The past 10 years have witnessed a stunning convergence between basic and clinical visual science. Basic advances in optogenetics, retinal array fabrication, stem cell biology, angiogenesis pathways, and microscopy have all seen rapid application in the clinical setting. The ideal visual scientist of the future, today's trainee, nees to have a multidisciplinary background so as to be well-versed in both basic science and clinical applications. The objective of the Northwestern University Multidisciplinary Vision Training Program is to prepare pre- and postdoctoral trainees for independent careers in vision research broadly defined to include diseases and functions of the anterior eye, diseases and processing mechanisms of the retina, and central processing. The rationale for this proposal is to capitalize on the existing multidisciplinary research base at Northwestern University by integrating labs into a cohesive unit for the purposes of training. The 20 preceptors offer research training in cel and molecular biology, genetics, neurobiology of the visual system, advanced microscopy, stem cells, diseases of the anterior and posterior eye, and evidenced based analysis of treatment outcomes and healthcare delivery. Funding to support 2 predoctoral candidates, after they have begun full time thesis research, and 2 postdoctoral trainees, in the early or middle stages of training, is requested. The predoctoral trainees are recruited on the basis of course performance, rotation evaluations, and relevance of the proposed dissertation research from the Northwestern University Integrated Neuroscience (NUIN) program, the Interdepartmental Biological Sciences (IBiS) program, the Driskill Graduate Program in Life Sciences (DGP), and the Biomedical Engineering (BME) Graduate Program. Predocs are supported for three years. Postdoctoral trainees are selected for support for two years based on research record and preceptor recommendation. A Steering Committee evaluates and selects trainees from among the eligible pre- and postdocs. The training program also educates students in the ethics of science and responsible conduct of research. Major emphasis is placed on recruiting trainees from under-represented minority groups to vision research. The program for each trainee is determined by the trainee, preceptor, and Steering Committee who formulate an individual development plan. The Program Director is Steven H. DeVries, MD, PhD, Professor of Ophthalmology and Physiology and the co-Director is Jianhua Cang, PhD, Associate Professor of Neurobiology. In addition to research training, the program offers a curriculum that includes two formal courses (mandatory for pre-docs), a biweekly presentation series on advanced topics in vision, multiple journal clubs, invited lectures by nationally known researchers, and a Research Day. It is expected that the trainees will continue as independent, productive, and ethical investigators who will address national priorities in vision research.
Eye diseases including glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy impose a high and increasing financial and personal burden on Americans, especially the elderly. The Northwestern University Vision Training Program equips highly motivated graduate and post-doctoral students with the skills necessary to perform research into the basic mechanisms of these diseases and to understand their effects on vision.
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