Category: Career

Posts by Jano Klimas about the academic career and the long and harrowing journeys of academics.

Addressing a Training Gap through Addiction Research Education for Medical Students: New Paper out Now

Can medical doctors use scientifically proven treatments for addiction? Can they access and critically appraise the latest advances in the addiction science? 

In this letter to the editor, we respond to the editorial by Gordon and Alford (2013), in the recent special issue of the Substance Abuse (Vol. 33, No. 3), provides an insightful reflection on the early attempts at describing curriculum development and implementation of addiction content into various learning environments. We report on preliminary results of our course in addiction medicine research facilitated by a PhD researcher in the University of Limerick. We wanted to help medical students learn how to do and read addiction medicine research. The first cohort of 14 students received the training the full text at:

Cited Study:

J Klimas, W Cullen – Substance Abuse, 2014


HORIZON 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Information Day: Mobility is part of their job description

Being able, ready and happy to move for work enhances academic career. On 4th June 2014, in the Gibson Hotel, Dublin, Ireland, the Irish Marie Skłodowska-Curie Office hosted an information day on the individual fellowships. Guest speaker on the day was Alessandra Luchetti, Head of the EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Unit (Figure 1). The event, co-organised with InterTradeIreland introduced the new opportunities for researchers in the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions under Horizon 2020.
In the past, the Marie Curie Actions programme was one of the big success stories of Irish participation in FP7 funding programme, representing almost €100 million of the €600 million drawn-down by Ireland from FP7. The Actions have funded researchers from industry, community and academia to build their research capacity, with a strong focus on international mobility and strengthening careers for researchers.

Figure 1 Guest Speaker: Alessandra Luchetti, Head of Unit, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, European Commission: – you are lucky that I do not have to talk in Italian, I’m talkative, so I am genetically modified
More than 25 years ago, it was only the EU mobility scheme; it is the oldest and the most famous. Today, the cutoff for a successful application is 92%. The focus of the fellowship is on career development. UK and USA are the most preferred countries for the European and for the Global schemes, respectively. Ireland has funded identical twins in the FP7 programme (one of them through reserved list).
The fellowship has many benefits. Researchers have the opportunity to go to a centre that is top of their field. The social capital increases, you meet politicians, high-level academics. The fellowship gives leverage to link in with community. The label of MC fellow at the end of the email opens many doors. The postdoctoral researchers, who are normally stuck in Limbo – because they can’t apply for solo-funding – can use this first individual fellowship grant to demonstrate capability of attaining further funding. For the principal investigators, the fellowship offers to do more research with bigger teams. For example, an Irish-EU funding stream – Inspire – funded 21 experienced researchers in 2 calls at the UCD Energy Institute.

Research Supervisor Support and Development Programme: Monitoring, Assessment, Examiners and Viva

It is the start of a semester and you estimate that your research student will be ready to submit thesis for examination in about 4-5 months’ time. What are the steps you (as supervisor) should take to progress the assessment process?

With this intriguing question, Karen O’Shea (Director of assessment at UCD Graduate Studies), kicked off the last meeting in a series of the new Research support and supervisor development programme at the University College Dublin, Ireland

Submission of thesis and selection of examiners

Ms. O’Shea  advised to check the policy first. Finding an external examiner for the viva is often a problem, because you’re working with all eligible people. When choosing the external examiner, find out if there is a conflict. Make sure the student is registered and the fees are compliant. Once the process begins, it must end (when you sign off the thesis submission form, that’s when you’re quitting the supervision). But what if you’re not happy with the thesis – can’t sign it is the most logical and honest answer. So, when do you say, ok, it’s ready for submission? At the day of the viva, the supervisor can accompany the student to the viva room, but has to stay quiet. Finally, the exam regulations change, but not often.

Transfers and red flags
Professor Julie Berndsen (Dean of Graduate Studies) said the stage transfer (assessment) was the most popular and beneficial element of UCD’s structured PhD. The transfer assessors should do a fairly considerate decision about the student’s progress. Research master’s degree is not a failed PhD. Transfer to the 2nd stage is not a guarantee of a PhD. You can’t challenge the verdict, but you can challenge the process of the transfer.

Preparation for the viva voce
Professor Ben Tonra (Head of School, Politics & International Relations) asked “What do you fear? Your investment?” To have a PhD student is the most terrifying thing for some. They worry that the thesis won’t pass. Examinable doesn’t equal passable. In some sense it’s their work and they’re not letting go. The sense of being in charge is very high in some disciplines. But the problem is our problem; it’s going to look shitty on us if they don’t pass. Let’s be honest. We’re invested in this. At the point of submission, they’re your colleagues. Whose project is this?
The PhD is a regulated process, but there’s a lot of vigour room. One of the big challenges is plagiarism. Memorandum at school level about who’s doing what on the day of viva is useful. Don’t just trust the process, follow up that things are happening.

Do a mock, dry run of the viva presentation.

This post offered my views on the fifth meeting of the new Research support and supervisor development programme at the University College Dublin, Ireland. The programme was targeted at new and experienced faculty who would like to refresh their knowledge in the area. The 5 last-Friday workshops were based on sharing of practices with experienced supervisors and students, case studies, open forum discussions and knowledge sharing with colleagues on policy in the research supervisory field. I covered the previous meetings in the posts about leadersstyles, recruitment and pitfalls.  Thank you for watching this space for my observations from these workshops.

