The CLIMB Program was established in 2007 as a supplemental professional development program to create a diverse community of young scientists from Northwestern’s five PhD life sciences programs.  The program was the inspiration of Dr. Margarita Dubocovich, Professor of Molecular Pharmacology and Biological Chemistry.  It was launched with support of a grant from the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), one of the institutes within the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Dr. Dubocovich left Northwestern in 2009 and she has since replicated CLIMB at the University of Buffalo.  CLIMB has continued to grow and refine itself since 2009 under the new leadership of Dr. Rick McGee.


The Mission of the CLIMB Program is to guide a diverse group of bioscience PhD students at Northwestern University to develop advanced skills for collaborating, communicating, and conducting research across disciplines, and accelerate their professional development. This is accomplished through a two-year professional development sequence to complement their training in their primary PhD programs.


The CLIMB Program is predicated on the vision that the future of science rests with those who are most adept at understanding and communicating with others across diverse scientific, academic, and cultural domains.


Within the CLIMB Program, mentoring is integrated across structured group mentoring (led by the CLIMB leadership), peer mentoring (building an early network of professional colleagues) and traditional mentoring by primary disciplinary research mentors.


The CLIMB Program is partially funded by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, as well as contributions from Northwestern’s The Graduate School and Feinberg School of Medicine. The NIGMS grant is from the IMSD (Initiative to Maximize Student Development) program (grant number 5R25GM79300). Up to six students per year are funded for their first two years of PhD training by our IMSD grant.

CLIMB Students

Each year, students beginning one of Northwestern’s five bioscience PhD programs (BME, ChBE, IBiS, IGP, and NUIN) are invited to join CLIMB. This peer group purposefully brings together students committed to collaboration and interdisciplinary science. The group is enriched with individuals from groups traditionally underrepresented in the biosciences to increase the opportunity for their perspectives and experiences to be brought to the group. View a roster of the current CLIMB students.

Theory, research and Practice

The activities and interventions that we provide for students is based upon integrating current theories, research and practices in student career development. To learn more about our other activities to better understand how students develop in their careers, please visit our website for our Scientific Careers Research and Development Group.


CLIMB and all of its activities are led by Rick McGee and Steve Lee. Leading academic scientists in the Northwestern University bioscience PhD programs also provide expertise.

rick mcgee

Program Director: Rick McGee, PhD
Associate Dean for Faculty Recruitment and Professional Development
Contact: r-mcgee@northwestern.edu or 312-503-1737
Office: Rubloff 6-647

Assistant Director: Stephanie Valtierra, PhD
Contact: stephanie.valtierra@northwestern.edu or 312-503-8286
Office: Rubloff 6-644

karl keller

Communication Specialist: Karl Keller
Contact: karl-keller@northwestern.edu or 847-769-6496
Office: Rubloff 12-156

denise drane

Program Evalutor: Denise Drane, PhD
Associate Director, Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching
Contact: d-drane@northwestern.edu or 847-491-2628
Office: 627 Dartmouth Place


Co-Investigator: Greg Light, PhD
Director, Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching
Contact: g-light@northwestern.edu or 847-467-2338
Office: 627 Dartmouth Place