A one-day workshop was held at NIH on November 12, 1998. Thirteen participants (see the roster below) with varied expertise and institutional affiliations discussed current and future training needs as well as the optimal mechanisms available to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) for addressing those needs. A summary follows of the issues identified and possible approaches to addressing them.
Research is evolving toward an era where the melding of biology with the disciplines of physics, mathematics, chemistry, computer science, and engineering is essential. A virtually unanimous concern was expressed that undergraduate students are entering graduate programs with inadequate training in--and knowledge of--the quantitative sciences. There is a need for graduate programs to identify and recruit students with greater competence in quantitative disciplines and for NIGMS to encourage a greater emphasis on quantitative skills in its training grant-supported programs.
Several ideas were raised to foster the quantitative training of graduate students:
There was general agreement that an increased NIGMS focus is needed on training efforts in bioinformatics. There was discussion about the best mechanism to achieve this goal, such as new and distinct training programs vs. efforts that could be integrated into the rubric of current training programs. The issue of whether training in bioinformatics should be directed to the predoctoral and/or postdoctoral levels also was addressed, but it was not resolved.
One approach to predoctoral training in bioinformatics would be a new training program. However, most participants were of the opinion that only a few institutions at present could mount distinct, high-quality training programs in bioinformatics. Another approach to enhanced training in bioinformatics at the predoctoral level would be the use of supplements to existing training grants. Supplements would facilitate the recruitment of a new and different pool of students, the inclusion of additional faculty mentors, and the promotion of enriched curriculum and research opportunities. The use of supplements also would require an understanding by the current training grant program director of what training in bioinformatics entails. It was recognized that institutional postdoctoral training programs in bioinformatics would be easier to phase in and out, as the need required, as opposed to establishing new predoctoral training programs specifically in bioinformatics. A new NIGMS program announcement ( PA-98-082, Fellowships in Quantitative Biology) already is available for support of individual postdoctoral fellows in quantitative disciplines, including bioinformatics. However, NIGMS should address, in its NRSA training program announcement, how bioinformatics could be included and fostered in its institutional training programs.
Several workshop participants identified a need for a professional master's-level degree in biomedical engineering and computer sciences. The goal would be to prepare students to function as part of a research team that requires expertise in these areas. It was recognized that competence in these areas may not require a full Ph.D. training program, and that skilled master's-level researchers would be in demand at both academic and industrial institutions. While there is no regular mechanism for NIH and NIGMS to directly support non-Ph.D. NRSA training programs, it may be possible to cooperate with other organizations in encouraging master's-level training in these areas. As part of the overall vision of NIGMS training, there also may be value in acknowledging the merit and frequency of master's-level training in these disciplines.
There was a brief discussion of "molecular medicine" as an area where a team approach is needed to study complex biological problems in human physiology and disease. It should be possible for NIGMS to incorporate training in molecular medicine and physiology into existing training programs, including Systems and Integrative Biology.
The increasing time to a Ph.D. degree was recognized as a problem. Some concern also was expressed that efforts to incorporate more quantitative disciplines into existing training programs could prolong the already long time to degree, unless education in the quantitative sciences at the undergraduate level is emphasized. NIGMS should explicitly encourage training programs to minimize the time to degree.
Some concerns were expressed as to the quality of postdoctoral training at academic institutions. While no extra formalism is needed, NIGMS should consider ways of encouraging the quality of the institutional postdoctoral training experience.
Overall, there was general agreement that the existing NIGMS training programs are, for the most part, meeting changing training demands. There is little apparent need to formally restructure existing training programs or add new ones. The one exception may be in the area of bioinformatics, where available options should be explored further. However, it is essential that the NIGMS training programs be highly flexible, and that this flexibility be adequately communicated in the NIGMS NRSA training program announcement. Other issues, such as limiting the time to degree and encouraging the recruitment and training of students with excellence in quantitative skills, also should be explicitly recognized and addressed in the NIGMS NRSA training program announcement. The NIGMS training goals and mission also should be restated clearly.
John Perkins, Ph.D. (chair) Dean, Southwest Graduate School University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard Dallas, TX 75235-9004 Tel: 214-648-2174Fax: firstname.lastname@example.org
David A. Clayton, Ph.D. Howard Hughes Medical Institute 4000 Jones Bridge Road Chevy Chase, MD 20815-6789 Tel: 301-215-8807 Fax: email@example.com
Thomas O. Fox, Ph.D. Harvard Medical School T-MEC 435 260 Longwood Avenue Boston, MA 02115 Tel: 617-432-2405Fax: firstname.lastname@example.org
David I. Friedman, M.D. Department of Microbiology and Immunology University of Michigan 5641 Medical Science Bldg II Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0620 Tel: 734-763-3142Fax: 734-764-3562 email@example.com
Lee E. Limbird, Ph.D. Associate Vice Chancellor for Research D3300 MCN Vanderbilt University Medical Center Nashville, TN 37232-2104 Tel: 615-343-8846Fax: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Matsudaira, Ph.D. Whitehead Institute 9 Cambridge Center Cambridge, MA 02142 Tel: 617-258-5188Fax: email@example.com
Carol M. Newton, M.D., Ph.D. Department of Biomathematics UCLA AV625 CHS 10833 Le Conte Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90095-176620 Tel: 310-825-5800Fax: firstname.lastname@example.org
Salvatore Pizzo, M.D., Ph.D. Duke University Medical Center Department of Pathology P.O. Box 3712 Durham, NC 27710 Tel: 919-684-3528Fax: email@example.com
C. Dale Poulter, Ph.D. Department of Chemistry University of Utah 315 S 1400 E DOCK Salt Lake City, UT 84112 Tel: 801-581-6685Fax: firstname.lastname@example.org
Franklyn G. Prendergast, M.D., Ph.D. Mayo Foundation 200 First Street SW Rochester, MN 55905 Tel: 507-284-3753Fax: email@example.com
Lawrence Schramm, Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Room 606 Traylor Building Baltimore, MD 21205 Tel: 410-955-3026 Fax: firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael S. Teitelbaum, Ph.D. Alfred P. Sloan Foundation 630 5 th Avenue Suite 2550 New York, NY 10111-0242 Tel: 212-649-1649Fax: email@example.com
Todd O. Yeates, Ph.D. 202 Molecular Biology Institute University of California, Los Angeles Box 951570 Los Angeles, CA 90095-1570 Tel: 310-206-4866Fax: firstname.lastname@example.org
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