This application requests continuing support for a successful interdisciplinary program in Cellular and Molecular Biology at Washington University in St. Louis. The mission of the program is to provide interdisciplinary training to graduate students from four distinct yet related fields of cell and molecular biology (Developmental Biology, Genetics, Cell Biology, and Microbiology). Our program is highly integrated and introduces students to the core concepts and methods of cell and molecular biology. It has an organizational structure specifically designed to foster student and faculty interactions that span programmatic and departmental boundaries, to maintain effective communication and cooperation among the faculty and steering committees of four individual doctoral programs, and to oversee a centralized admissions process. In this renewal, we are implementing three training grant-specific activities to foster a group identity among training grant-supported students: a student-hosted research seminar, a series of sponsored lunches for first- and second-year students, and a set of first-year student talks. We identify students for support based on eight parameters and support them for their first three years because this is when they are most involved in the unifying didactic components of the program. In addition, by supporting students in their first year, we supplement university funds and are able to matriculate more students than would otherwise be possible. We have successfully continued our efforts at recruiting students from under-represented groups in science and disadvantaged backgrounds, and are expanding these efforts to include students with disabilities. The Cellular and Molecular Biology Training Grant itself serves as a powerful unifying force that interconnects students and faculty from all four programs around the shared responsibility of graduate training. And, our graduate training program seeks to enable our students to pursue careers at the vanguard of scientific research and education by helping them to establish a broad-based scientific foundation of knowledge and network of colleagues as they initiate their scientific career.
Most human diseases arise due to disruptions in basic cellular and molecular processes caused by mutations in one's own DNA or the presence of a pathogen in one's body. Our program trains students in the core concepts and methods of cell and molecular biology, and thus provides them with the knowledge and skills required to identify the molecular basis of, and develop more effective treatments for, human disease.
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