This application is a request for a 5-year renewal of support for the Predoctoral Training Program in Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine. The Department of Molecular and Human Genetics follows three principles that guide the pursuit of innovative biomedicine at Baylor College of Medicine: Research, Education and Service. The mission of this program is to train graduate students in the fundamentals of classical and modern genetics and in applying these principles to innovation in biological medicine. Our objectives are to provide students with rigorous and methodical training in genetics while emphasizing research and academic excellence, and to help them become leaders among the next generation of biomedical scientists. There are currently 75 predoctoral students in the program and we expect that 12-16 new students will initiate their graduate work in the department each year. The number of faculty mentors is 66 and they pursue research projects that span a wide range of interests, including human genetics, genomics, and the molecular basis of human diseases, animal models of human diseases, microbial genetics, development, neurobiology, genome stability, and DNA replication. The common theme of these varied topics is the interest in genetics and the application of the findings to human health. Students who enter the program spend the first year of their training taking courses and doing laboratory rotations. The courses provide students with sufficient background to design and analyze the results of genetic-based experiments and the rotations provide individualized research experiences. The students also participate in specialized training in the responsible conduct of research and in ethical aspects of human genetics in the genomic era. In the second year, students take a qualifying examination that tests their ability to integrate knowledge from courses and from the literature and to design an experimental research project. They then join a research laboratory in which they carry out a research project under the supervision of one of the faculty mentors. In addition to training in experimental work, students learn how to analyze their data and write papers describing their work, and how to participate in the scientific process in a collegial and constructive way. The thesis project culminates in the preparation and defense of a thesis dissertation. The average time to a PhD degree in the program is 5.8 years and the average number of publications is 5.5 per student, with 2.2 first-author papers on average. The current number of training positions on this grant is 8 and we are asking to increase it to 12 in order to increase the number and the diversity of our trainees, to match the increasing number of training faculty, and to match the national average among genetics training programs.
This program trains a new generation of students in research topics that are directly related to human health, physiology and disease. Training the next generation of geneticists in these subjects is essential for the continued development of health care in the US and throughout the world.
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