Dennis McCarty won the 2014 NIDA International Program Award of Excellence

 June 14, 2014 ― Professor Dennis McCarty, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Oregon Health & Sciences University (OHSU), and director of the Substance Abuse Policy Center in the Center for Health Systems Effectiveness, has been awarded by the 2014 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) International Program.

The award is for Excellent Mentoring. Dr. McCarty mentors clinicians and researchers who test emerging drug abuse treatments in community settings through the Western States Node of the NIDA Clinical Trials Network, which he codirects. He extends his mentoring to state and local policymakers through his role as director of the Substance Abuse Policy Center in the Center for Health Systems Effectiveness, which works to link policy, practice, and research on substance abuse treatment.

Dr. McCarty also is scientific director of the University of Amsterdam Summer Institute on Alcohol, Drugs and Addiction. I met Dennis in Amsterdam in 2011. He lectured for several days on different policy models and evidence based treatments. Two years later, on March 1, 2013, I joined Dennis as a NIDA CTN INVEST Fellow. INVEST is International Visiting Scientists & Technical Exchange Program for drug abuse research. Oregon Health & Sciences University hosted my six months fellowship during which I assessed the use of Screening and Brief Intervention (SBIRT) for alcohol use disorders among patients receiving agonist medication for opioid use disorders. Visit this post to read more about how I got here. I did not think that the summer school would lead to a fellowship in Portland, OR and I’m most grateful that it did.

With Dennis, I have learned about things I thought did not exist. For example, about researchers who enjoy writing. Writing up research projects is a task that many new researchers fear the most. Dennis is a master writer and his craft is contagious; I’ve discovered a need in me, a strong urge to write a lot and in many different formats. Dennis received the award today, at the 19th annual NIDA International Forum in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The 2014 Forum focused on “Building International Collaborative Research on Drug Abuse.”

Four other experts were awarded 2014 NIDA International Awards of Excellence. Mr. O’Keeffe, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, was honored for Excellence in International Leadership. The award for Excellence in Collaborative Research went to Dr. Chawarski, Ph.D., Yale School of Medicine, and Dr. Kasinather, Ph.D., Universiti Sains Malaysia. A special award was presented to Dr. Dewey, Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University, in recognition of his service to the addiction research community as founder of the Friends of NIDA, and his research on how opioids and marijuana change brain and contribute to tolerance and addiction.

NIDA International Awards of Excellence winners are selected based on contributions to areas essential to the mission of the NIDA International Program: mentoring, international leadership, and collaborative research. Anybody can suggest a nomination to NIDA. Read more at

The NIDA International Program connects people across continents to find evidence-based solutions for addiction, and drug-related HIV/AIDS. NIDA is part of the National Institutes of Health – the principal research agency of the U.S. Government and a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Story first released by OHSU Newsroom:

Presenting with impact:

Research presentations have a terrible reputation. People think they’re boring, content-heavy and poorly delivered. This presentation skills refresher, facilitated by Paula Mullin, was designed to change the way we think about science presentations and how we deliver them.

What’s in it for them?

In another words, why would they care about that? People listen to presentations because of 3 reasons: interest, benefit and fear. Keep them in mind when preparing your presentation.

Hook them

Hook can be a rhetorical question, or a “What if” question, or a prompt to Imagine “this”, or a story. Most people start with an introduction: we’re used to say our names first. But, we have only 30 seconds to hook the audience up. Audiences are very quick to decide whether they want to listen to you or not.
Ted talks are a useful way to observe hooks. Jamie Oliver, in his Longbeach, California (2010) talk, hooks the audience with a statement that People are going to day: “Sadly…” If this way of starting doesn’t feel comfortable, then stick to your learned style. I’ve started my last two presentations by saying my name and asking the audience: “Do we have an alcohol problem in Ireland?”

The rule of 3 key messages

The audience cannot take in more than 3 messages in one presentation. These messages can be made stickier by using stories because they are easier to remember than examples. Sheryl Sandberg, Chief of operations of Facebook, uses a story about a bathroom in her Ted talk (Ted Women, Dec 2010)

Road map

You can just say it. The old school of presenting preached the dogma – tell them, tell them what you told them and tell them what you told them again. The new school pushes the following structure for presentations:
  1. Hook
  2. Roadmap/ Intro
  3. 3 key messages
  4. Hook

Longer presentations should be structured in the same way, but you can have more time for stories and more time for stats in clear form. Using this new structure, I could go back to my opening question by saying: “So, back to my 1st question – Yes, there is an alcohol problem, but what we do about it is in our hands. Our doctor education can help you address that problem.”

No need to be scared

Presentation anxiety is normal, accept it. If you are not feeling a little bit nervous, don’t bother. Believe in yourself: “I’m the best person to be up here talking.” Know your stuff. Practice your talk at least 3 times and record yourself. Breathe into your stomach. It sends the breath where the body needs it.

Executive presence

Meaning is transmitted in face, body and voice. Support your message with hands. Don’t panic if you lose someone’s attention. They’re just humans, they’ll switch off. They need verity in the tone and pace. Think about coming closer to the audience. Make the audience your default. You are your best visual aid.

Celebrate communication in June

June is my month of communication. My June blogs will embrace communication by reporting from the Research support and supervisor development programme at the University College Dublin, Ireland, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Information Day, and the College on Problems of Drugs Dependence conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico.