This proposal requests support for the pre-doctoral Molecular Biophysics Training Program at Northwestern University. Over the past two decades, the training program has played a major role in strengthening intellectual ties and stimulating interdisciplinary collaborations between preceptors and students in eight departments in three schools including the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the Feinberg School of Medicine, and the McCormick School of Engineering. Program preceptors conduct biomedically-relevant research on a broad range of topics that fall into one or more of the following three categories including biochemistry, structural biology, and computational biology. A variety of fundamental biological questions exploring molecular phenomena that impact on gene expression, macromolecular machines, metal trafficking, networks, nucleic acid structure and function, protein and RNA folding and processing, protein structure and function, and intracellular signaling are being studied using physical approaches and/or principles. Crucial to the success of these endeavors is the ready availability of an extraordinary collection of state-of-the-art instrumentation in well-staffed research facilities. Students in the program thus have unparalleled opportunities to receive training in many areas of contemporary molecular biophysics. Potential student trainees enter the training program through one of seven graduate programs. The training program has established a core biophysics curriculum to be followed by all trainees, allowing students from diverse backgrounds to share a common didactic experience. Trainees participate in a variety of program-sponsored activities including the monthly Trainee Research Meeting, Biophysics Club, and Journal Club meetings, the annual Biophysics Symposium, and attend the monthly Biophysics Seminar Series as part of the program. Support for 6 trainees in their 2nd and 3rd years of graduate education is requested, since it would allow the training program to have the greatest impact on student career development as they complete required coursework, acquire the necessary skills to present their research, and learn to ask appropriate research questions as well as the means of answering those questions. Graduate training in biophysics allows students to acquire a quantitative foundation for studying biological processes relevant to a wide range of public health issues. Modern drug discovery relies on biophysical approaches and graduate students trained in this area will be well- positioned to further our knowledge of human diseases and devise effective strategies for intervention.
The overarching goal of this proposal is to train pre-doctoral graduate students of exceptional promise for scientific research careers in molecular biophysics, which is an area that combines principles and concepts from traditional fields in the natural sciences including biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. A strong quantitative foundation in molecular biophysics is essential for developing an understanding of the biological processes that underlie a wide range of public health issues;this in turn can inform and ultimately lead to effective strategies for mitigation. The training program will thus address an urgent and critical need for qualified research personnel in an area of vital importance to public health and ensure the country's continued competitiveness and leadership in this field.
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