Cancer Epigenetics Training Program

Looking for world-class postdoctoral training in cancer epigenetics? You’ve come to the right place.

Van Andel Institute is an internationally recognized center of excellence for basic and translational epigenetics research. The Institute’s Cancer Epigenetics Training (CET) Program prepares postdoctoral fellows to become independent research leaders in the field of cancer epigenetics. The program offers cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research training in structural and functional aspects of epigenetics, complemented by state-of-the-art Core Technologies and Services, unique professional development activities, and integration with established translational research programs and partnerships led by VAI investigators. Trainees will emerge from the program with comprehensive training in cancer epigenetics and a professional foundation from which to launch their independent research careers.

As part of the program, trainees will be able to pursue basic and translational research projects in:

  • Cancer biology
  • Tumorigenesis
  • Cellular development and differentiation
  • Mechanisms governing DNA methylation and chromatin regulation
  • Epigenomics and advanced tool development
  • GWAS and EWAS
  • Transgenerational inheritance
  • Structural biology
  • Metabolism
  • Epigenetic therapies

Trainees also will have exclusive opportunities to participate in the Van Andel Institute–Stand Up To Cancer Epigenetics Dream Team, a multi-institutional effort to move promising combination therapies for cancer into clinical trials.

The Cancer Epigenetics Training program is supported by a National Cancer Institute T32 training grant (no. T32CA251066). The content is solely the responsibility of VAI and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Apply Now

Questions? Please contact Dr. Erica Gobrogge, program director of VAI’s Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and a member of the Cancer Epigenetics Training Program leadership team, at opa@vai.org.

Application Information

Program Format

Faculty

FAQ

CET Advisory Committee

VAI’s Cancer Epigenetics Training Program accepts applications on a rolling basis. Start your application by clicking “Apply Now” above.

Eligibility: Applicants must be near completion of a Ph.D., M.D. or other appropriate terminal degree. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Individuals who identify as underrepresented minorities are strongly encouraged to apply.

Prior to beginning the application, please review the list of Cancer Epigenetics Training Program faculty members (found under the “Faculty” tab) to determine whose research interests you, and prepare the following required materials:

  • NIH-style biosketch
  • Research statement: The statement should comprise a high-level description of your proposed research project, the significance of the problem and its potential impact on the field. It should follow the format of an NIH-style specific aims page (you can find guidance here).
  • Three reference letters (one should be from your thesis advisor or a thesis committee member)

If you have already spoken with a VAI faculty member about joining their lab or applied for one of our open postdoc positions, there will be space to indicate this on the application. This is encouraged but not required to apply to the Cancer Epigenetics Training Program.

Please note, you may reuse these materials to apply for our Postdoc Preview (learn more here) and our Inspire Program, for those who identify as underrepresented minorities (learn more here).

VAI’s Cancer Epigenetics Training Program is an interdisciplinary postdoctoral training program that provides trainees with extensive research and mentorship opportunities in the field of cancer epigenetics.

Upon acceptance, each trainee is assigned an Individual Development Team (IDT) that will coach, mentor and guide them through the scientific and non-scientific dimensions of career development. The IDT comprises the trainee’s primary mentor, a secondary mentor and another faculty member (either a non-CET Program VAI faculty member or a non-VAI faculty member). Please see the list of mentors below.

Throughout the program, trainees will complete a comprehensive curriculum of scientific and professional development training. Trainees will be expected to:

  • Present annual seminars (internal and external)
  • Complete at least one semester of teaching or mentoring experience
  • Publish at least one first-authored publication
  • Submit F32 (or equivalent) and K99/R00 applications 

Mentors

Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon)
Cancer Epigenetics Training Program Director
Professor and Chief Scientific Officer

Scott Rothbart, Ph.D.
Cancer Epigenetics Training Program Associate Director
Associate Professor, Department of Epigenetics

