Emory StARR Program

The Emory StARR program, short for Stimulating Assess to Research in Residency, is a highly selective NIAID funded career development program for Resident Physicians interested in clinical/translational research career (regardless of sub-specialty) focused on infectious diseases (host-pathogen interactions, microbiology), inflammation, and immunology. The Emory StARR award offers Resident-physicians the opportunity to engage in didactic research training and mentored research projects with experienced investigators with the goal of accelerating the transition of participating Residents to subsequent research and career development support.

Click here to learn more about the program and find out how to apply.

Program Overview

StARR’s Goal

There is a critical workforce need for physician-scientists/clinician-investigators, i.e. those with clinical experience who conduct research and offer skills and perspectives directly related to human health, disease conditions, clinical decision-making, diagnoses, prevention, and improving health outcomes.  Relatively few physicians and other health professionals are pursuing research careers, and existing opportunities may not maintain adequate numbers or diversity of physician scientists. The overall size of the current clinician-investigator workforce constitutes only a small proportion of all NIH-funded research investigators, and this is particularly true for early-stage clinician investigators.

For health professionals who recognize the critical need to develop new understanding and therapeutic modalities for diseases, research in residency can provide valuable experience and an early “on-ramp” to a research career. It is also recognized that many MDs/health professionals as well as MD/PhDs have had previous research experience, and research in residency provides an opportunity to build upon prior research experiences. It is anticipated that Resident-Investigators supported by this StARR program will be engaged in experimental approaches, form mentor-mentee relationships and gain additional research experience needed to enhance competitiveness for subsequent individual research and career development awards.

The Emory StARR Program

The overarching goal of the Emory R38 RTP is to leverage the rich infrastructure and the interdisciplinary research environment at Emory to provide at least 12 months of clinical and translational research training for resident physicians in the field of infectious diseases, microbiology, and immunology. The long-term goal is to expand the pool of physician scientists engaged in these areas of research. This goal will be operationalized through the development of a structured research training program that offers an in-depth training in the fundamentals of clinical and translational research; fostering an Emory R38 specific mentoring program that is tailored to the training needs of resident physicians; and building a systematic approach for identifying and recruiting a diverse cohort of resident physicians into the program.

Importantly, we plan to leverage the Emory R38 RTP to attract trainees in our Categorical Track with interest in pursuing clinical and translational research careers. We anticipate supporting two resident physician trainees annually. As a result of the size and the diversity of our Internal Medicine residency training program, we have a highly competitive pool of eligible candidates whose research interests and skills will be significantly enhanced by a program that provides individualized didactic and mentored research training by an outstanding multidisciplinary team of preceptors and sufficient (80% protected) time to gain skills and expertise in clinical and translational research.

Research training will be personalized, and the duration of training will range from 1 – 2 years depending on the resident’s training needs and future career plans, while fulfilling all requirements for clinical board certification. Research training plan, which has been approved by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), will be spread across the last 2 years of the internal medicine residency in protected blocks of >3 months plus 12 months of residency (PGY4) as a (Research Chief) focused on research and research training to complete their research projects as summarized outlined below:

  • PGY1: In the second half of the year, there will be internal solicitation for applications, review and scoring of submitted applications, and final applicant selection by program leadership followed by notice of award to successful applicants. Successful applicants will work with program leadership and lead mentors to begin assembling their research advisory team.
  • PGY2: Trainees will participate in selected short courses, research workshops, seminars, and journal clubs. They will begin the development of their mentored research projects including obtaining IRB and other regulatory approvals in addition to meeting regularly with their lead mentors for one-on-one mentoring. Trainees will have their first Research Advisory Board Meeting.
  • PGY3: Trainees will complete the remaining required short courses (2), research workshops, seminars, and journal club. Continue active implementation of their mentored research project, meet regularly with lead mentor for one-on-one mentoring, and have their second Research Advisory Board meeting.
  • PGY4 (Research Chief Year): Trainees will work on completing their research projects, data analyses, abstracts and manuscripts preparations, and begin aggregation of results into preliminary data for K-38 and other career development applications. This will also offer extra clinical time (20%) to trainees who may need it to complete their ABIM requirements.

