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Program Details - The TOPS T32 Experience

Program Components:

  1. Individual Development Plan, ongoing curation of your IDP describing your research project objectives and milestones, coursework, and training.

  2. Responsible Conduct of Research training, learn more here.

  3. Bi-annual TOPS Workshops on research skills and professional development.

  4. Weekly Pop Sci Seminars

  5. TOPS Bi-monthly Training Seminars, topics include:

  • Qualitative research, Mixed methods, Focus Groups

  • Surveys, large data base analyses, observational designs

  • Comparative effectiveness and pharmacoepidemiology

  • Intervention Design, Piloting and Deployment

  • Health informatics, Machine Learning, M-heath, E-health

  • Health Policy, Economics & Decision Science 

  • Implementation Science

  • Manuscript preparation, managing coauthors, editors, journals

  • Grant preparation, aims, conceptual frameworks, methods

  • Building and maintaining research teams, collaborations

6. Complete and publish a significant mentored research project

7. Present your work at research seminars and a national meeting.

8. Prepare and submit a funding proposal.

Mentored Research Experience

As a TOPS Postdoctoral Fellow, you will receive a personalized mentored research experience based on your interests with access to activities and resources available at a large cancer center spanning 7 institutions, multiple departments and research centers as well as relationships with community partners from other health care systems, industry, and government.

  • You will work closely with a primary mentor and many may also work with an additional, secondary mentor.

  • Your mentor will help you select a project that can be feasibly completed in 2-years. 

  • Research topics will broadly focus on reducing the population-level burden of malignant disease by closing the gap between the efficacy and the effectiveness of strategies for cancer prevention, early detection and treatment.

  • Our goal is to equip you with research skills to facilitate translation across the T3/T4 spectrum, integration into health care delivery systems to achieve maximal impact on population health.

Didactic Curriculum & Coursework


The focus of didactic coursework is to provide TOPS Fellows with methodologic skills to conduct population sciences research.

  • A central component of the coursework will be the Summer Program in Clinical Effectiveness at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH).

  • TOPS Fellows may take classes at other Harvard University schools, including

    • Harvard Kennedy School of Government

    • Harvard Business School

    • Harvard Graduate School of Education

    • Harvard College

    • Harvard Course Catalog

  • Trainees will also participate in didactic short courses offered by: 

    • Harvard Catalyst (Harvard’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program) - Catalyst Courses

    • National Institutes of Health (NIH)

    • American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)

Popular Courses for TOPS Fellows include:

  • Ethical Basis of the Practice of Public Health (ID251)

  • Improvement in Quality in Health Care (HPM253)

  • Research on Social and Behavioral Health (SBS250)

  • Measuring Health Outcomes (HPM 530)

  • Introduction to Biostatistics (BST206/207/208)

  • Introduction to Clinical Epidemiology (EPI208)

  • Longitudinal Regression (BST215)

  • Survival Methods in Clinical Research (BST224)

  • Effectiveness Research with Longitudinal Healthcare Databases (EPI253)

  • Research with Large Databases (HPM299)

  • Principles of Clinical Trials (BST 214)

  • Medical Informatics (HPM512)

  • Machine Learning (BST236)

  • Implementation Science Implementation Research in Health and Healthcare (HPM284)

  • Intro to Methods and Applications in Health Services Research (HPM276)

  • Decision Analysis in Clinical Research (RDS286)

  • Methods for Decision Making in Medicine (RDS288)

  • Economics for Health Policy (HPM209)

  • Introduction to Global Health Care Delivery (GHP 532)

For more coursework options, please visit the Harvard Course Catalogs here.

Professional Development


As a TOPS Postdoctoral Fellow, you will receive many professional development  opportunities, including including training in practical skills necessary for a successful research career and sustained counseling and career guidance to support the successful launch of an independent career in T3/T4 focused cancer research.  We offer opportunities to:

  • attend and present at research seminars, symposia, workshops, or scientific retreats across the 7 DF/HCC institutions.

  • attend and present at national meetings such as ASCO and Academy Health.

  • participate in regular TOPS meetings that focus on research skills training and professional development enrichment activities.

  • be mentored in adopting a system of
    deliberative approaches to staying current with the scientific literature.

  • develop and write your own funding proposal to support your ongoing research.

Sample topics include:

  • Effectively Communicating Research

  • Funding Your Research: Foundations and Philanthropy

  • Funding Your Research: NIH

  • Leadership Strategies for the Researcher

  • Successful Grant Writing Strategies (SGWS)

  • Regulatory Education

Examples from past years:

  • Cancer Outcomes Research Seminar (weekly) hosted by MGH Caner Outcomes Program (Jennifer Temel)

  • HMS Health Care Policy Doctoral Student Research Seminar (weekly) hosted by HMS Department of Health Care Policy (Laura Hatfield and Bapu Jena)

  • Psychosocial Oncology Grand Rounds (monthly) hosted by DFCI Psychosocial Oncology (James Tulsky)

  • MGH Palliative Care Grand Rounds (monthly) hosted by MGH Division of Palliative Care (Vicky Jackson)

  • Center for Health Decision Science Seminar (monthly) hosted by HCSPH Center for Health Decision Sciences (Jane Kim)

  • Health Policy and Management Seminar Series (monthly) hosted by HCSPH Health Policy and Management (Arnie Epstein)

  • Mongan Institute for Health Policy Research Seminar (weekly) hosted by MGH Mongan Institute for Health Policy (John Hsu)

  • HMS Health Care Policy Methods Happy Hour (monthly) hosted by HMS Department of Health Care Policy Statistics Group (Sherri Rose, Laura Hatfield, Jose Zubizarreta)

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