The Molecular Biophysics Training Grant has nucleated the biophysics community on the UCSD campus for the past 15 years. Our primary goal is to provide a rigorous, dynamic, and strongly interdisciplinary training program for graduate students from the departments of Chemistry/Biochemistry and Physics. Broad research opportunities are provided by 47 training faculty from Chemistry and Biochemistry (30) and Physics (4) as well as from Biology (3) Pharmacology (2), Nanoengineering (1), and from the new Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (SSPPS) (7). Over the past granting period alone we have recruited 17 new molecular biophysics faculty to UCSD who are now participants in our MBTG program. These faculty strengthen our existing expertise and also bring new disciplines central to our training mission such as cryo electron microscopy, biophysical imaging, and theoretical physics. The MBTG also provides an immediate academic home for these new faculty that extends beyond the boundaries of their home department/school. Trainees are typically supported for two years, beginning in their second year after completing rotations in at least three laboratories. The trainees complete a rigorous core curriculum designed to expose them to biophysical treatment of protein/nucleic acid structure and function, quantitative methods, current research topics in biochemistry/biophysics, and cell biology. Highlights of the program include monthly meetings where students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty meet to hear students discuss their research. This has evolved into a highly interactive discussion, a catalyst for future collaborative interactions, and a self-identified home for molecular biophysicists across the campus. We also have periodic retreats where all students present posters and where we typically feature new faculty as speakers. Prominent national/international seminar speakers are also invited and hosted by the students. The Steering Committee also hosts an annual luncheon at the end of spring quarter to introduce the new appointees, to hear progress of trainees and to discuss programmatic goals. The MBTG also sponsors student travel to scientific meetings. Additional activities include attendance at workshops that provide hands on experience in instrumentation and participation in international workshops and training programs. The Steering Committee is comprised of the Co-PI's S. Taylor and J.A. McCammon as well as T. Handel (SSPPS), J. Onuchic (Physics), and J. Kim (Chem/Biochem). E. Komives (Chem/Biochem) is our representative for recruitment and mentoring of underrepresented minorities. Over this next granting period UCSD will give us 4 additional Diversity Fellowships per year to augment our training grant depending on the number of fellowships awarded. We also plan to establish a Specialization in Molecular Biophysics/Structural Biology so that students can designate their affiliation with this program on their degree. Two Molecular Biophysics Scholars will also be chosen upon admission. This will serve as a recruitment tool, and these students will receive a bonus stipend and will have top priority for funding in year 2.
A major goal of our Molecular Biophysics Training Grant is to train and attract students from diverse backgrounds and expose them to molecular biophysics research and to interdisciplinary thinking. Our highly interdisciplinary program spans theoretical and experimental biophysics and nucleates a campus wide community of molecular biophysicists who come from five different departments plus the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
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