Clinical Research Enhancement through Supplemental Training (CREST Program)

A career in clinical research increasingly requires high levels of preparation, training, and commitment similar to a career in laboratory-based research. While it is common for physicians/scientists to dedicate several years of focused effort to master the techniques and strategies required for productive careers in laboratory research, individuals embarking on a career in clinical investigation only recently have had a similar opportunity to develop their skills. This disparity is representative of the lack of structured training programs in clinical research. Recognizing this lack, the NIH has developed the K series of grants. These grants enhance development of investigators with specialized clinical and laboratory skills to use rigorous methods to address research questions with human populations. UCSD has incorporated these concepts in the design of the CREST program, under the direction of Ravindra Mehta, MD. The main features of the program design are as follows.

Integrated Design for State-of-the-Art Training

Three characteristics common to successful training, whether it be in clinical or laboratory research, are: 1) training in research methods applicable to the area of investigation, 2) application of these methods to a state-of-the-art research question, and 3) collaboration with more experienced investigators. Well-trained laboratory researchers benefit from all three training components.  Research mentors provide a laboratory environment for instruction in research methods, which the trainee uses in a specific project while also interacting with other investigators in the field. Similarly, experienced clinician investigators utilize the clinic or hospital as a “laboratory” for their research. It is more difficult for clinical researchers to control the “laboratory” environment and provide comprehensive training. We have designed the CREST program to integrate the three components described above. The program requires the scholar to have an independent research project, provides the didactic and practical training required in the methods of clinical research, and creates an environment for the scholar to learn from a multidisciplinary faculty who provide individualized guidance for career development.

Broad-based Curriculum Encompassing Major Areas of Clinical Research

As clinical research is often multidisciplinary and multifaceted, a curriculum for instruction should be representative of the different components of clinical research, as defined by the NIH. Taking this into account we have incorporated all major elements of clinical research in the design of the curriculum. The curriculum is designed with courses given over two years.  It is comprised of eight modules which cover the principles of epidemiology, biostatistics, patient-oriented research (two modules each), health services/outcomes research, and data management/informatics (one module each). We believe that the CREST scholar must not only have a strong basis in academic medicine, but must understand the bioscience/biotechnology to be an effective researcher. Consequently, we include professional development seminars that are offered throughout the two years and focused on key elements including grant writing, scientific communication, research management and time management.

Components of CREST Program Curriculum

CREST (Clinical Research Enhancement through Supplemental Training) program is targeted to researchers from all disciplines, particularly physicians enrolled in fellowship training or starting their academic career. The curriculum provides comprehensive coverage of all dimensions of clinical research while allowing scholars to spend the majority of their time in research and clinical activities.

Core Curriculum:

*Please note that “Core Courses” are offered twice a year but you only need to take them once! 

Epidemiology I (CLRE-251) – Winter or Summer – 2 units

Epidemiology II (CLRE-257) – Spring  or Fall – 2 units

Patient-Oriented Research I (CLRE-250) – Summer or Winter – 2 units

Patient-Oriented Research II (CLRE-256) – Fall or Spring – 2 units

Biostatistics I (CLRE-253) – Winter or Summer – 2 units

Biostatistics II (CLRE-254) – Spring  or Fall – 2 units

Health Services Research (CLRE-252) – Summer or Winter – 2 units

Data Management and Informatics (CLRE-255) – Fall or Spring – 2 units

Scientific Communication Skills (CLRE-259) – Winter – 2 units

CREST Certificate Electives: 

Professional Development Seminar Series (CLRE-258):

Group Coaching – Summer – 2 units

Personal Development Skills – Winter – 2 units

Project Management – Spring – 2 units

Research Budgeting and project management – Fall – 2 units  

All applicants must select one (2 unit) seminar from Professional Development Series above. 

Total units required for CREST Certificate = 20

Total Units Required for MAS Degree = 40

Details of the Master’s Degree program curriculum can be found at the MAS website

Each module is given over one academic quarter and is comprised of 10 weekly, 2-hour periods of instruction in the early evening. The format for instruction includes a combination of didactic lectures, group discussions, and hands-on computer-based training. Once-a-week evening classes allow the scholar to focus on his/her primary research and training project without disrupting clinical responsibilities during the major part of the work week. For individuals interested in completing the CREST curriculum in a shorter time period, a one year option is available. This requires both the first and second year courses be taken concurrently on two nights a week (Wednesday and Thursday)  e.g. year 1 course on Wednesday and year 2 course on Thursday. However, the sessions must begin with either the Winter session in January or Summer session in July.

