In 2007, Chicago started the PhD granting Graduate Program in Biophysical Sciences (BPHYS) to provide training at the interface between the physical and biological sciences and promote interdisciplinary research. UChicago was awarded funding to develop a novel type of graduate program with dual mentorship by HHMI and the NIBIB, followed by an 8 slot NIBIB funded grant in 2009. Our trainers are drawn from the Physical and Biological Sciences Divisions (including clinical faculty) and the new Institute for Molecular Engineering. The Program directly admits and trains a select cadre of students with physical science backgrounds to act as the nucleus for a new generation of young scientists skilled in addressing topical biological problems using quantitative physical approaches. The Program has received considerable intellectual and financial support from all levels of the University. Specific Goals and Accomplishments include: -Establish a nationally recognized graduate program with a pool of superb students that enhances the quality of interdisciplinary research conducted at UChicago. -Introduce and test an innovative training program that is inherently interdisciplinary and collaborative. -Fill a student-recruiting gap by providing a program for students that want to explore the interfaces between the physical and biological sciences. -Train the scientists to be leaders of the future fields that evolve through interdisciplinary exploration. -Transform the way science is taught and disciplines are defined, first locally, and then as a national model of science training. -Fulfill the NIH's mandate of "Strengthening the Biomedical Research Workforce". The BPHYS program has established a cycle of success that has made it a prominent graduate program at UChicago. With the 2013 entering class, the Program will have 26 students and graduated 5 students. The program is designed to accommodate physical science students with limited backgrounds in biology. In the month prior to matriculation, trainees participate in a 4 week lab course. During the year, students continue with the lab course while taking regular graduate courses in physical and biological sciences. Each student is co-mentored, typically by faculty members from both the physical and biological sciences. Program specific and often student-run activities continue until graduation. Nearly all applicants state that they applied to UChicago only because of the BPHYS program, demonstrating the need and impact of the program. We have attracted outstanding students and many go on to garner prestigious fellowships. The current allotment of 8 training grant slots supports only 4 students per year. As a result, the admissions committee limits the number of offers even though highly suitable applicants are in our applicant pool. Consequently, we request 10 slots for the next grant cycle.
The Graduate Program in Biophysical Sciences is designed for students who wish to pursue broad careers in research relevant to human health and disease. The Program trains individuals to apply physical science research and computational tools to biomedical investigation. The funds also will contribute to public health by supporting innovative coursework and community building activities with the goal of improving the way science is taught, first locally, and then as a national model of science training for the national Biomedical Research Workforce.
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