We propose to continue a broad, interdisciplinary Vision Training Program now in its 35th year. The program includes 27 trainers in 8 departments across 4 schools and spans many areas: photo transduction (biophysics, molecular biology);retina (circuitry, computation, neurochemistry developmental genetics);eye (cataract, myopia, tears);central pathways (physiology, computation);higher processes (psychophysics, cognitive neuroscience, computation);retinal diseases and new genetic therapeutics. The purpose the Vision Training Program is to promote intellectual development of outstanding graduate students interested in the visual sciences so that they may ultimately become leaders in their chosen disciplines. Predoctoral students are selected for their excellence by a centralized office of Biomedical Graduate Studies and join a particular "graduate group", mainly Neuroscience, Bioengineering and Psychology. On Penn's compact campus, graduate education is organized across departments and schools in order to foster multidisciplinary training and collaborative research. Students are trained broadly during their first two years and are attracted specifically to vision research by: (1) formal lectures and laboratory training, (2) weekly lunchtime seminars with research talks by a mix of intramural and external speakers, (3) research rotations in three different laboratories (each followed by a public talk), (4) an annual research retreat with student talks and scholar in residence program. At this point, all students are exposed to modern research methods (patch clamp, molecular biology, genetics, computation, etc...). Collectively, the relevant graduate groups admit about 260 students annually, and of these, about 40 rotate through vision labs. Currently, about 35 are doing their theses in vision labs and of these, 31 are eligible for support by the Vision Training Program. In the past 10 years, the Vision Training Program has trained or is training 21 PhD/MD or PhDs. Most have continued training in excellent labs and many have subsequently assumed positions at prominent research institutions. Through our graduates, the impact of our training program has been widespread, adding significantly to our understanding of vision in health and disease. Plans for the immediate future include continuing with our excellent active across campus program and expand the various activities including a new broad course in vision science. Based on continued interest in vision and significant growth of our faculty, we request continued support for 6 predoctoral students per year.
This Predoctoral Training Program includes education and research opportunities in the field of Vision Research to identify and ameliorate dysfunctional and disease conditions of the eye and the visual system, as well as to understand the molecular, physiological and cognitive aspects of visual function.
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