This is a renewal application for training grant support for the Predoctoral Genetics Training Program at the University of Pennsylvania. The goal of the program is to provide broad-based training in cell and molecular biology and in-depth training in genetics in order to prepare young scientists for cutting-edge genetics research and careers in academia, private industry or government. The program brings together faculty from 15 different departments at the Schools of Medicine and Arts and Sciences, as well as the Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania. The combination of a research- oriented medical school and a strong university base provides an excellent environment for graduate education. The program obtains substantial financial support from Biomedical Graduate Studies, an institutional organization that coordinates student recruitment and oversight for many graduate groups. The Genetics and Gene Regulation (GGR) Program is part of the Cell and Molecular Biology Graduate Group, a multidisciplinary Graduate Group that administers the broad core curriculum for our predoctoral trainees. Within the CAMB framework, the GGR Program offers advanced coursework and research training in genetics, and program-specific activities such as an annual Genetics Symposium, trainee seminars, journal cubs and social events. These courses and activities are made available to students from multiple graduate groups, expanding the breadth and reach of our training program. After coursework is completed, the student must pass an oral preliminary exam that consists of a defense of a written NRSA-style thesis research proposal. The student then carries out a significant genetics research project under the direction of a laboratory mentor and the advice of a thesis committee, with additional oversight and mentoring from the training program faculty. Students are selected for two years of training grant support after they have completed coursework, selected a thesis lab and passed their Preliminary exam. Thus, we support students who are highly motivated to carry out genetic research. New enhancements initiated within the last four years include the Genetics Symposium, a requirement for coursework in Bioinformatics, increased emphasis on grant writing skills, and use of Individual Development Plans to guide career discussions and planning. We propose to continue this program at its current size of 8 predoctoral trainees per year.
Genetic changes underlie many human health problems, and genetic information is an increasingly common part of medicine, biomedical research and our everyday lives. Now more than ever it is important to train young scientists to be geneticists who can understand the fundamental principles involved, and who know not only how to use sophisticated genetic tools and technologies, but also how to interpret the results.
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