Sanders-Brown Grant Trains New Generation of Dementia Researchers

The University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has been awarded a $2 million grant by the National Institutes of Health to train the next generation of dementia researchers. 

The T32 training grant, “Training in Traditional Research in Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (TRIAD),” is the first Sanders-Brown Center on Aging training grant dedicated to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

The program provides cross-disciplinary, bench-to-bedside training for all trainees. “We have really fantastic faculty, so our trainees will be exposed to high-caliber mentorship that prepares them for a research career in an area of dire need,” said Elizabeth Head, professor and associate director of education at Sanders-Brown and co-director for the grant. The grant covers mentoring of predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees.

Additionally, postdoctorate trainees can opt for an externship to extend their learning at another institution.

Predoctoral applicants must come from either the Integrated Biomedical Sciences graduate program or the MD/PhD program in the College of Medicine.

Trainees are assigned a mentor who guides them through the training process. Each trainee is assigned a second mentor that reflects the trainee's research interest and/or exposure to an area they have not yet experienced. Trainees also have the opportunity to network with other UK faculty.

Jenna Gollihue is part of the first class of trainees. Gollihue, who has a doctorate in physiology, has been interested in dementia since her aging and disease class in graduate school.

 “As a newcomer, I have a lot to learn about the nuts and bolts of career development in the research field, and my mentor, Chris Norris, has been extremely supportive. He is always encouraging me to seek out new technologies and techniques that I could use in my research and has shared with me his experiences and advice for succeeding in my field,” Gollihue said.

“What I am learning now, I will bring to the next experiment. All the different things I am learning I will continue to build upon in the search for new knowledge,” Gollihue said.

While trainees receive the opportunity to participate in research, they also receive valuable learning experiences in other areas, including the ethics of both basic and clinical research.

“If you’re working with people who are compromised cognitively, you need to understand how to work ethically with those folks and their families,” Head said. 

Additionally, there are monthly seminars, a journal club where primary papers are discussed, training in grant writing and CV development, job negotiating skill development, and learning how to be a mentor for future students.

Gollihue looks forward to building her skill set — both in the lab and at the bedside — and applying it to a disease that exacts a heartbreaking emotional toll on its patients and their loved ones.

“It is just so difficult to imagine, that a person can tell their health is getting worse and that there is nothing they can really do to slow or stop it. And loved ones are just as affected too, they slowly lose the people they care about most to this terrible disease. It can all feel so helpless, which is exactly why we need to find some sort of treatment or therapy to help give people their life back,” Gollihue said.

Students interested in applying should email Elizabeth.Head@uky.edu