Plants convert sunlight into chemical energy, synthesizing hundreds of thousands of organic compounds from carbon dioxide and minerals, and sustaining life on earth. Plants shape our environment and even produce the atmospheric oxygen we breathe, making possible life as we know it. Thus, plants sustain humans by providing essential nutrients, medicines, shelter and energy. From the beginning of human culture, we have harvested and utilized plants to address global issues such as the sustainable production of foods, pharmaceuticals and fuels. Human benefits from plants have progressed from foraging to agriculture and more recently derive from biotechnology and synthetic biology. While harnessing the metabolic potential of plants in a timely fashion supports sustainable use of plant resources and protects biodiversity, achieving this goal requires a sustained effort by plant biologists and biotechnologists. Plant biotechnology has the potential to meet many of the challenges currently threatening human well?being, but maintaining or improving the health of a growing world population against a backdrop of a changing environment will require that plant scientists receive innovative and cross?disciplinary training. The Plant Biotechnology for Health and Sustainability (PBHS) graduate training program fosters the education, training, and professional development of the next generation of interdisciplinary scientists who will assume leadership positions in biotechnology?related careers including academia, industry, government, and entrepreneurship. A set of core competencies are emphasized, including understanding a broad set of content areas, developing critical thinking and teaching communication skills essential for effective collaboration across discipline. A training emphasis will continue to be placed on building specific skill sets designed to promote personal and professional development and provide a basis for evaluation of trainee performance. Bachelor's and master's degree level trainees enter the PBHS program at the start of their third semester of predoctoral training. During the second year of predoctoral work, trainees take courses that introduce concepts in plant biotechnology, collaborative and quantitative research and that describe paths for translation of basic research into commercial products. The program will provide stipends to six predoctoral students for two years each; these NRSA funding students will be joined by four Michigan State University Graduate school funded predoctoral students. The trainees will continue to participate in program professional development activities for the duration of their predoctoral training period.

Public Health Relevance

Plants are the direct or indirect source of most human foods, vitamins as well as pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology has the potential to provide great value to human health. To realize the full potential of plant biotechnology, the next generation of plant scientists must develop disciplinary expertise and proficiency in plant biology, biochemistry, metabolic engineering, synthetic biology, computational biology, and quantitative analyses. The Michigan State University Plant Biotechnology for Health and Sustainability Program introduces predoctoral students to these fields and provides them with a strong awareness of the full range of careers including academia, government and industry.

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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Michigan State University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
East Lansing
United States
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