General Structure and Goals of the Program

Vanderbilt MAGEC provides 2-3 years of postdoctoral fellowship support for training in the molecular and genetic epidemiology of cancer. The program is specifically designed for PhDs in epidemiology or genetics who have an interest in cancer research, or MDs who have an MPH degree or working experience in epidemiology. An individualized didactic training program will be tailored to complement candidate’s prior background and launch their independent research career. Training includes core and elective coursework, a multi-disciplinary mentoring team, instruction in the responsible conduct of research, rotations in the Vanderbilt Molecular Epidemiology Core Lab and Survey Research Shared Resource, and conduct of a research project. The program culminates in the submission of a grant proposal to the National Institutes of Health.

Dual Mentorship

With the assistance of the Program Directors and Executive Committee, each Vanderbilt MAGEC trainee is required to identify two mentors, one from cancer epidemiology and one from a second discipline that relates to their research career path, i.e., biology for molecular epidemiology and genetics for genetic epidemiology. Potential mentors should be identified as part of the candidate’s application for Vanderbilt MAGEC support.

Core Courses

All trainees are required to take 2-3 courses developed specifically for the proposed training program: Research Grant Writing and either Advanced Cancer Epidemiology or Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology or both.

Elective Courses

Trainees are provided with tuition support to take 1-2 elective courses to provide interdisciplinary didactic exposure that complements their prior training backgrounds.


All trainees are required to participate in 2- to 3-month rotations in both the Vanderbilt Molecular Epidemiology Core Lab and Survey Research Shared Resource to gain hands-on experience in biological sample processing and preparation, survey design and procedures, and quality control practices. The duration of the rotations will be tailored to fellows’ backgrounds, previous training, and research interests.

Responsible Conduct of Research

MAGEC trainees receive comprehensive instruction in the responsible conduct of research through certifications, formal workshops and in face-to-face meetings with their mentors. Formal training includes an intensive, 9-hour workshop in the first year, plus certification in the use of human subjects in research. In subsequent years, trainees participate in “refresher” courses and continuing education activities. Mentors emphasize ethical considerations related to trainees’ projects on an ongoing basis.


A critical part of succeeding in any rapidly evolving field is collaboration. Thus, an important aspect of the MAGEC program is support for participation in scientific meetings, membership in professional organizations, and exposure to developments in related fields. MAGEC trainees are expected to attend one scientific meeting per year and take advantage of the multitude of seminars, grand rounds, and workshops offered locally at VUMC. Projects (e.g., laboratory or statistical analysis), workshops, and conferences that trainees participate in or attend must be selected with a view toward their interdisciplinary nature and their strategic potential to enhance the trainee’s career development.

Research Project

In order to cement the skills and concepts acquired through their didactic training and mentor contact, MAGEC trainees conduct their own interdisciplinary research project under the direction of their dual mentors and approximately 2-3 additional committee members who represent other disciplines. It is expected that research topics will be highly diverse. Mentoring teams for each trainee will include individuals with special expertise in methodology and diverse content areas to maximize the quality of the training and research.

Grant Writing

The hallmark of an independent scientific research career is the ability to obtain research funding. Thus, MAGEC trainees are required to prepare and submit a grant application to NIH. Only trainees who have this as a clear short-term goal will be admitted. Trainees receive intensive guidance from their mentoring teams and the CTSA’s CRC Research Skills Workshops. Proposals will be vetted through the CTSA’s Design Studio and/or Grant Review Studio process for feedback from uninvolved experts.