Scientists and engineers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMA) are using state-of-the-art tools and approaches in cellular engineering to address key challenges in biotechnology for human health, including production of anti-cancer drugs from cell cultures, transformation of mammalian cells into useful tissues for organ replacement, and design of novel proteins to serve as advanced therapies. UMA has a history of strength in biotechnology, founding the Institute for Cellular Engineering (ICE) as a platform to sustain and develop novel research and training programs. Given the successful track record of ICE training programs, geographic proximity to a leading biotech hub in Boston, and strong institutional support for development of industry-academic collaborations, UMA is ideally positioned to develop an impactful Biotechnology Training Program (BTP). BTP objectives are to: 1) create a scholarly and social infrastructure to facilitate new and strengthen existing interdisciplinary networks at UMA, particularly those at the interface of engineering and the life sciences; 2) educate students in the fundamentals of quantitative biotechnology through new lecture and laboratory courses; 3) train students to appreciate the impact of biotechnology commercially through a tailored industrial internship and regular interactions with industrial personnel; 4) provide students with opportunities to improve interdisciplinary communication, expand career opportunities, and sharpen professional skills; and 5) increase the number of students, particularly those from URM groups, who pursue careers in biotechnology. This BTP will recruit matriculated predoctoral students from five programs (Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Polymer Science & Engineering, Veterinary & Animal Sciences, Molecular and Cellular Biology). We request six Trainee slots (matched with two slots from UMA). Traineeships will be awarded to students in their 2nd and 3rd years of study, and we will offer an Associate membership for non-funded students to broaden the impact of the program. Students will complete a prescribed curriculum over two years and obtain a graduate certificate in Cellular Engineering. Innovative features include the Biotechnology Core Course that is informed by and co-taught by industry personnel; specialized Laboratory Modules in biotechnology-relevant approaches and techniques modeled after professional industry workshops; student-run Biotechnology Journal Club to break down discipline barriers in a non-threatening atmosphere; a newly designed course in Biostatistics and Statistical Computing to promote math fluency for all Trainees; collaboration with the STEM Diversity Institute to ensure a diverse student population; an annual Symposium on Biotechnology that offers a unique Speed Dating experience where students pitch their ideas and receive feedback from industry experts; and targeted partnering with the new UMA Graduate School Office of Professional Development to provide career exploration and planning for our students. We have recruited numerous industrial partners to support a hallmark of our program, a formal internship in which all Trainees will participate.

Public Health Relevance

The ability to design, control and engineer cell function drives the development of innovative knowledge, tools and processes for advanced biotechnology in the pharma, medical devices and diagnostics industries. To achieve this goal, we must train the next generation of innovators who can be productive members of interdisciplinary teams working to translate fundamental science into products and services for human health. The proposed UMass Amherst Cellular Engineering Biotechnology Training Program will provide students from a variety of life sciences and engineering/physical sciences backgrounds with novel training in biotechnology, inspiring them to consider industrial relevance and translational science, and preparing them to enter the workforce with an integrated perspective about the role of biotechnology in society.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Institutional National Research Service Award (T32)
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NIGMS Initial Review Group (TWD)
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Brown, Patrick
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University of Massachusetts Amherst
Veterinary Sciences
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United States
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