my expertise having had experiences/discussions/mentorship from researchers and professors who are at the top of their fields.
Dawn O'NealDawn O’Neal, Vice President and Executive Director of Audubon Delta, the joint Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi branch of the National Audubon Society for bird conservation

Kim Rosvall

CTRD postdoctoral training may well be the most important contributor to my current success in academia. My Ph.D. training in behavioral ecology and evolutionary biology was excellent, but the current funding/job climate requires more than that to be successful at research-focused academic institutions. CTRD training allowed me to significantly broaden my conceptual and technical expertise, to include a range of skills and perspectives from endocrinology, neurobiology, psychology, and genomics. I have published 7 papers with CTRD-affiliated collaborators, and a handful of associated projects are still ongoing. At the completion of my CTRD postdoctoral training, I was awarded a $416,000 grant from NICHD to study how violent and aggressive experiences alter gene regulatory networks in the brain and periphery – a project that was born out of the interdisciplinary training I received as a CTRD postdoc. The professional training also has been outstanding, especially the ethics course, the ‘techniques’ class, and the more informal training of learning to discuss science with a broad audience. These professional development skills are very rarely taught to early stage scientists, and they have already come in handy many times as I grow my own research program.

As I have transitioned from postdoc to CTRD-affiliated research rank faculty, it has also become quite clear that CTRD training is not just for the ‘trainees.’ Our monthly breakfasts are an outstanding tool for all of us to build connections among the newest ideas in a range of disciplines. These opportunities for free exchange of ideas and frank discussion highlight the most pressing research initiates in the study of reproduction, sex, stress, parental care, and disease. And, as a consequence, it is clear that the CTRD training grant is transforming how each of us approaches our science.
Kim RosvallKim Rosvall, Assistant Professor at Indiana University

Sarah Schaack

My participation in the CTRD training grant offered a superb environment to incubate the kind of integrative and cross-disciplinary tendencies that would later define my research program as a professor. The group of faculty, post-docs, and trainees involved formed a crucible in which it was possible to interact with other people interested in posing (and answering) questions that span fields, scales, and approaches. My current roles, as a researcher and a research mentor, have undoubtedly been shaped by my exposure to this unique, supportive, and diverse learning environment.
Sarah SchaackSarah Schaack, Associate Professor at Reed College

Adam Smith

Simply put, the CTRD is a phenomenal program composed of an amazing group of people. During my time as a postdoctoral trainee in the CTRD, I was fortunate enough to interact with these people on a regular basis. I particularly looked forward to the monthly breakfast, which not only focused on fascinating topics, but fostered a sense of collegiality that I hadn’t experienced at my previous graduate institutions. Perhaps most importantly in my case, the CTRD faculty are supportive of trainees pursuing interests outside of the traditional research track. I participated in undergraduate teaching as part of my fellowship, and it led me to pursue my teaching as my career. This led directly to my new position as a lecturer for the new Animal Behavior undergraduate major affiliated with the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior at Indiana University. It’s not an overstatement to say that my time as a CTRD fellow shaped my career in a profound fashion.

Adam Smith – Adam Smith, Lecturer at Indiana University