The past 5 years have witnessed a stunning convergence between basic and clinical visual science. Basic advances in optogenetics, transcriptomics, stem cell biology, viral transduction, angiogenesis, and imaging have all seen application in the clinical setting. The rationale for this program is that the ideal visual scientist of the future, today?s trainee, needs to have a multidisciplinary background so as to be well-versed in both basic science and clinical applications. The major aim 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 including the cornea and Schlemm?s canal; diseases and mechanisms of the retinal neurons and vasculature; and, processing by central retinal target areas including those mediating pupillary responses, accommodation, and circadian entrainment. This proposal leverages the existing multidisciplinary research base at Northwestern University by integrating labs into a cohesive unit for the purposes of training. The 16 preceptors offer research training in cell and molecular biology, neurobiology of the visual system, genetics, advanced microscopy, stem cell biology and organoid culture, diseases of the anterior and posterior eye, and evidenced based analysis of treatment outcomes and healthcare delivery. Funding to support 3 predoctoral candidates, after they have begun full time thesis research, and 1 postdoctoral trainee, 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. Pre- and post-docs are supported for up to two years contingent on research progress. The Director and Steering Committee evaluates and selects trainees from among the eligible pre- and post-docs. The training program also educates trainees 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 and David E. Shoch Chair of Ophthalmology and Physiology. In addition to research training, the program offers a curriculum that includes two formal courses on vascular biology and retinal circuits (pre-doc trainees must choose at least one), a 2 quarter presentation series entitled Advanced Topics in Vision, invited lectures by nationally known researchers, and a Research Day. The long- term objective is to educate trainees who will continue as independent, productive, and ethical investigators and 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 Multidisciplinary Vision Training Program equips highly motivated pre-doctoral 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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