Reverse engineering the brain is one of the greatest scientific and engineering challenges of our time, and will depend on numerous breakthroughs in the technology for studying the brain. Achieving these breakthroughs will require training successive generations of neurotechnology experts who are highly knowledgeable and adept in both neurobiological and engineering fields. Recognizing this, the interim report of the NIH BRAIN Initiative advisory panel recommended that training be a key component of how innovative neurotechnologies are established and disseminated. Here we propose to create a new Neurobiological Engineering Training Program (NBETP) which addresses the need for advanced, state-of-the-art predoctoral training in neurotechnology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The objective of the program is to educate a set of high quality students, who will emerge from the NBETP with outstanding expertise and leadership ability at the intersection of basic neuroscience and engineering. These students will be selected from existing MIT graduate programs according to their interests and research potential, as well as diversity criteria. They will be given a grounding via coursework and training in the responsible conduct of research. They will also be offered opportunities to lead activities and network with faculty and other students at the top of their field. Students admitted into the program will be in or entering their second year of graduate school, when they are just beginning to specialize and choose a research project, and they will be supported for two years each. MIT's NBETP will be characterized by two salient and innovative features. The first is its extreme multidisciplinarity, reflected in the breadth of faculty involved in the initiative. The program will extend in particulr to newer engineering fields, such as bioengineering and materials science, which will be central to the development of next generation neurotechnologies, but which are omitted from more classical conceptions of neuroengineering. A second hallmark of the NBETP will be its primary focus on technology development for basic neuroscientific research, as well as extensions to medical applications. This feature specifically addresses the currently pressing need to foster the development of tools for understanding brain function. As a first-of-its kind program, the NBETP will directly benefit students and faculty engaged in neurotechnology research at MIT. The program will serve as a powerful catalyst to interactions across departments and disciplines at MIT, and will produce highly trained graduates positioned to have global impact on academic, industrial, and clinical research throughout the country.
The mission of the NBETP is to train early-mid stage graduate students to become future leaders at the interface between neurobiology and engineering, a frontier highlighted by the Federal BRAIN Initiative and critical in the ongoing quest to understand the brain and its diseases. Training in neurobiological engineering will be accomplished via a blend of course requirements in neuroscience and engineering, as well as community-associated events that encourage student participation and leadership.
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