The Training Program in Learning and Memory is based at the University of California - Irvine Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (CNLM), a research unit established in 1983 by the UC Regents with James L. McGaugh as its Founding Director. The Center?s highly interdisciplinary faculty are working to achieve a complete and integrated understanding of how the brain stores and remembers information across all levels from molecules to mind. Of the Center?s more than 70 active research faculty, 21 will be the core training faculty for this program, representing strengths in molecular, cellular, circuit, systems, cognitive and computational neuroscience of learning and memory. The program?s goal is to train the next generation of innovative leaders in neuroscience by empowering them with the skills, knowledge, and team science core values necessary to comprehensively understand the neural basis of learning and memory. The program is aimed at predoctoral trainees with four slots offered every year and a typical duration of appointment of 2 years. It will feature 10 key components that will provide unique education training in the range of skills required for a successful research career in learning and memory: (1) a new problem-focused seminar course that promotes transdisciplinary and divergent thinking in learning and memory; (2) a new course on neural computation; (3) a new course on research-intensive academic careers (Life Skills for the Academic); (4) a full-day workshop on transdisciplinary research and team science; (5) attending and presenting research at the annual learning and memory conference; (6) attending, presenting at, and taking part in planning a training program fall retreat; (7) networking with visiting experts via the CNLM seminar series, conferences and workshops; (8) attending and presenting in one of the CNLM journal clubs; (9) attending a major conference each year e.g. Society for Neuroscience; and (10) participating in a minimum of three professional development workshops and one certificate program offered by UCI?s Graduate Division. An additional optional component designed for this program is a team science proposal competition that puts into practice many of the principles taught in the team science workshop. The activities fulfill many of the advanced requirements for coursework and will not increase time to degree completion. The overall training program leverages the existing resources and activities in UCI?s graduate training, adds new training components that are unique to trainees of this program, and provides a host of optional activities for professional development. Desired outcomes include successful completion of PhD, published manuscripts, quantified improvement in transdisciplinary thinking and behavior, individual fellowships (e.g. NRSA), successful placement in postdoctoral training, and subsequent career in research-intensive or research-related areas. With a number of value-added components, this training program will successfully prepare our trainees to be future leaders in the neurobiology of learning and memory.
Mental illness is a major cause of morbidity and disability in the United States and basic neurobiological mechanisms, particularly related to learning and memory function and dysfunction, remain elusive. This is a proposal for a training program in learning and memory research that uses a transdisciplinary approach to cut across basic and clinical/translational science as well as across species and techniques. By combining advanced coursework and lab training with rigorous team science approaches, this program strives to train the next generation of leaders in neuroscience, and equip them with the knowledge, tools, and experience to address the grand challenge of mental illness.