Infectious diseases remain the leading cause worldwide of morbidity and mortality. In the face of climate change, antibiotic resistance, mass population migrations, and immunodeficiency syndromes, emerging infections present an ever-increasing threat to human health. These stark facts make the need for training future generations of researchers in this field particularly urgent.
The objective of the training grant in Immunology and Infectious Diseases is to produce outstanding independent biomedical scientists who investigate the immune response to infectious agents and microbial pathogenesis, and understand both the basic science and clinical manifestations of infectious processes. While the program is still young, it has established a strong track record of training and mentoring in an interdisciplinary environment that fosters collaborations between basic science and clinical faculty. A significant change since the initial award of this grant is the inception of the Vermont Center for Immunology and infectious Diseases (VCIID), funded by a Center of Biomedical Research Excellent (COBRE) grant from NCRR and strong institutional support. This has permitted the expansion of the University of Vermont training faculty from 7 to 12, due to a new alliance between the Immunobiology Program and the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. The new VCIID provides a vibrant and rigorous training atmosphere for predoctoral trainees as mentoring is a central component of the COBRE program. Training is mentor-based, but is enriched by VCIID joint Research-in-Progress meetings, journals clubs, retreats, seminar series with outside speakers, didactic courses in advanced immunology, microbiology, and laboratory techniques, grant and manuscript writing, and survival skills needed to excel in modern academia. Trainees will also have several venues at which to present their research, as well as the opportunity to attend national meetings. The participating faculty have been chosen on the basis of their research productivity, training record, significant grant support, collegiality, and commitment to serve as mentors. Five of the training faculty are physician-scientists who will provide a clinical perspective to the training environment. The research focus areas of the program include pathogenesis of infections by parasites, RNA viruses, bacteria, as well as cellular and signal pathways of innate and adaptive immunity. Trainee progress will be carefully monitored and evaluated by the mentor(s), the Program Director, and the Executive Committee. The overall program will be regularly evaluated by a Scientific Advisory Committee.
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