Peter Laird, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Epigenetics

Huilin Li, Ph.D.
Chair and Professor, Department of Structural Biology

Gerd Pfeifer, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Epigenetics

Hui Shen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Epigenetics

Xiaobing Shi, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Epigenetics

Hong Wen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Epigenetics

Co-mentors

Stephen Baylin, M.D.
Director’s Scholar

Russell Jones, Ph.D.
Chair and Professor, Department of Metabolism and Nutritional Programming

Connie Krawczyk, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Metabolism and Nutritional Programming

Adelheid (Heidi) Lempradl, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Metabolism and Nutritional Programming

Andrew Pospisilik, Ph.D.
Chair and Professor, Department of Epigenetics

Timothy Triche, Jr., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Epigenetics

Questions? Contact Dr. Erica Gobrogge, program director of VAI’s Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and a CET leadership team member, at opa@vai.org.

Faculty in the Cancer Epigenetics Training Program have highly complementary and interdisciplinary cancer and epigenetics expertise. Get to know them below.

Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon)
Chief Scientific Officer, VAI
Cancer Epigenetics Training Program Director
Dr. Peter A. Jones is a pioneer in epigenetics, a growing field that explores how genes are regulated and for developing therapies for cancer and other diseases. His discoveries have helped usher in an entirely new class of drugs that have been approved to treat blood cancer and are being investigated in other tumor types. Jones is a past president of the American Association for Cancer Research, a Fellow of the AACR Academy, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Lab website

Scott Rothbart, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Epigenetics
Cancer Epigenetics Training Program Assistant Director
Dr. Scott Rothbart studies the ways in which cells pack and unpack DNA. This elegant process twists and coils roughly 2 meters of unwound DNA into a space less than one-tenth the width of a human hair. Although this process is impressive, it is also subject to errors that can cause cancer and other disorders. Rothbart seeks new targets for drug development in this process.

Lab website

Stephen Baylin, M.D.
Director’s Scholar
Dr. Stephen Baylin studies the body’s genetic control systems — called epigenetics — searching for vulnerabilities in cancer. Baylin is a pioneer in this field, and was among the first to trace epigenetic causes of cancer. His studies have led to new therapies for breast, lung and colorectal cancers, among others. He is co-leader of the Van Andel Institute–Stand Up To Cancer Epigenetics Dream Team, a Director’s Scholar at VAI and co-head of Cancer Biology at Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University.

VAI page

Russell Jones, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Metabolism and Nutritional Programming
Dr. Russell Jones investigates metabolism at the cellular level to understand how it affects cell behavior and health, with a specific eye on cancer and the immune system. By revealing how cancer cells use metabolic processes to fuel their growth and spread, he hopes to develop new treatments that help patients by changing the standard of care for cancer.

Lab website

Connie Krawczyk, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Metabolism and Nutritional Programming
Dr. Connie Krawczyk investigates the links between metabolism, epigenetics and the immune system, with the goal of understanding how they work together to keep us healthy and, when things go wrong, to promote disease.

Lab website

Peter W. Laird, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Epigenetics
Dr. Peter W. Laird seeks a detailed understanding of the molecular foundations of cancer with a particular focus on identifying crucial epigenetic alterations that convert otherwise healthy cells into cancer cells. He is widely regarded as an international leader in this effort and has helped design some of the world’s state-of-the-art tools to aid in epigenetics research. Laird is a principal investigator for the National Cancer Institute’s Genome Data Analysis Network and is a professor in Van Andel Institute’s Center for Epigenetics. He also played a leadership role in The Cancer Genome Atlas, a multi-institutional effort to molecularly map cancers.

Lab website

Adelheid (Heidi) Lempradl, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Metabolism and Nutritional Programming
Dr. Adelheid Lempradl is investigating how the dietary choices of parents may impact the health of their offspring in the hopes of translating her findings into new ways to prevent disease and create a healthier future.

Lab website

Huilin Li, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Structural Biology
Dr. Huilin Li uses cryo-electron microscopy to reveal the most basic building blocks of DNA replication and other systems vital for life. He has been at the vanguard of cryo-EM for more than 20 years, and his research has implications for some of the world’s most critical public health concerns, including tuberculosis, cancer, mental illness, and many more.

