Through the mechanism of a pre-doctoral T32 interdisciplinary training program, the Departments of Bioengineering (BIOE) and Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh (UPitt) are seeking NIH support for bioengineering pre-docs to train as mental health researchers. The program is aimed at educating talented students with engineering and other quantitative sciences background for careers in mental health research. Consistent with the NIMH strategic, we envision an increasing role for quantitative and computational science in psychiatric research. The trainees (6 per year) of this program will be uniquely qualified to help lead development and use new technical bioengineering approaches to address mental health research challenges. This training program capitalizes on the breadth of bioengineering in psychiatry research at UPitt and provides students with access to the clinical presentation and treatment of psychiatric disorders. PhD trainees will take foundational courses in bioengineering, cognitive and computational neuroscience, psychopathology, and ethics and will be complemented by electives. Students are exposed to clinical environments via a longitudinal clinical experience and two 1-week intensive clinical observerships. A diverse group of research-active mentors (16 in Psychiatry and 16 in Bioengineering) comprised of basic scientists, clinicians, and engineers, serve as advisors to guide students in their doctoral research efforts where each mentee will have 2 principle co-mentors (1 in BIOE and 1 in Psychiatry). Finally, students participate in several program-specific activities throughout their graduate school years, designed to enhance interactions and exchange of information (student-student and student-faculty) and to facilitate professional and career development. Each student receives extensive research training in the laboratories of the training faculty. There are three integrated focus areas of this pre-doctoral training program: (1) Neuroimaging, (2) Neurostimulation, and (3) Neural Engineering. All of these tracks are heavily utilized in a wide variety of mental health research including mood disorder, anxiety disorder, psychotic disorder, suicide, and cognitive impairment where currently there is a critical mass of researchers at UPitt addressing these disorders. This training program will provide a unique educational and research experience aimed at training bioengineering scientists to develop careers in mental health research.
New state of the art developments in psychiatry research (including high resolution imaging and targeting of neural circuits) are increasingly relying on engineering approaches. This training grant aims to grow the field of bioengineers contributing to psychiatry research, and thus advance the understanding, prevention, and treatment of mental health disorders.