Research training addressed by the selected short coursework, seminars, and workshops for the Emory R38 RTP will include the fundamentals and ethics of clinical and translational research, practical research skill acquisition, effective communication and grant writing, time management, understanding research funds flow in an academic health center, building a successful research team, job negotiation, identifying grant opportunities, navigating an IRB and/or animal protocol, as appropriate for the research project.

Preceptors with mentoring experience and federally-funded research projects in broad areas of the target fields have been strategically assembled for this program, including: transmission, prevention, basic and applied immunology and microbiology, end-organ complications (cardiac, endocrine, pulmonary, etc.), disease management, therapeutics, pharmacology, and vaccinology. Preceptors will be offered mentorship training that includes topics such as practical research skill-building needed for research supervision and effective mentoring of clinician-investigators, aligning goals and expectations, mentoring for a diverse and inclusive biomedical research workforce.

Emory StARR scholars will receive NIH salary support (during their research blocks) to enable them to spend at least 80% of their professional time on research training, a $20,000/year technical budget for career development/research-related expenses, and a $3,000/year travel budget to attend scientific meetings.

Emory StARR scholars will be required to submit a Career Development NIH K38 or equivalent grant application at the completion of the program.

Program Leadership

Emory StARR Program Leadership

The leadership and the operational structure of the Emory R38 RTP will include 3 key components:

  1. Core leadership team consisting of the PIs and program coordinator
  2. Executive committee.
  3. Program mentors (preceptors)

StARR Leadership

Executive Committee

Click here to read more about each committee member.

  • Igho Ofotokun, MD, MSc, FIDSA
  • Nadine Rouphael, MD, MSc
  • Wendy Armstrong, MD, FIDSA, FACP
  • Carlos del Rio, MD, FIDSA
  • Karen L. Law, MD
  • Henry M. Blumberg, MD, FIDSA, FSHEA
  • Ignacio Sanz, MD
  • Monica M. Farley, MD, FIDSA

StARR Curriculum

Although the cornerstone of the proposed research training will be a one-on-one mentored research experience under the supervision of an established investigator, a core curriculum of short courses and seminars addressing the fundaments of clinical and translational research is integral to the proposed research training. The coursework will focus on basic clinical and translational research approaches, research ethics, scientific leadership, team science, mentorship training, scientific and grant writing, instruction in rigor and reproducibility, sex as a biological variable, etc. Note that these courses are not offered as part of a degree program, but rather to enhance the fundamental knowledge of research approach and conduct.

These tailored short courses, seminars and workshops will provide skills in research topics including:

  • Scientific and grant writing
  • Training in basis statistical approach and research methodology
  • Training in basic data management
  • Training in basic epidemiology
  • The science of team science
  • Training on maximizing the mentorship relationship
  • Academic survival and leadership skills


StARR Schema

Mentored Research Project and Mentoring Plan

An essential component of the trainees’ development is their mentored research project experience.

  • All Emory StARR trainees will be required to have an investigator initiated, hypothesis-driven, mentored clinical research project that will be carried out during the protected research training period. This project will be proposed during the initial application to enter the Emory StARR and can be updated and further revised if appropriate after acceptance.
  • The mentored research project will be carried out under the guidance of the trainee’s lead mentor. Mentor selection will be made in consultation with program leadership, but often will be intuitively linked to projects already underway or through identification of a logical mentor based on trainee’s research interest. Trainees and their lead mentor will meet on a regular basis (e.g., weekly) as outlined in the trainee’s program application and in their individual development plans (IDP).
  • In order to ensure that mentors devote sufficient time to the research training needs of the individual trainee, lead research mentors will only be allowed to mentor one Emory R38 RTP at a time.
  • The expectation of productivity for trainee research projects is high, and we will require the submission of at least one original research manuscript at the completion of the program.
  • Mentors and trainees will sign "mentorship contracts" which outline the role of the mentor and trainee and their responsibilities.
  • Each trainee will also have a Research Advisory Committee that will meet every six months to review the trainee’s research training program, goals, and scientific progress. This committee will consist of the trainee’s lead research mentor, other experts involved in research related to the trainee's area of interest, and a member of the EC.


