This application requests five years of continued support for a well-established predoctoral training program in Immunology at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at the Tufts University Health Sciences Campus. The program seeks to prepare predoctoral students for careers engaged in research in academia or industry working on immunological aspects of disease. During the last grant period, our faculty helped create a unique training curriculum that provides students with basic research tools and deep insight into the clinical aspects of infectious disease. Clinical co-mentoring, the involvement of infectious disease physicians and contact with patients have helped Immunology trainees better understand the implications of research related to the host response to pathogens. Based on this positive experience we have created a parallel track in studies of inflammatory processes in disease. This unique curriculum is supported by a strong cadre of scientists and physician-scientists, included newly recruited faculty who focus on inflammatory disease. Our expanded program seeks support for 6 predoctoral trainees per year, who will be selected from a highly qualified pool of applicants based on demonstrated leadership skills, research experience, recommendations, coursework, interviews, and quantitative measures of competence. The training is designed to stimulate originality, curiosity and the use of rational reasoning to understand biological mechanisms and apply that knowledge to translational research. In keeping with current understanding of learning, classic lecture-based courses are being transitioned into interactive learning experiences. Course work provides the foundation for participatory courses: journal clubs, seminars and student research presentations. In addition, students attend relevant clinical rounds. Training in oral and written presentation of scientific ideas and data are also included. Thesis research, considered the core of the PhD training, is overseen by a thesis mentor and clinical co-mentor and a highly interactive Thesis Committee that meets with the student each semester. They assess progress and provide input and constructive criticism. Students routinely are expected to attend and present at national and international meetings and trainees are required to be first authors of peer-reviewed papers before defending their theses. These components of our program insure that students will be well-prepared for active scientific careers.
A primary goal of this program in immunology is to train predoctoral students to understand clinical aspects of infectious disease and inflammation while acquiring the basic research knowledge and tools they will need to discover diagnostic, preventative and treatment measures for disease through hypothesis-driven research. Programs that ensure that scientists understand the clinical implications of their research and facilitate the movement of scientific discoveries to the bedside are greatly needed in this country if the health of the American people is to be improved.
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