This is a resubmission of a competing renewal application for an NRSA Research Training Grant (T32- EY007026). The Vision Science Training Program (VSTP) has its home in the Jules Stein Eye Institute (JSEI), University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine, and has been continuously active for 35 years. The Program covers the training of both Pre-doctoral and Post- doctoral Fellows. Training takes place in the laboratories of 20 faculty mentors who work at JSEI. These vision scientists possess expertise in a wide range of disciplines and hold academic appointments in 15 departments at UCLA. Applicants for Pre-doctoral Fellowships must first gain acceptance to one of the accredited graduate programs at UCLA. The majority of Pre-doctoral Fellows are recruited from the ACCESS umbrella program. Accordingly, the VSTP has established formal ties with ACCESS. VSTP faculty is playing a larger role in the recruitment and selection of ACCESS applicants. Applicants for Post-doctoral fellowships are recruited directly by VSTP faculty members. The VSTP curriculum is comprised of several components. For Pre-doctoral Fellows, it includes the first- and second-year curriculum of the degree-granting graduate program. Pre-doctoral and Post-doctoral Fellows in the VSTP are required to take Fundamentals of Vision Research, a quarter-long course organized and taught by members of the VSTP faculty. This course provides trainees with an overview of vision science and an understanding of the important unanswered questions in vision research. Another offering of the VSTP is Career Development, which covers issues such as career trajectories, scientific writing, grantsmanship, and laboratory management, from a vision-science perspective. Still another VSTP course offering is Fundamentals of Clinical Ophthalmology, which provides Pre-doctoral and Post-doctoral fellows with an overview of ophthalmologic diseases, current diagnostic tools, and accepted treatments. This course is to encourage VSTP Fellows in the direction of translational research. Other teaching offerings of the VSTP include a Vision Science Seminar Series, a Vision Science Journal Club, a Stem Cell Works-in- Progress Meeting, the JSEI Annual Clinical and Research Seminar, and the Annual Vision Science Retreat. With regards to diversity, the VSTP benefits from the highly effective and institution-wide commitment to the recruitment of under-represented minorities at UCLA. VSTP faculty members participate directly in these recruiting efforts. Pre- and Post-doctoral Fellows in the VSTP are required to take the course M234 on Ethics and Accountability in Biomedical Research, in addition to the mini-course on scientific ethics offered during the JSEI Vision Science Annual Retreat. The VSTP has been highly successful at recruiting and retaining Pre-doctoral and Post-doctoral Fellows. In fact, we have had more qualified Pre-doctoral and Post-doctoral applicants than positions every year since the last competing renewal. Continued funding of this application will permit JSEI to carry on its critical mission of training the next generation of first-rate basic and clinical vision scientists.
Vision science is entering a phase where many 'untreatable'blinding diseases will become amenable to treatment, given further research. However, the development of breakthrough therapies will require a new generation of vision scientists with experience in the areas of stem-cell technology, gene delivery, and biochemical pathogenesis. The Vision Science Training Program at Jules Stein Eye Institute, with its world-class faculty and outstanding facilities, seeks to continue training leaders in the field of vision science.
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