Program Evaluation

Ultimate success of the Emory StARR will be the development of a cadre of resident physicians who will go on to pursue careers in the biomedical research workforce.  The following mechanisms will provide evaluation of the success of the short coursework and of ongoing mentoring in meeting the needs of our trainees.

  • Baseline data extraction. Once accepted to the program, with the help of the program coordinator, we will extract baseline data from the trainees’ applications and CVs. This includes prior research training, degree attainment, publications, presentations, and funding/awards. We will use these baseline data to measure change throughout the program and after completion.
  • Individualized development plans (IDPs). At the beginning of the program, the trainees will complete an IDP to explicitly outline their areas of development during their time as a trainee. The IDPs include statements about their long-term career goals, short-term goals, strengths and weaknesses, specific action steps to attain goals, identified opportunities for career development, funding and publishing opportunities and feedback from their mentors. These plans will be used as a mechanism to communicate goals with mentors as well as monitor and adapt their training to meet individualized career benchmarks. On semi-annual basis, the IDPs will be signed by mentors and reviewed by the PIs.
  • Surveys of program effectiveness from the view of the trainees will be conducted annually by the program coordinator. The survey will include questions about the quality and utility of the didactic coursework, seminars and workshops.  Trainees’ satisfaction with the performance of their mentors will be assessed on a numeric scale, and qualitative data collected in free text regarding quality of mentoring.
  • PIs review meetings will be conducted twice yearly with trainees. This face-to-face interview will allow assessment of trainees’ satisfaction with the Program. The two MPIs will summarize points of discussion in a letter to be included in each trainee’s file, and with the EC.
  • Trainees’ progress reports will be submitted annually via an available electronic database management tracking system. These reports gather information regarding publications, abstracts, presentations, overall progress in a project, and specifics of didactic training.
  • Mentor’s assessments will be gathered annually, at the same time as the trainee progress reports. These are qualitative assessments of the performance of the trainee’s performance, potential, skills, and any problems that need to be addressed.


Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research

Trainees in the responsible conduct of research will include didactic and hands-on training in bioethics, and scientific integrity.  The Emory StARR goals for responsible conduct of research include the following:

  • Educate trainees on the ethical issues, Federal, State and local regulations and guidelines that support the proper conduct of clinical research in the U.S.
  • Educate trainees on the role of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) in assuring the proper conduct of clinical research throughout Emory University.
  • Educate trainees on the guidelines and standard operating procedures of the IRB of Emory University.
  • Educate trainees on their responsibilities as defined by Federal regulations, ICH guidelines and Emory University research procedures before, during, and after completion of a clinical research study or trial.
  • Provide an ongoing educational process to continue the education of trainees and ensure the continual protection of human subjects engaging in clinical research
  • Coursework. Trainees will participate in Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research, sponsored by the Emory Center for Ethics (emory.edu/research/PostdocEthicsCourseFall2011.pdf) that addresses the ethical conduct of scientific research and covers the six areas of instruction mandated by the NIH for its National Research Service Award trainees, namely, data management, policies and procedures for handling misconduct, authorship and credit, conflicts of interest, the use of human subjects in research, and the use of animals in research. Topics include: informed consent considerations and pitfalls; the responsible collection, retention, sharing, and interpretation of data; research misconduct – falsification, fabrication, and plagiarism; data manipulation and torturing; responsible authorship; intellectual property; research with special populations; conflict of interest; peer review; the ethics of using animals in research. The objectives of the course are:
- To meet federal requirements for training in ethical scientific conduct
- To improve behavior outcomes related to ethical decision making
- To improve moral reasoning
- To develop core competencies in the responsible conduct of research
- To increase appreciation for ethical guidelines, standards, and etiquette
- To increase awareness of ethical guidelines, rules, and regulations related to research
- To increase the understanding of making and responding to allegations of misconduct
  • Emory Human Subjects Education. All Emory R38 RTP will also participate in the following trainings;
  • Certification in human subject protection and good clinical practice (GPC) through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Program and if conducting research in U.S. Veterans, complete the VA Privacy & Information Security Awareness and Rules of Behavior and Privacy Policy Web Training
  • Certification by Office of Clinical Trials – Emory University sponsored research training including key concepts in clinical research offered by the Office for Clinical Research, Emory conflict of interest training and certification, and Emory Center for Ethics lectures series on research ethics http://ethics.emory.edu/Events/CFE_Speaking.html.
  • Protecting Human Research Participants training offered by the NIH Office of Extramural Research (available at http://humansubjects.energy.gov/ doe-resources/nih-trng.htm) and the Protecting Human Subjects Training offered by the US Department of Health and Human Services Office Health Resources and Service Administration (available at http://www.hrsa.gov/humansubjects/).
  • Journal Club—participate in the monthly research journal club with the MSCR class where policy articles and research ethics peer-reviewed publications are reviewed, critiqued, and discussed.
  • Receive one‐on‐one mentoring from their primary mentors in the responsible conduct of research as part of the implementation of the mentee’s research project, including discussions about ethical challenges in conducting research on vulnerable populations such as HIV‐infected and pregnant or incarcerated populations, conflict of interest, responsible authorship, policies for handling misconduct, data management, and data sharing.

