The Immunology Training Program (ITP) has been preparing outstanding scientists for careers in immunology since 1984. The program supports students at the pre-doctoral and post-doctoral/MD fellow levels. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) provides a rich training environment with substantial institutional commitment. Dedicated, well-funded faculty from multiple departments provide students a rich educational and research experience. In addition, we have developed a successful collaboration with a minority serving institution (MSI) to train minority Master degree students. This program at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University (NCAT) differs from other minority initiatives in that it focuses primarily on students who would not be competitive for PhD programs without additional experience. Our goal is to help them matriculate into PhD programs, or for them to maintain science-related careers. Predoctoral students a t U N C apply through the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program (BBSP), an admissions portal/first year program for 16 degree-granting departments/curricula in the School of Medicine, Biology and the biological division of Chemistry in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and the Divisions of Chemical Biology & Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmaceutics in the School of Pharmacy. A very strong Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) also brings in 8-9 students per year. The BBSP program oversees recruitment and training of first- year graduate students (PhD and MD/PhD) in the biomedical sciences. Students joining laboratories of ITP preceptors are named to the program late in their 2nd year (after completing their written qualifying exam) for a 2 year training term. The immunology training faculty have a strong track record in training post-doctoral fellows. This program focuses on career development; customizing training to prepare for diverse careers. The program is strongly supported by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, a nationally-recognized postdoctoral initiative that provides career and professional development programs. In addition, the ITP supports a Career Options Seminar series with speakers from diverse career paths who advise trainees about careers. Our most recent efforts (2005) involve partnering with NCAT to support promising Masters level UR students in a program geared toward matriculation into PhD programs, or other professional schools. This program supports students who would otherwise need to work while obtaining their Masters degree. The ITP also advises NCAT faculty on enrichment programs and courses that would enhance their MS experience, including MS student participation in the UNC PREP courses designed to prepare minority students for application to graduate school. Thus, the overal ITP is multi-tiered providing training at the MS, PhD, and post-doctoral/MD fellow level with special emphesis on improving opportunities for minority students in biomedical science programs and preparing all students for diverse careers. The program also brings together MD and PhD faculty from different departments to enhance the experience of our trainees.
Infectious diseases remain the largest cause of global mortality, providing compelling justification for studies aimed at understanding the immune response, and for developing knowledge that will lead to better ways of preventing and treating infectious diseases. Rates of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as type I diabetes, asthma, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disorders and systemic lupus erythematosus continue to increase nationally, yet our understanding of autoimmune disease and immune function in high impact diseases such as metabolic disorders and cancer remains incomplete. Pre-docs and post-doctoral/MD fellows who complete training in the Immunology Program will acquired an in-depth knowledge of how the immune system functions and its dysfunction in disease. The wide-range of expertise of our faculty in infectious diseases, inflammation, autoimmune disorders, immunotherapy and cancer immunology provide diverse background in immunologically related topics to train future scientists in preventing and treating infectious and immune-related diseases.
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