Launched in 2015, the program supports early-career scientists with an MD and/or PhD who are interested in autism research as they transition from a mentored training position to a tenure-track faculty position at a U.S. or Canadian research institution. To help improve their prospects as they seek to secure a tenure-track appointment, fellows receive a funding commitment of $495,000 over three years, to be activated when they assume their faculty position.
According to SFARI, it has become increasingly difficult in recent years for scientists to make the transition from a formal mentorship to an independent research position, in part due to the declining number of tenure-track faculty positions and the increasing number of PhD graduates and postgraduate traineeships. By providing grant funding at the beginning of a tenure-track professorship, the program helps facilitate fellows transition to independent careers in autism research.
This year's cohort of BTI fellows includes Neir Eshel, PhD (Stanford University), who will research neural circuits associated with frustration and aggression; Ranmal Aloka Samarasinghe, MD, PhD (University of California, Los Angeles), whose research is focused on brain organoids derived from individuals with mutations in their neural network; and Toni-Lee Sterley, PhD (University of Calgary), who will study the role of hypothalamic circuitry in detecting negative affective states.
"BTI fellows from past years have found the program's community support and funding incredibly valuable assets to confidently launching their research careers in autism," said SFARI senior scientist Alice Luo Clayton, who oversees the BTI program. "I have no doubt that this year's fellows will also benefit from the program, especially during these uncertain times."