University of Michigan Center for Gastrointestinal Research


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Education and Enrichment

Contact: John Y. Kao, M.D., Enrichment Program Director, (734) 615-4020


The UMCGR Enrichment program is designed to enhance the existing highly vibrant intramural educational and research environment at the University of Michigan related to the study of gastrointestinal and Hepatology diseases. UMCGR joins the efforts of the Division of Gastroenterology, University of Michigan MICHR CTSA, an NIDDK-funded T32 training grant titled Training in Basic and Translational Digestive Sciences, the NIDDK-funded P01 titled Cellular Decisions of Differentiations in the GI tract, the Center for Organogenesis, and the FastForward Host Microbiome Initiative. UMCGR partners with the Division of Gastroenterology to provide weekly Monday noon conferences (Basic & Translational GI Research Conference) that focus on trainee academic and career development through trainee research update, journal clubs, academic skills workshops, and faculty research highlights. Additional weekly or monthly research seminar opportunities include Wednesday's weekly Joint Microbiome Research Seminars and Physiology Seminar series, the monthly Gut Group Conferences, and Host Defense Conferences. Additionally, six annual visiting professors sponsored by the UMCGR offer the Center members and trainees opportunities to hear talks from leading experts in GI research and a chance to interact and solicit external feedback about their work. The Center's highly attended annual Winter Retreat that showcases an outside high profile keynote speaker and the work of the Center members through a series of morning short talks followed by poster presentations over a casual lunch. This is a 2-day event to allow time slots for academic skills workshops and trainee presentations. The academic workshop was organized in conjunction with the formation of the Midwest DDRC Alliance in 2013 (University of Michigan, Mayo, University of Chicago, University of Cincinnati, Washington University) and (Case Western Reserve-joined 2015) and bringing together faculty and pilot/feasibility recipients of members from these outside centers to further foster research networking and exchange. T32 training grant provides a pipeline of junior investigators interested in digestive disease research, some of whom eventually become UMCGR members and/or Pilot and Feasibility Program Awardees. In addition, the Department of Physiology, the Center of Organogenesis, and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology provide educational opportunities including courses, seminars, and journal clubs that enhance the professional development of our UMCGR faculty and their trainees.

Lectures and Seminars

UMCGR sponsors a noon conference each week that is attended by various faculty and their trainees from Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Physiology, the Center of Organogenesis, and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. This conference is structured to optimized trainee education and faculty feedback as well as to foster interdisciplinary collaboration. It is organized around four forums of exchange: trainee research update, journal clubs, academic skills workshops, and faculty research highlights.

Additional weekly conferences attended by UMCGR members include:

  • Joint Microbiome Research Conference (Wednesday 9:00-10:00am, 5623 MS II)
  • Molecular & Integrative Physiology Seminar Series (Wednesday 4:00-5:00pm, 7745 MS II)
  • Immunology Research Seminar (Wednesday 12:00-1:00pm, 5330 MS I Abel Lecture Hall)
  • Microbiology/Immunology Research Conference (Thursday 12:00-1:00pm, 5330 MS I Abel Lecture Hall)
  • Center for Organogenesis Seminars (Tuesday 4:00-5:00pm, BSRB Seminar room)
  • GI Motility Research Seminar Series (Monday 4:00 – 5:00 pm  monthly, 3912A Taubman Center)

Monthly Seminars

Additional monthly seminars (Gut Group and Host Defense Group) given by extramural and intramural speakers provide a broad range of topics for research enrichment opportunities are organized by Cell and Developmental Biology and the Department of Pathology. The Gut Group meets monthly on a Wednesday at 3pm in 3015 BSRB and topic areas include cell biology, embryology, neurobiology, organogenesis and developmental biology.

