The BioFrontiers Institute’s Interdisciplinary Quantitative Biology Certificate Ph.D. (IQ Biology) program recently was awarded a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program. These funds will be spent over the next five years on supporting the students in the IQ Biology program in their work toward advanced interdisciplinary degrees in the biosciences. BioFrontiers will use this funding to provide full stipend and tuition support to up to 12 students per year.
IGERT is the National Science Foundation’s flagship interdisciplinary training program, educating U.S. Ph.D. scientists and engineers by building upon their disciplinary knowledge with interdisciplinary training. One of the goals of the IGERT program is to give students the personal and professional skills to succeed in 21st century careers. Since 1998, the IGERT program has given 278 awards to top institutions throughout the country and provided funding for approximately 6,500 graduate students.
“The IGERT grant will allow us to expand our IQ Biology program beyond the successful foundation we have already built,” said BioFrontiers Director Tom Cech. “It is imperative that we train students to go beyond the limits of their academic departments and explore other research areas to develop solutions. The IGERT grant is giving us the resources to continue this program and confirms our belief that interdisciplinary education is a valuable component in training our future educators, scientists and engineers.”
The goals of the IQ Biology IGERT Program are to:
1. Establish a new mechanism for interdisciplinary training at the graduate level, where students are not tracked into departments during the development of their dissertation research topic and during the formation of a cohort community.
2. Train students in state-of-the-art quantitative methods to analyze and model complex biological problems in multiple disciplines. Students will consider scientific problems by bridging multiple interdisciplinary approaches.
3. Inculcate students with the vision of applying an interdisciplinary approach utilizing the tools of quantitative biology to address global scientific challenges throughout their careers, through activities in educational outreach at all levels and translation of research into practical solutions.
4. Teach students to translate the skills they have developed into successful careers in academia, industry, education, and public service.
5. Recruit 6-9 students per year into the program, focusing on achieving diverse cohorts of students. Students will represent a variety of academic backgrounds, and special emphasis will be placed on ensuring the inclusion of groups underrepresented in STEM, most notably, African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and students with disabilities.
6. Retain and graduate students with Ph.D.s within five to six years.
7. Promote transfer of skills and ideas between different disciplines by creating a broad and heterogeneous community of collaborators consisting of faculty members and students across campus and between institutions nationally and internationally.
8. Evaluate the success of this model of interdisciplinary training and disseminate our results widely.