Lab website

Gerd Pfeifer, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Epigenetics
Dr. Gerd Pfeifer studies how the body switches genes on and off, a biological process called methylation that, when faulty, can lead to cancer or other diseases. His studies range from the effect of tobacco smoke on genetic and epigenetic systems to the discovery of a mechanism that may help protect the brain from neurodegeneration. Pfeifer’s studies have implications across a range of diseases, including cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, and many others.

Lab website

Andrew Pospisilik, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Epigenetics
Dr. J. Andrew Pospisilik seeks to understand how we become whom we become, and how our disease susceptibility is defined from early on in life, even before conception, with the long-term goal of being able to predict lifelong health outlook at birth.

Lab website

Tim Triche, Jr., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Epigenetics
As a statistician and computational biologist with an interest in clonal evolution and cancers of the blood, Dr. Tim Triche, Jr.’s, work focuses on wedding data-intensive molecular phenotyping to adaptive clinical trial designs, in an effort to accelerate the pace of drug targeting and development in rare or refractory diseases.

Lab website

Hui Shen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Epigenetics
Dr. Hui Shen develops new approaches to cancer prevention, detection and treatment by studying the interaction between genes and their control systems, called epigenetics. Her research focuses on women’s cancers, particularly ovarian cancer, and also has shed new light on the underlying mechanisms of other many cancer types, including breast, kidney and prostate cancers.

Lab website

Xiaobing Shi, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Epigenetics
Dr. Xiaobing Shi investigates the mechanisms that regulate DNA and gene expression in an effort to better understand how they impact cancer development. His research has led to the discovery of several new “readers” of epigenetic marks that may serve as targets for cancer treatment.

Lab website

Hong Wen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Epigenetics
Dr. Hong Wen investigates the molecular underpinnings of pediatric cancers, with a focus on how epigenetic dysregulation impacts genes expression and drives malignancy. Her work holds great promise for developing new, improved therapies for these devastating diseases.

Lab website

Do I need to submit a separate employee application along with my Cancer Epigenetics Training Program application?

Applicants who currently do not have a postdoctoral position at VAI should first submit the Cancer Epigenetics Training Program application. Details on required materials may be found under the “Apply” tab. The application may be found here.

We encourage you to apply to any open postdoctoral positions of interest and/or contact mentors of interest directly via email after you submit your CET application. You may find open positions on VAI’s Career Center

How many applicants are accepted each year?

The Cancer Epigenetics Training Program will accept two new trainees each year.

Who reviews applications? When will I find out if I’m accepted?

Applications will be reviewed by the Cancer Epigenetics Training Program leadership team and program faculty members. We will notify all applicants regarding the outcome of their application. Please be patient since applications are accepted on a rolling basis. 

I’m also interested in VAI’s Postdoc Preview and/or the Inspire Fellowship. How do I apply?

Applications for Postdoc Preview, the Cancer Epigenetics Training Program and the Inspire Program are separate. However, applicants may reuse the same materials for each application (for example, you may reuse a Cancer Epigenetics Training Program reference letter for the other applications). Please double check the application requirements for each program, as they may have additional required components.

See the requirements for the Postdoc Preview here. Please note, the deadline to apply for Postdoc Preview is August 31, 2021.

Helpful Links

VAI Postdoctoral Fellowships home

Postdoc Preview

VAI Lab Directory

VAI Core Technologies and Services

Careers and Benefits at VAI

Experience Grand Rapids

Mary Reyland, Ph.D. (Advisory Committee Chair)
Professor, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Jerry Callahan, Ph.D., MBA
Chief Strategic Officer, Van Andel Institute

James Fahner, M.D.
Founding and current Division Chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital
Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics/Human Development, Michigan State University

Kay Macleod, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, University of Chicago

Steven. J. Triezenberg, Ph.D.
President and Dean, Van Andel Institute Graduate School

Danny Welch, Ph.D.
Professor and Associate Director for Cancer Education and Career Enhancement, University of Kansas Cancer Center