Targeted Participants with Track System for Enrollment

The program is primarily directed towards postdoctoral candidates with a M.D. or Ph.D. degree interested in pursuing a career in clinical investigation or translational research. Potential applicants will have a primary research training focus either in basic science or in clinical research. Scholars are recruited from many departments and disciplines and range from graduate students working towards a Masters degree to individuals holding junior faculty appointments. Scholars differ in levels of prior training and experience in areas covered by the curriculum, in levels of commitment, and in interests. In order to accommodate the varying needs we have incorporated two mechanisms to permit flexibility while retaining the benefits of structured modular instruction. First, scholars spend the majority of their time working on their primary focus for training as a basic scientist or a clinician investigator. Second, scholars are able to select from two training tracks for participating in the CREST program to supplement their training. Participants are assessed on application to the program for their goals and needs for training in specific areas.

For those with more limited goals, Track I involves a smaller number of modules. For example, fellows whose interest and training focuses on laboratory research may elect to take only the modules involving biostatistics, career development, and ethical and regulatory issues. Those who pursue Track II commit to the entire eight-module, two-year curriculum. Taking all eight modules is equivalent to approximately 16 credits hours. Track II scholars have the option to enroll in the UCSD Masters of Advanced Studies in Clinical Research anytime during the first year of training and can apply the CREST curriculum credits towards the Masters degree.

Career Development

A key feature of the program is that it addresses the continuum of learning experienced by the scholar. In addition to the curriculum, each scholar who enrolls in the MAS program is required to have an individual research project supervised by his or her primary research mentor. In addition, each scholar is paired with a CREST faculty member, who serves as a mentor to assist with their individual research project as well a  providing career guidance. The CREST faculty interacts with the primary research mentor to ensure that scholars have the appropriate support and protected time to pursue their goals. In order to assign a CREST mentor to each applicant we require the applicant to complete a pre-course assessment form that provides information on content knowledge, needs and learning styles. These instruments are repeated at periodic intervals to track each applicant’s progress through the duration of the training program.


UCSD residents, fellows, faculty (including laboratory-based fellows) MUST apply through CREST and pay a discounted fee up to 20 credit units. If interested in earning the CREST certificate and/or transferring to the MAS degree program, you must apply for Track II; if interested in individual courses, you should apply for Track I. The cost for residents and fellows is $285 per unit ($570 per two-unit course) and for faculty it is $395 per unit ($790 per two-unit course). The fee covers the costs for lectures and course materials including books. The fee after completing 20 units and/or transferring to MAS program is $785 PER UNIT ($1570 per two-unit course)!

Non-UCSD folks (coming from industry or other academic institutions) must apply through MAS program and pay the regular course fee; i.e., $785 per unit ($1570 per two-unit course) plus the registration fee. Details of the Master’s Degree program and fees can be found at the MAS web site:


Start here to find information on admission requirements for the CREST Program as well as application procedures and application deadlines.Frequently Asked Questions:

Answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Clinical Research program, the students, how to apply, and general procedures.

Financial Matters:

Information on course fees can be found here.

Scholarship Opportunities:

Merit-Based Scholarship is Available to Incoming CREST Students.

Pace of Study:

View a sample course schedule and determine your pace of study.

CREST Program Admission Requirements

Applicants must read and understand the descriptions and objectives of the courses, review the course start and end dates, and review the overall program goals. Applicants must also agree to commit to attending at least 70% of the classes for each course, and completing the majority of the homework.

To apply for CREST (Clinical Research Enhancement through Supplemental Training), candidates will need to complete and submit the online CREST Program application.

The following must also be included: Required Supplemental Documents For All Applicants:

  • Statement of Purpose: please explain your specific research interests and goals, your individual strengths and what makes you a good candidate for this program, why you want to be in the program, and how it will assist you in achieving your career goals.
  • Three Letters of Recommendation:  recommendation letters must come from the recommender not the applicant. Choose recommenders who know your skills and abilities, and can speak to why you are a good candidate for the program.
  • Unofficial copies of academic records: if your educational background is not MD, a copy of all undergraduate and graduate courses work/transcripts must accompany your submission. You could upload it with your application or email it as attachment or fax to 858-534-9168
  • Current resume or C.V.

CREST Program Application Procedure

Upcoming Admissions/Application Deadlines:

Admission Term

Application Deadline

Classes Begin  
Summer Quarter 2019 April 30, 2019   June 2019
Winter Quarter 2020  September 30, 2019  January 2020 

*Track II scholars have the option to earn the Advanced Certificate in Clinical Research after completing 20 units of CREST Curriculum or transfer to the Masters of Advanced Studies in Clinical Research Degree Program.

*Track I scholars can apply at anytime but enrollment is based on space availability.  Track I scholars will be placed on a waiting list (first come-first serve) until administering Track II (the certificate/degree students).          

“Track System” to permits flexibility and accommodate the varying needs:

Track I:

  • Take only selected Courses.
  • Track I will be placed on a waiting list (first come-first serve) until administering Track II (the certificate/degree students). Enrollment is based on space availability. 

