We propose to continue our 20-year NICHD T32 Program within the outstanding environment built under the Vanderbilt Program in Developmental Biology (VUPDB). Balancing demand for slots with faculty preceptor numbers, we request six slots, as current. T32 awards are standardly two years after a first year of core courses and lab rotations, but mandated training continues past the two-year period. VUPDB and thus this T32 cover basic and clinical programs in a physically compact site creating harmonious interactions and extensive collaboration. Strengths are: (1) growth in new technologies affecting developmental biology; (2) easy faculty-trainee access; (2) trainee and advisory committee feedback; (3) trainee-specific activities (selecting visiting scientists, designing research forums and annual retreat, advanced teaching in faculty- directed courses, student/postdoc-designed RCR courses, self-driven research-in-construction); (4) excellent record of recruiting and placing trainees in academia, industry, or teaching. Guidance feedback is internal from all levels, and by twice-per-cycle activity of an advisory committee. We pay excellent attention to URM/disadvantaged groups, with specific mechanisms to shore up background knowledge and provide dedicated faculty mentoring and peer-to-peer student advice. Institutional support includes funding first-year students via an Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP); (b) support funds to VUPDB for support functions that otherwise would not exist but are key to this T32?s success. A carefully designed suite of didactic and less formal courses and activities immerses trainees in new technology application to biological processes, such as: mass spectrometry/cytometry; flow cytometry; super-resolution and other types of microscopy (including a new Nikon Center of Excellence); NMR imaging; bioinformatics, biostatistics and computational/systems biology, with a growing emphasis on single-cell analysis, epigenetic guidance and gene-regulatory networks, and new cell-biological principles such as intracellular phase-separation. Studies encompass embryonic patterning, organogenesis, physiological regulation, reproduction and aging, induced pluripotency, transdifferentiation and regeneration, metaplasia and cancer. Trainees experience multi-PI and small team-oriented efforts. Courses, lab teaching, and seminar speakers emphasize how developmental biology also generates core insight into cell biology, biochemistry, and evolution. We leverage various model systems based on a foundation of expertise in yeast, nematode worms, fruitflies, zebrafish, chicken, and mouse. The Biomedical Research Education and training (BRET) office co-ordinates RCR, enhancement of rigor in research, and workshops on various career tracks.
We aim to produce trainees widely versed in classical and forefront ?developmental? concepts directly relevant to human health and disease, but also trained in comparative analyses and process/theme-based discovery. Our introductory mandated Boot Camp provides trainees an unusually strong and explicit connection to human disease and birth defects.
The broad discipline of Developmental Biology has undergone massive alterations over the last few years to include whole-genome level analyses, high-resolution imaging (including real-time on live tissue), and sophisticated genetic techniques, to allow study of behavior and differentiation of single or groups of cells, and in normal or gene-mutated conditions. Developmental Biological studies lead to massive insights into human congenital syndromes, cellular deficits that result in defective organogenesis or specific physiological or homeostatic problems, and how mature cells in the body are destabilized in cancer. This training program selects high quality students from diverse backgrounds, brings them up to speed in the battery of new techniques that can now be applied, and provides them with direct clinical and translational connections to their research, including the skills to move into higher positions doing research directly relevant to human biology and disease, or to move into industrial or teaching positions.
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