Application Information


PGY1 Resident Physicians with MD degree or its equivalent in good standing in the J. Willis Hurst Internal Medicine Residency Program at Emory University School of Medicine.

As per NIH guidelines, candidates must be a U.S. citizen or permanent U.S. resident at the time they submit the application. Individuals on temporary or student visas are not eligible.

Also, per NIH rules, StARR applicants may not simultaneously submit or have pending an application for any other PHS mentored career development award that duplicates any of the provisions of the StARR program. Former or current Principal Investigators on any NIH research project grant (e.g. R01, U01) or equivalent non-PHS peer reviewed research grants that are over $100,000 direct costs per year, or project leaders on sub-projects of program project (P01) or center grants (P50) are NOT eligible to participate as StARR scholars. Trainees are allowed to hold NIH Small Grants (R03) or Exploratory/Developmental (R21) grants or their equivalents and still be eligible for the StARR award.

Requirements of the applicants and awardees accepted into the Emory StARR scholars program are as follows. The candidate must:

  1. Be a PGY1 Resident Physician with MD degree or its equivalent in good standing in the Internal Medicine Residency Program
  2. Be interested in clinical/translational research career (regardless of sub-specialty) focused on infectious diseases (host-pathogen interactions, microbiology), inflammation, and immunology.
  3. Have completed postgraduate training normally expected for a medicine residency appointment.
  4. Has never been a PI on an NIH R01 or subproject of a Program Project (P01), Center (P50, P60, U54) grant, mentored career development (K-series) grant, or other equivalent research award.
  5. Be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or possess an Alien Registration Receipt Card (1-151 or 1-155) or some other verification of legal admission as a permanent citizen.
  6. Be able to spend at least 80% effort on mentored research training during StARR research blocks.

If you meet eligibility requirements, click here for application instructions.

Application Instructions

Important Dates

Application Deadline: December 16, 2019
Award Notifications: First quarter of 2020
Start Date: August 1, 2020

How to Apply

All application components should be uploaded to online submission system. Please use online submission system (click to start) to upload your StARR application files. Once you have started submission by entering your name and email address, you will receive a confirmation email with the link to your StARR application. You can use this link to upload and update your submission files. Please share your submission link with your Department Chair, Residency Program Director, Lead mentor, Co-lead mentor (if applicable), and Advisory committee members (if applicable) to upload Letters of Support. 

Please send any questions or concerns via email to kayla.j.smith@emory.edu

Formatting: All sections of the application should be single spaced with a one-inch margin. The font size should be 11 points or larger and the typeface should be Arial, Helvetica, or Georgia.

