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Description of the Systems Biology Training Program Curriculum

The Systems Biology Training Program will provide Ph.D. students with early career training to prepare them for multidisciplinary research and to lead interdisciplinary teams. The program involves various elements that provide a broad base of experience combined with in-depth knowledge of the student’s discipline.

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Overview: Students in the program will receive an annual stipend of roughly $15,000 annually for the first two years and $3,500 annually for the last two years of participation in the program. The Systems Biology Training Program involves several opportunities and requirements, as described below.

Mentoring: At the heart of the program are multidisciplinary teams that will supply collaborators and mentors for trainees. We have several world-class systems biology teams currently tackling a variety of human health issues, from breast cancer to cystic fibrosis. In addition to participating in the activities of collaborative research groups, each new trainee is matched with a senior student of the same team but with a different background, and with a senior member of a different team with a similar background. This “shadowing” will ease the student’s transition, and will expose the student to the multi-disciplinary nature of the research.

Laboratory Rotations: As a central component of the program, trainees will perform two three-month rotations outside their fields of expertise but within their research team. These focused rotations will be performed in the first three years of their studies and are designed to provide in-depth, hands-on experience. Rotations will be designed so that students will be exposed to the two ”pillars” outside their area of expertise so that by the end of the program, all students will have had experience with wet-lab life sciences, quantitative sciences, and technological sciences. At the end of each rotation, the student will be required to submit a 10-page report describing the project the student worked on, background literature, and results.

Specialized Workshops and Seminars: Students will be invited to participate in elective workshops that will cover relevant material in-depth. These multi-day workshops will also be provided to researchers outside the program, and will be taught by expert faculty. During the first two years of the program, all members of the program are required to attend our seminar series. These seminars will be given by invited guests or members of the program, as all students will be required to present a lecture as they near completion of their program.

*****Symposia: Rather than hold weekly seminars, we will be holding a two-day symposium twice a year. Each symposium will feature one of the pillars of our program and will consist of inviting 3-5 speakers in the selected field of study. Talks from the invited speakers will be inter-mixed with talks from the senior students in the program with related research topics. Junior members of the program will give 20 minute talks within a special session on the first day. This will be a mandatory event for all our students and the first day will be open to the greater research community. Several of our students, under the tutelage of two of our supervisors (mentors), have formed an organizing committee to first select topics and then suggest the speakers. The mini-symposia will be completely organized and run by students. The first mini-symposium (Atherosclerosis)  will take place likely in February 2013. 

Annual Retreat and Progress Report: Annually, each student will be required to submit a short progress report to the program’s operating committee. Each year, members of the program and the mentoring teams will participate in a day-long retreat. Short 10-minute talks will be given by trainees, so that all members of the program can participate in, and learn from, the progress of other members.