Dr. Michael Bender
The primary mission of the NIGMS-supported genetics predoctoral training grants is to provide highly qualified students with broad, multidisciplinary training in all aspects of modern genetics. At the same time, the trainees are expected to be exposed to closely related fields such as cell and developmental biology and biochemistry. The goal is to produce scientists who will have a thorough understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of inheritance, at both the molecular and organismal levels, and who will be able to apply genetic approaches to problems in other areas of biology. It is also anticipated that graduates will be able to teach courses in genetics at the graduate and undergraduate levels.
The existing genetics predoctoral training grants all share a number of features that are now fairly common among biomedical graduate programs. In addition to dissertation research and in-depth didactic training in genetics, all require the trainees to participate in various journal clubs, retreats and seminars, and virtually all require that first-year students rotate through two or more laboratories. Other nearly universal features include qualifying examinations, thesis committee meetings, and teaching opportunities. In contrast, the size and organizational aspects of the existing programs are variable. The number of awarded positions, which is determined primarily by the size and quality of the applicant pool, can range from 2 to over 20. Similarly, some programs are interdepartmental in nature, frequently spanning multiple departments and schools and serving as vehicles for uniting geneticists across an entire institution. Other programs are based in single departments, although virtually all include faculty from more than one academic unit. While all of the programs offer comprehensive training in genetics, some have developed strengths in particular aspects of genetics, such as population genetics or human genetics.
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