This is a competing renewal 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 more than 40 years. During this period the VSTP has trained nearly 140 scientists, a large portion who have gone on to distinguished careers in vision science. The Program covers the training of both predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows, and takes place in the laboratories of 14 faculty mentors. These vision scientists possess expertise in a wide range of disciplines and hold academic appointments in 13 departments at UCLA. Applicants for predoctoral fellowships first enter UCLA through one of several graduate programs, and they complete the curriculum associated with that program. After a year of rotations they join the laboratory of a VSTP mentor. Applicants for postdoctoral fellowships apply directly to the VSTP lab of interest. All trainees that are members of VSTP labs are invited to participate in the curricular offerings of this program. These offerings are collectively designed to provide experimental and conceptual training in vision science, as many of the trainees have no prior experience in vision science. All fellows are required to take Fundamentals of Vision Research, a quarter-long course organized and taught by VSTP members. Additionally fellows are integral members of the scientific environment at JSEI through attendance and participation in a number of events, including the weekly Vision Science Seminar Series, the Vision Science Journal Club, and the Annual Vision Science Retreat held in Lake Arrowhead. A particular focus of the VSTP for this grant period is the stronger integration of basic and clinical science. Several offerings will help bridge the gap between these two research focuses by facilitating interactions between the scientists and the clinicians, including the Annual UCLA Stein Eye Clinical and Research Seminar, Translational Grand Rounds, and a Basic-Clinical Science Exchange program. Such experiences will help trainees to place their research into the context of visual health and disease. A major addition to the VSTP will be a dedicated program focused on the postdoctoral trainees, to support their transition to independent investigators. An NRSA F32 Training Course will be offered to all postdoctoral fellows in VSTP labs to provide formal training in how to craft and submit an effective NIH research proposal. Given the interdisciplinary nature of vision research, the overall goal of the VSTP is to bring together faculty with a wide range of expertise (including anatomy, biochemistry, biophysics, chemistry, molecular biology, physiology, pharmacology, cell biology, and developmental biology) to provide interdisciplinary experimental and conceptual training to predoctoral and postdoctoral candidates seeking to develop careers in vision science. Continued funding of the VSTP will permit the 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 broad experience in the areas of stem-cell technology, gene delivery, biochemical pathogenesis, and functional analysis. 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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