This proposal is a competitive renewal of a long-standing, successful predoctoral training program whose objective is to broadly train high quality research scientists in basic genetic approaches to the study of biology at the molecular, cellular, organismal, and population level. Funds are requested to increase the number of supported trainees from six to eight each year, reflecting a substantial increase in the number of training grant eligible students. Students in the training program are rigorously trained in cutting-edge genetic and biochemical research and data analysis through laboratory research, general and specialized courses, and attendance at seminars. In addition, they gain written and oral communication skills through qualifying examinations; presentations in an annual seminar class, at lab meetings, and in journal clubs; attendance at national and international meetings; and preparation of manuscripts for publication. Students obtain teaching experience through a requirement to serve as teaching assistants in undergraduate introductory genetics or evolutionary biology for at least one semester, usually in their second or third year. Students enter graduate school through the recently- expanded Integrated Life Sciences (ILS) umbrella program, which is the primary entry mechanism for students who will enter the Graduate Training Program. During their first semester, students complete three six-week laboratory research rotations where they commit significant effort. This is facilitated by non-teaching fellowships provided by the University of Georgia and a moderate course load during the first semester. Students in the Genetics Graduate Training Program (GTP) are required to first take a gateway course that is designed both to provide broad training in genetics and to build a solid foundation of genetics knowledge and understanding. In addition, they receive formal quantitative training and participate in a student seminar course each semester they are in the GTP. At least two additional formal courses are taken from any combination of the three broad areas of molecular genetics, genomics, and population genetics. The unusual breadth of genetics that students are exposed to throughout their training is a major strength of the program. At the end of their first semester, students choose an advisor with whom they will do their dissertation research. There are currently 42 training faculty across eleven academic units who represent a very wide range of genetic disciplines. To ensure that students complete degree requirements in a timely manner, progress is closely monitored by the Graduate Affairs Committee and by students' dissertation committees. Graduates from this training program over the past 40 years have been highly successful in careers in academia, government, and industry. The training program is dynamic and will continue to produce broadly trained leaders in genetics as it embraces the exciting genetic developments of the 21st Century.
This project provides funds to annually support eight Ph.D. students in the field of genetics. It will considerably strengthen the entire Genetics Graduate Training Program at its host institution, the University of Georgia. It will also contribute to public health in the U.S. by helping train scientists with an exceptionally broad background that includes molecular, population, and genomic approaches to genetics.
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