Required Documents

Applications should include the following documents:

  1. Cover Page – Click on the link to view the cover page required.
  2. Letter of Intent/Personal Statement: Three page maximum.  The letter of intent should include your current level of training, a description of why you are interested in the StARR program, immediate and long-term career goals, and a brief description of your research project.
  3. Current Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  4. NIH Biosketch - The NIH biosketch instructions for the K awards and an example of the NIH biosketch can be found on https://grants.nih.gov/grants/forms/biosketch.htm.

Click here to view a sample application.

Selection/Review Criteria

Selection criteria will focus on the demonstrated strengths and future potential of the candidate for a multidisciplinary career in research, and including:

  • Demonstrated strengths and future potential of the candidate for a multi-disciplinary clinical and translational career in research focused on infectious diseases, microbiology, and immunology.
  • Quality of previous training and accomplishments.
  • Strength and feasibility of the research training plan/project.
  • Potential impact of the research area and question (including innovation).
  • Adequacy of support from the candidate’s’ research group and home division/department.
  • Quality, feasibility, and potential for success of the research project.
  • Likelihood for the research and the training plan to lead to a competitive K-38 application.

The NIH F32 award application process will be used as a model for the Emory StARR application process. Applications will be scored using the new NIH scoring system (1 to 9 point scale). An expert review panel with experience in NIH career development application review will serve as the study section for this selection process, producing a score and ranking that mirrors the NIH process. Given the critical roles of mentoring in the development of the candidate, the appropriateness of the research expertise of the different research mentors, their funding status, and their long-term commitment to the candidate’s development will be important components of the candidate evaluation.

Applications will be scored using criterion scores of the candidate, career development plan/career goals and objectives, research plan, mentors/mentor team, and environment/institutional commitment to the candidate. Environment/institution commitment in this setting will mean the support and environment provided by the department and the research group to the success of the candidate. The results will be passed along to the Emory StARR Executive Committee for final Scholar selection.  Decisions of the Emory StARR Executive Committee will be final.

Plan for Recruitment and Retention of Underrepresented Minorities, Women, and those with Disabilities

The Emory StARR Program is committed to meeting the NIH goal and that of Emory University to increase the participation of women and individuals from ethnic or racial groups underrepresented in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. Such groups include American Indian or Alaska native, Asian, Black or African-American, Hispanic or Latino, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. Applications from women and minority candidates are encouraged. In addition, accommodations will be made to assist any individuals with disabilities so those persons who are qualified applicants can complete the program.

Current Scholars

Nicholas Scanlon, MD

Nick ScanlanNick Scanlan is a third-year internal medicine resident in the J. Willis Hurst Internal Medicine Residency program at Emory.  He plans to pursue a career in Allergy and Immunology with a focus in immunodeficiency.  As a medical student, he worked at UAB’s 1917 Clinic, and he also spent a year at the Ragon Institute of Harvard, MGH, and MIT.  His research has primarily been in HIV immunology where he was worked to understand the role of HLA concordance in transmission of HIV and to better characterize CD8+ T-cell responses in control of HIV infection, particularly in long-term non-progressors. As a resident, he has presented his research on the role of direct oral amoxicillin challenge without preliminary skin testing in penicillin allergy.  As a StARR grant recipient, he plans to characterize vaccine responses in immunocompromised transplant patients. 

Research Summary

My research interests are in immunodeficiency and vaccinology. As a StARR grant recipient, I plan to characterize responses to the Shingrix vaccine in renal transplant patients given at various time points after transplant. I also intend to study the role of Shingrix vaccination in the development of HLA antibodies to determine if the vaccine might play a role in rejection based on the development of these antibodies after vaccination.

