This proposal requests continued support for a Training Program in Genetics (GTP) that brings together researchers from six different Departments in the School of Medicine and College of Science at the University of Utah. The GTP has two complementary and interwoven overall goals: 1) to provide 15 outstanding predoctoral students engaged in genetics research with broad-based and foundational training that will prepare them with basic skills and intellectual rigor to take on future challenges as scientists, and 2) to maximize the potential of the entire genetics research community at the U of U by using the GTP to guide didactic and research training in genetics on campus, stimulate interactions and collaborations within the community, and build a diverse and ethical community of researchers. Trainee candidates enter graduate school through umbrella Graduate Programs that recruit and select promising students and provide support in their first year, during which Core courses are taken and students choose a research advisor. GTP trainees are selected early in their Second Year of training from students who have engaged in genetics research in one of 59 participating laboratories and have completed their preliminary exams. By engaging trainees at an early formative stage in their careers, and providing them with a challenging advanced curriculum in genetics and quantitative methods at a stage when they are educationally prepared and wholly engaged in genetics research, the GTP will deliver foundational training in genetics to receptive, highly motivated students. In addition, the GTP wil deliver truly interdisciplinary training that develops our trainees as critical thinkers, teachers,and mentors in genetics. In addition to its influence on the trainees, the GTP is a vibrant interdisciplinary program that provides cohesion and a platform for interactions among members of the genetics community, elevating the quality of genetics research and education throughout the community. Throughout the year, the GTP hosts research seminars, as well as a highly-anticipated, discussion-oriented series of faculty lectures whose purpose is to educate about emerging concepts in genetics. The GTP hosts an off-campus annual retreat where all trainees present their research; an internationally renowned geneticist gives an evening lecture; and a significant portion of our entire genetics community gathers to discuss research, give career advice, and mingle. The GTP makes preparation for trainee talks a pivotal teaching opportunity and, as a result, the talks are excellent, represent cutting edge work at Utah, and the retreat is very well attended. Finally the GTP assumes a vanguard role on campus: helping establish programs to recruit and educate students of diverse backgrounds and introducing new opportunities to develop our trainees' skills as critical and ethical thinkers and teachers. The programs tested and instituted in the GTP affect the design and operation of other TPs on campus.
Genetics is the study of how the information governing traits of an organism is decoded, how this information is stably passed on between generations, and how variant traits, including altered appearance, behaviors, birth defects, or disease states, arise. Studying the functions of genes, the control of their expression the effects of gene variation, give practical insights into how normal development and health are established and maintained, and how changes in gene function and expression contribute to congenital defects, aging, the origins of cancer, and the basis of many diseases. Our goal is to give outstanding young graduate school researchers a broad education in genetics, intensive training in the process of performing and evaluating research in a rigorous and ethical manner, and mentorship and support of their development as productive members of society who apply their training in genetics during their careers.
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