This application seeks support for a training program in immuno-engineering at Cornell University. This program supports the training of 4 pre-doctoral students who have begun their thesis research. The goal of this T32 training grant is to provide pre-doctoral students in engineering and immunology broad training in Immuno-engineering, from studying single molecules to whole animals, to improve the lives of patients. The unique aspect of this program is that training opportunities are available that enhance the interactions between engineers and immunologists, with a combination of 17 immunology and engineering faculty will serve as faculty Trainers. They represent a range of expertise including the innate immune response system, adaptive immune system, allergy, asthma, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, response to infectious agents, cell and tissue engineering, polymer chemistry, protein engineering, biomaterials, biocompatibility, drug delivery, molecular design, fluid dynamics, whole animal imaging, micro- nano-fabrication and technologies, and point-of-care technologies. Graduate students in their second year and beyond will be selected from several existing graduate Fields in engineering, for support starting in their third year. Selection will be based upon academic and research promise of the student, the quality and relevance of their thesis work to work in immuno-engineering, and aspirations to conduct independent research in this area. Engineering trainees can obtain a Graduate Minor degree in Immunology, and participate in several activities related to the training theme including: a unique immuno-engineering course, a unique clinical immersion experience, an immuno-engineering Journal Club; the Immunology & Infectious Disease Journal Club; the Seminars in Infection & Immunity and other related to bioengineering and immunology; ethics training; career development activities in collaboration with the Cornell BEST program and Cornell University Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching (CU-CIRTL), and relevant external conferences and courses. Selection of students and monitoring of their ongoing and postgraduate career progress will be overseen by an Executive Committee and Program-assigned mentor, their Special (or thesis) committee, and an External Advisory Board. Coupled with an exceptional tradition of dedication to training academic researchers this program will arm trainees with comprehensive training that will make them exceptionally well qualified to be leaders in the emerging area of immuno-engineering.
The translation of immunology into a technology has enormous promise across a comprehensive list of fundamental and translational immunology associated problems in a wide array of diseases including chronic and acute infections, autoimmune diseases, cancer, allergy, etc. Transforming this promise into reality will occur only if there are individuals who have had an interdisciplinary training in both areas. There is therefore an urgent need for engineers trained to understand the intricacies of immunology. However, to date, this training has been occurring in an ad hoc manner. This program will provide engineering trainees with a comprehension and appreciation of the important problems in immunology, and allow them to be able to apply engineering principles to develop approaches to improve human health.