Vanessa Van DorenVanessa Van Doren, MD

Vanessa Van Doren is a second-year resident physician in the J. Willis Hurst Internal Medicine Residency Program at Emory. Prior to medical school, she worked in molecular biology and genetics research. She was part of the team that discovered the strongest known genetic risk factor for schizophrenia in 2016, reframing schizophrenia as deriving at least in part from derangements in immune function. During medical school, she became deeply involved in advocacy efforts focusing on expanding Medicaid, moving towards a single payer healthcare system, making medications affordable through global access licensing, and fighting discrimination within both the healthcare and medical education systems. She learned that through a comprehensive focus on HIV – by honing her clinical acumen through internal medicine residency followed by infectious disease fellowship, incorporating translational HIV research as a physician-scientist, and advocating for equal treatment and access to care for HIV-positive patients – she could make a meaningful contribution to a disease that disproportionately affects marginalized people.

Research Summary

She is currently investigating how condomless receptive anal intercourse (CRAI) affects HIV transmission risk in men who have sex with men (MSM) by comparing differences in mucosal healing time, cytokine expression, and rectal microbiome after mucosal injury between MSM who do and do not engage in CRAI.

Elizabeth Iffrig, MD

Elizabeth Iffrig is a second year resident in the J. Willis Hurst Internal Medicine Residency program at Emory. She attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 2006-2010 where she received a BS in Chemistry and in Biology. Following that she joined the Medical Scientist Training Program at the Emory University School of Medicine and the Wallace H Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and completed a PhD in Biomedical Engineering in 2016 and her MD in 2018, graduating Magna Cum Laude. Her research during her PhD was focused on characterizing the differences in abdominal aortic blood flow profiles and tissue kinematics between men and women using Magnetic Resonance Imaging as a way of understanding why men are predisposed to develop abdominal aortic disease. This work revealed that even in healthy vascular disease-free volunteers, there are significant differences in wall shear stress profiles, peripheral resistance patterns and solid tissue mechanics that may explain why men are more likely to develop abdominal aortic aneurysms. As a StARR recipient, she plans to utilize her expertise in fluid mechanics to study microvascular shock in septic patients.

Research Summary

With the assistance of the StARR grant, I plan to develop an endothelialized microfluidics model to study the pathophysioloy of microcirculatory shock in the septic patient. The model will use early septic patient blood samples to identify important circulating inflammatory mediators that contribute to microcirculatory dysfunction. Results from this model will then be compared with capillary hemodynamics data obtained from septic patients in the ICU to determine which of these mediators may be an important biomarker and predictor of sepsis morbidity and mortality.

Nour BeydounNour Beydoun, MD

Nour Beydoun is a second-year internal medicine resident at Emory, who plans to pursue a fellowship in Infectious Diseases. Nour completed her medical school at the American University of Beirut (AUB), Lebanon, after which she moved to Atlanta to join the Hope Clinic, the clinical arm of the Emory Vaccine Center. During her time at the Hope Clinic, she was involved in several NIH-funded Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit (VTEU) studies, as well as Human Immunology Project Consortium (HIPC) and investigator-initiated studies. She was also involved in the protocol development for two projects studying the immune response to vaccination using a systems biology approach.

Research Summary

As a StARR grant recipient, Nour plans to study the role of the microbiome in the immune response to vaccination. The goal of the study is to determine whether alteration of the microbiota by antibiotic exposure can negatively impact the immunogenicity of vaccines, and to assess the innate and adaptive immune mechanisms responsible for that phenomenon using a systems biology approach. Therefore, the study will compare the immune profiling in the blood and lymph node after rabies vaccination, with or without use of antibiotics, and will analyze the microbiome in those two groups.

Program Contacts

Kayla Smith, MPH
Emory StARR Coordinator
Supervisor, Research Project Coordinator
E-mail: kjsmit8@emory.edu 

Igho Ofotokun, MD, MSc, FIDSA
Emory StARR Program PI/PD
49 Jesse Hill Jr Drive SE
Atlanta, GA 30303
E-mail: iofotok@emory.edu
Phone: 404-616-0659

Nadine Rouphael, MD, MSc
Emory StARR Program PI/PD
550 Peachtree St NE
Atlanta, GA 30308
E-mail: nroupha@emory.edu
Phone: 404-712-1435