Contact: Dr. Barbara Gerratana -- 301-594-3827
At the urging of Congress, the NIGMS established a program of biotechnology training grants in 1988. The purpose of this program is to produce broadly trained investigators who have the facility and orientation to combine basic and applied research. The training supported by these grants provides predoctoral students substantial technical and intellectual skills in areas such as microbiology, molecular genetics, biochemistry, biochemical engineering, plant and animal cell culture technologies, metabolic engineering, biomaterials, macromolecular structure analysis, hybridoma technology, tissue engineering and separation technologies. At the heart of this training is the in-depth dissertation research and course work of a Ph.D. program, but the trainees are also expected to acquire significant exposure to the concepts and experimental approaches of some related research areas. Thus, the training is interdisciplinary and usually interdepartmental. As part of this training program in biotechnology, students are expected to participate in activities such as seminar series, journal clubs and retreats, which augment their Ph.D. program, and provide valuable opportunities for interactions among participating students who typically come from differing departments or programs. Students are encouraged to engage in laboratory rotations early in their graduate career in order to survey various opportunities for dissertation research. The biotechnology training program also is required to include a two or three month industrial internship, to give students a meaningful research experience in a biotechnology or pharmaceutical firm. This research experience may be fully integrated with the trainee’s Ph.D. research, but it may also be used by the trainee to delve into new areas. Trainees are required to receive instruction in the responsible conduct of research.
With the increased applicability of quantitative and engineering approaches to biomedical research, it is encouraged that students and faculty from engineering and other quantitative disciplines who have strong interests in biotechnology actively participate in these training programs. While many of the successful biotechnology training programs supported by the NIGMS involve engineering students and faculty, such involvement is not required; indeed, each program is encouraged to design and implement training in biotechnology that meets the needs and opportunities that exist locally. Some biotechnology training grant programs are rather focused on an inherently interdisciplinary topic (e.g., tissue engineering) while others are broad and support trainees pursuing degrees in a range of areas.