Postdoctoral and Predoctoral Training

Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute predoctoral and postdoctoral training is open to students from multiple disciplines in behavioral, social, neurobehavioral and public health research and/or interventions wishing to have a substantial lifelong impact on child and family development, health, and well-being. The complexities of neural, psychosocial, and cognitive development require research skills rooted firmly in core disciplines and that also transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries. The goal of research training at MPSI is to prepare scientists to effectively study complex and important issues in development, engage the community as partners, and implement change for the benefit of children and families in Detroit and beyond.

Graduate Predoctoral/Graduate Training: Director Julie Wargo Aikins, PhD
Infant Mental Health Dual-Title program: Director Ann M. Stacks, Ph.D.
General information about specific postdoctoral research, please contact individual faculty members.

Postdoctoral Fellows and Research Associates
MPSI is an exciting environment for postdoctoral research for well-prepared scientists. Postdoctoral fellows and research associates participate in research, graduate and undergraduate, and outreach activities at MPSI. Postdoctoral researchers contribute substantially to the research mission, direction and productivity of MPSI. Opportunities for developing independent research programs are offered in the laboratories of individual faculty members. This training aims to enhance the interdisciplinary and translational and community engagement aspects of each fellow's research. The scope and focus of the research and further research training are determined in consultation with the MPSI faculty preceptor. Funding is dependent upon the resources available to faculty from a variety of sources, and may include, on a case-by-case basis, supplemental funds from MPSI (e.g., for research travel). MPSI faculty members are eager to serve as preceptors for individual postdoctoral NRSA applications to NIH.

Predoctoral Research Training
The MPSI predoctoral/graduate training program prepares emerging scientists in interdisciplinary, translational, implementation, and/or community engaged research affecting children and families. The MPSI program complements training in the students' home disciplines. Doctoral degrees are granted through the graduate program in which students matriculate typically the Department of Psychology, School of Social Work, College of Education, College of Nursing, the Translational Neuroscience Program, or others, including the MPSI Dual-Title Infant Mental Health program.

Intensive Interdisciplinary Research Experience. The mentored MPSI graduate training capitalizes on MPSI's active interdisciplinary research and community engagement in Detroit. Faculty research involves infants, children and adolescents, and their parents/caregivers and families, addressing developmental, behavioral, social, biomedical, and environmental challenges. Following an apprenticeship model, graduate students work closely with one or more MPSI faculty members whose research reflects these wide-ranging interest in lifespan development and a committed urban mission. 

Expectations of MPSI Trainees:  In addition to the mentored research training experience, MPSI trainees are expected to maintain solid academic progress in graduate studies. MPSI training during the academic year includes participating in: 
  • Research Colloquia twice each month. National and local scientists present current research in child and family development.
  • Professional Development sessions twice each semester that focus on professional and research practice and skills (e.g., grant writing, public communication, etc.).
  • A monthly Training Forum with the program director and other faculty for wide-ranging discussions of current research, career choices and opportunities, trends in research policy, professional ethics and responsible conduct in research, translational and trans-disciplinary research, community outreach and engagement, and other issues outside traditional disciplines. 
  • The annual Lifespan Alliance Research Day, in collaboration with the Institute of Gerontology, where MPSI graduate trainees present research papers or posters to the University community.
  • Community outreach opportunities available through MPSI's Healthier Urban Families (HUF) or Infant Mental Health programs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Details on applying for MPSI's Predoctoral Training Program  or contact Training Director Julie Wargo Aikins, PhD, at 313-664-2547.

MPSI Fellows
A select group of advanced, post-master's graduate students are chosen each year to be MPSI Fellows. The Fellow designation is open to academically strong students currently enrolled in doctoral degree programs at WSU and actively involved in research on development, children and families in the laboratory of a MPSI or MPSI-affiliated faculty member. Fellows commit to participate fully in the training activities above, and to be actively engaged in productive relevant research. MPSI Fellow privileges include:

  • A supplemental stipend of $1,500 per semester
  • Additional funds to defray expenses to present research at an approved scientific meeting

MPSI Fellows also agree to:  

  • Produce one publication per year
  • Attend an approved national or regional science meeting annually
  • Participate actively in the MPSI Graduate Student Organization (GSO)
  • Participate in MPSI governance as a periodic representative to faculty meetings
  • Make at least one community presentation for Healthier Urban Families during the training
  • Submit a competitive NRSA or similar grant application

Infant Mental Health Dual Title Program
The Dual-Title Infant Mental Health training is a particularly unique MPSI graduate program operating in collaboration with the School of Social Work, the College of Education, and the College of Nursing. The MPSI graduate program prepares trainees for productive research, academic, and other careers in child and family development through intensive research experience and mentoring in interdisciplinary, implementation, and/or translational sciences.

For more info about our Infant Mental Health Dual-Title program CLICK HERE or contact or program director,
Ann M. Stacks, PhD, at 313- 664-2516 or