The Biotechnology Training Program (BTP) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison trains pre-doctoral students in cutting-edge research across the interface of the biological, physical, and engineering sciences. BTP trainees are recruited from Chemical & Biological Engineering, Chemistry, Integrated Program in Biochemistry, Microbiology Doctoral Training Program and 15 other excellent doctoral programs, allowing access to ~1300 prospective training-grant eligible applicants each year. Members of the Steering Committee and established BTP trainers serve on PhD program admissions committees and forward their very best applicants to the BTP Steering committee, which further reviews this highly select group for academic excellence, stated interest in interdisciplinary training, previous career activities, future aspirations, and program balance, and then offers BTP support to a subset of these diverse and highly qualified nominees. During the first year of our program, all BTP trainees participate as a cohort in (1) the BTP-originated Foundations of Biotechnology course and (2) complete the BTP-led Responsible Conduct of Research course. Also starting in the first year, and continuing throughout their three-year training period, all BT trainees participate in (3) the BTP-led Biotechnology Seminar as both presenters and participants, the (4) Winter Banquet, and the biannual (5) Evening Forum. At the end of the first semester of graduate studies, BTP trainees pick a thesis advisor, who must be an approved BTP trainer. During the remainder of the first and second years, every BTP trainee is required to (6) produce an individual training plan with their PhD mentor, (7) identify a BTP minor Professor from another discipline to serve on his or her dissertation committee and monitor their progress in the BTP, (8) develop and complete a BTP-approved biotechnology-oriented minor degree plan, and (9) defend his or her thesis research in a preliminary exam during the spring or summer of their second year. During the third year of support, corresponding to the preference of our industrial partners for interns with advanced skills, BTP trainees undertake (10) an internship and take another BTP-approved Responsible Conduct of Research course to complete their training. In this revised proposal, we describe the establishment of a formal relationship with University Research Park to provide additional opportunities for our trainees to complete their required internship. The training experiences described above ensure that all BTP trainees have an enhanced educational experience and ample opportunities beyond those provided by their PhD degree programs to become conversant in the principles of chemistry, biology, engineering and quantitative sciences, to take a breadth of courses to support this, and to develop additional professional speaking, writing and planning skills required to become leading cross-disciplinary scientists and engineers in the biotechnology field.
The Biotechnology Training Program addresses a critical need to educate scientists and engineers in the effective use of cross-disciplinary approaches to solve important problems in biomedical research. Their training and, ultimately, the career-long contributions of these trainees are essential to maintain our national excellence and leadership in the application of biotechnology to demanding and dynamic societal needs.
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