Track II:

  • Complete CREST curriculum and earn  Advanced Certificate in Clinical Research
  • Transfer to the  Masters of Advanced Studies in Clinical Research Degree Program during the first year of training and apply the CREST curriculum credits towards the Masters degree.
  • Could enter in (January) or summer (July) quarter.

Complete the Online Application

Your application will be reviewed by admission committee. After your application has been reviewed we will contact you. If you have any questions before then, please contact the CREST office (858-534-9163 or

For those who are interested in the Masters of Advanced Studies in Clinical Research degree after completing 20 units of CREST Curriculum, details can be found at

Supplemental documents should be emailed/faxed to:


Fax: 858-534-9168

Intended Audience

CREST is targeted to fellows, junior faculty, Pharm.D,  faculty members, and research associates interested in receiving supplemental training in clinical and translational research. We accept researchers from all disciplines, particularly physicians enrolled in fellowship training or starting their academic career.

CREST also accepts UCSD staff with prior experience in clinical medicine (e.g. clinical research nurses, research associates) as concurrent students.  

CREST Program Pace Of Study

Coursework can be completed in one to two years of study depending upon a participant’s time to devote to the program. Students could enter the program either in the winter (January) or summer (July) quarter.
*Please note that “Core Courses” are offered twice a year but you only need to take them once!

Core Courses (required) Course #
*Epidemiology I CLRE-251 2 X   X  
*Epidemiology II CLRE-257 2   X   X
*Patient-Oriented Research I CLRE-250 2 X   X  
*Patient-Oriented Research II CLRE-256 2   X   X
*Biostatistics I CLRE-253 2 X   X  
*Biostatistics II CLRE-254 2   X   X
*Health Services Research CLRE-252 2 X   X  
*Data Management/Informatics CLRE-255 2   X   X
*Scientific Comm. Skills CLRE-259 2   X   X
Professional Development Sem. Series-CLRE-258:
Group Coaching  CLRE-258 2 X      
Project Management   CLRE-258  2      
Personal Development   CLRE-258   2      X  
Research Budgeting CLRE-258   2        X

Select one additional elective form CLRE-258 series above for certificate.

CREST Program Format

Broad-based curriculum encompassing major areas of clinical research that:

    • Can be completed in 1-3 years;
    • Are comprised of nine modules which are:
      • Given over one academic quarter each
      • Each course is designed to be given over one academic quarter and is comprised of 10 weekly, 2-hour periods of instruction which are given in the early evening (4-6). The regularly scheduled core classes are typically held from 4-6 pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays at UCSD La Jolla Campus.
    • Seminar series complement the modules and are given on Tuesday evenings from 4-7 Pm. Applicants are required to take one (2unit) seminar from Professional Development Series.  

In order to accommodate the varying needs, we have incorporated a track system which permits flexibility while retaining structured modular instruction.

  • Track I
    • Will involve a limited number of modules and is only for those who are interested in attending selected modules; can apply anytime but enrollment is based on space availability.
  • Track II
    •  Will commit to the entire eight module, two-year curriculum and will have receive course credit towards Masters degree in Clinical Research.
  • Taking all CREST modules is equivalent to approximately 20 credit units which can be applied towards a  Masters degree in Clinical Research. Track II enrollees are required to elect if they plan to apply these credits towards the MAS degree after completing 14-16 credit units in the CREST program.
  • Total units required for MAS degree: 40

Scholarship Opportunities

Merit-Based Scholarship is Available 
to Incoming CREST Students:

The CTRI is pleased to offer merit scholarships for incoming CREST students starting summer quarter 2016. Your work experience, research experience and overall admissions profile can qualify you to receive financial assistance to help offset the cost of your CREST Advanced Certificate.  CTRI will offer these awards each year at the summer and winter admission cycles that cover up to 50% of tuition expenses per recipient.

To apply for the award, please send a detailed description of your career and personal accomplishments, and why you feel you are deserving of such an award. This can include academic successes, professional successes, and personal achievements and stories. Please include information about how you plan to use the certificate to further your career, and share what you would like to be doing in five years. (Max 500 words – one page).
Include any and all materials that support your case. Be specific and persuasive in your document. The committee will be inclined to give awards to those applicants who best communicate their merits, accomplishments and future plans.

Please submit your application to be considered for a scholarship with a cover letter and supporting documents to Seble Chernet at

$$ Apply & Get Nominated $$

The deadline for submission is April 30th for summer quarter and September 30th for winter quarter .

Contact CREST Office:
Tel: 858-534-9163
Fax: 858-534-9168
Contact MAS Office:
Contact MAS Office:
Tel: 858-534-9164
Fax: 858-534-9168
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