This is a renewal submission of the Training Program in Molecular Imaging (TPMI), which supports 6 pre-doctoral trainees. Molecular imaging is a highly interdisciplinary research field, involving scientists from the biological, engineering, physical and medical sciences. Over the last four years, the NIBIB-funded program has provided direct support for 24 first- to third-year graduate students and, through matching funds, it has provided indirect support for an additional 12 graduate students. The heart of the Program is the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Group, a cross-disciplinary program spanning 25 departments that administers the Ph.D. degree. Two graduate tracks, biomedical imaging and cell &molecular systems engineering, are combined to create this training program. The TPMI includes didactic and experiential components led by faculty who are developing state-of-the-art instrumentation and chemistries, or applying these new methods to solve important biological and medical problems. The didactic program includes core courses spanning biology, mathematics and instrumentation, and many elective courses covering each molecular imaging modality, as well as cellular biology and receptor-ligand interactions. A unique hands-on molecular imaging laboratory, using the Center for Molecular and Genomic Imaging, facilitates exploration of the resolution, contrast and sensitivity of each imaging modality. Students also take a discipline-specific research ethics course, attend an international molecular imaging meeting, choose between two weekly molecular imaging journal clubs, and attend a yearly retreat. Research training occurs through Participation in one of our extraordinarily collaborative research laboratories, and completing molecular imaging projects linked with industry, clinicians or regenerative medicine laboratories. In the next 5 years, the TPMI will expand our visibility and recruitment efforts, enhance our links with the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Sciences Center, and add a TPMI-specific research retreat. The relatively new molecular imaging program at UC Davis has successfully produced leaders in academics and industry. Trainers and trainees are chosen and evaluated annually by a 5-member Executive Committee that ensures an effective research and training effort. Assessment criteria for participating trainers include publication records, grant support, record of student training, and emphasis on molecular imaging projects within a quantitative and multidisciplinary collaborative context. We collect feedback from all former trainees to guide us in improving all aspects of our program.
Research conducted by our trainees in the rapidly growing field of in vivo molecular imaging will advance the field by developing strategies for non-invasively imaging gene and protein targets, with the goals of better understanding disease initiation and progression and accelerating the translation of basic knowledge into new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches in the clinic. We will train a new generation of scientists to detect disease and guide treatments using nuclear medicine, ultrasound, MRI, and optical imaging.
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