Visiting Professor Series

The purpose of the Visiting Professor Series is to provide UMCGR members the opportunity 1) to invite high profile research investigators to develop new research initiatives and facilitate networking, and 2) to give trainees opportunities to seek career advice and showcase their own work. In addition to formal presentations, the visiting professors meet with faculty and fellows. The Enrichment Program complements our ongoing Visiting Faculty Program in the Division of Gastroenterology (6 visitors per year), managed by Dr. Hari Conjeevaram. Whereas the Divisional program often focuses on inviting individuals for a variety of indications (e.g., clinical expertise, stature, programmatic issues, scientific excellence, etc.) the UMCGR Enrichment program focuses principally on individuals complementing current UMCGR investigative efforts. In this respect, the two programs are highly integrated and complementary.

Intramural Faculty Speaker Program

Speaking assignments for the intramural weekly Monday Conference is rotated amongst the UMCGR faculty and trainees. Many of the seminars and journal clubs are given by fellows or graduate students providing updates on work in progress. In addition, 6 slots are devoted to academic skills workshops (topics including Grant Writing, How to publish in high impact journals, Mentoring, Presenting your work at national meetings, and Ethics). Also, in April each year, up to 2 slots are devoted to rehearsal for oral presentations at Digestive Disease Week. The Enrichment Program Director and the Center Administrator coordinate the intramural part of the seminar series.

Annual Winter Retreat

UMCGR sponsors an annual center-wide event which is an integral part of the Enrichment Program. This 2-day annual Winter Retreat includes an academic scientific workshop for Pilot Feasibility recipients, training grant investigators and a mini symposium with keynote speaker (The Yamada Lectureship). The on campus location and decompressed schedule provide an opportunity for members to exchange ideas, establish new collaborations, and hear about exciting scientific developments. This minisymposium provides a great opportunity for cross-fertilization of ideas between individual research interest groups. Of note, starting 2013, the members of the Midwest DDRC Alliance were also invited to participate in our Winter retreat. Trainees supported by Pilot Feasibility from other Centers were invited to participate in the academic workshop and to present short talks and posters.

Academic Scientific Workshop

A key component of our annual Winter Retreat has been to organize a minisymposium around a topic of significant interest to the UMCGR members and invite the Center's Pilot Feasibility Awardees. With the formation of the Midwest DDRC Alliance in 2013, the Winter Retreat's minisymposium was expanded to include a new Midwest DDRCC Consortium Academic Workshop the day before the Center's minisymposium. Pilot Feasibility Awardees of all DDRC Alliance members presented a synopsis of their P/F proposals and future research plans and received valuable research and career development feedback from directors and established investigators of the DDRC Alliance. We will continue to have the Academic Scientific Workshop as part of our Annual Retreat separate from the Midwest DDRCC Consortium meeting as it rotates to be hosted by other DDRC centers.


The goal of the annual Winter retreat minisymposium is to provide a vehicle for UMCGR members and associates to discuss science in a relaxed location. The minisymposium includes selected presentations by University of Michigan investigators and an external keynote speaker (The Yamada Lectureship Speaker) is featured. A theme is selected each year by the Center Executive Committee. The retreat ends with a poster session over lunch when all other center's research updates and core services are presented. The minisymposium is held in January or February of each year, on campus, to maximize participation. The location and decompressed schedule provide an opportunity for members to exchange ideas, establish new collaborations, and hear about exciting scientific developments. This minisymposium provides a great opportunity for cross-fertilization of ideas between individual research interest groups. The 2017 Winter retreat was held with 150 attendees.

Mini-Sabbatical Program

A valuable component of the UMCGR Enrichment Program is the Center Mini- Sabbatical program. This program allows members to spend 4-8 weeks working in an extramural academic or industrial laboratory setting to learn new techniques, to acquire knowledge regarding new model development, or to finalize a collaborative investigation where the presence of the PI is essential for data interpretation and/or finalization of the project. This program provides opportunities for investigators to strengthen their research skills and knowledge. Funding is provided by Center member's own department.

UMCGR Interactions with Extramural DDRCCs

UMCGR in it's most recent funding cycle hosted two annual Academic Workshops as part of the development of a Midwest DDRCC Alliance. These workshops coincide with the Center's Winter Retreat. The success of these two workshops has led to a rotation amongst the other DDRCCs with Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in 2017 and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 2018, and is now supported by an NIDDK supplemental award.


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