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The University of Georgia (UGA) currently has a PREP R25 grant (3/2014-12/2017) from NIH NIGMS to provide post-baccalaureate training in infectious diseases research. The UGA PREP draws on UGA’s remarkable strength in infectious diseases research, as well as strong graduate programs in several of its biology-related departments and mathematics, to provide intensive research experiences for eight underrepresented minority and disabled trainees each year. Since the program’s inception in 2014, 33 faculty drawn from the UGA Faculty of Infectious Diseases, who belong to the departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Ecology, Entomology, Genetics, Infectious Diseases, Mathematics, Microbiology, and Population Health, have incorporated UGA PREP trainees into their laboratories, providing a unique, structured and mentored one-year research experience.
UGA has a T32 Genetics Training Program grant from NIH (ends 6/2017). The mission of the Genetics Training Program in the broadest sense is to train Ph.D. students that will be able to become successful life scientists who can work as independent researchers and educators in academic or industrial jobs. More specifically, the training program seeks to achieve exceptional quality and breadth of education for its students in the field of genetics. An individual trainee’s research may or may not be focused in one particular field, but all trainees will receive extensive exposure to three broad realms of modern genetics: “molecular” genetics (typically, interactions of genes and gene products within or between cells), “evolutionary” genetics (including population and quantitative genetics, as well as phylogenetics) and genomics (bioinformatics and genome structure or evolution). A key objective of the program is to produce junior scientists capable of utilizing all three of these realms in their future work. All trainees will also be required to participate in at least one semester of teaching genetics. Experience at instruction is considered a crucial component of training as a high percentage of trainees will go on to careers involving some level of teaching.
UGA also has a T32 Glycoscience Training Program (GTP) grant from NIH (7/2014-6/2019), supporting CHEM and BCMB graduate students. This T32 program has allowed us to develop a Chemistry/Biology interface program and provide a blueprint of predoctoral training in Glycoscience. The 17 training faculty of the Glycoscience Training Program (GTP) have primary and secondary appointments in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Chemistry departments, which are part of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. The mission of the program is to train predoctoral students rigorously and broadly in Glycoscience by integrating both chemical and biological approaches. In addition, emphasis is placed on recruiting students from under-represented minorities, bioethics training, and developing students’ writing and communication skills.
A third NIH T32 training grant at UGA focuses on Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases (9/2015-8/2020). This program trains graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to become independent research scientists who study parasitic diseases in the context of global health. The program’s research seeks fundamental insights into protozoan and helminth parasites and their interaction with their mammalian hosts and invertebrate vectors. It combines cutting-edge bench and field science with perspectives on the global challenges and opportunities for the control and elimination of parasitic diseases. These perspectives are grounded in firsthand experience by trainers and collaborators around the world. Every year protozoan and helminth parasitic diseases of humans are responsible for more than a million deaths, many millions more cases of severe morbidity, and hundreds of millions of cases of subtle morbidity due to chronic infections. UGA is uniquely positioned as a training ground for the next generation of parasitology/tropical diseases researchers. UGA is home to perhaps the largest number of parasitology research laboratories in the US that collectively cover the full gamut of parasitic diseases. We believe that the breadth and culture of our program instills trainees with the ability to translate basic scientific findings into tool development and the implementation of interventions, and fosters their ability to identify and formulate a fundamental research question out of the context of parasitic disease itself. The program has further grown and flourished. Significant institutional commitment for breadth-enhancing capstone experiences, a match for trainee lines, a reorganized innovative graduate recruitment umbrella, and new diversity initiatives further strengthen this highly successful training program.
UGA has an NSF Research Traineeship NRT award that focuses on Infectious Diseases: “Infectious Disease Ecology Across Scales: from Byte to Benchtop to Biosphere” (“IDEAS”) (9/2015-8/2020). This program seeks to change the way graduate students are trained in infectious diseases at UGA and nationally, introducing a new and lasting paradigm for integrative graduate training and teaching. The computational focus of the IDEAS curriculum is providing a new generation of scientists with practical tools that will help drive innovation in infectious disease research. Importantly, this computational theme reaches a broad student audience across the UGA campus, enhancing quantitative training in units where these skills are not typically emphasized. More generally, core elements of IDEAS are designed to bring together NRT-funded trainees with students from across campus maximizing the scope, reach, and impact of the training activities at UGA. IDEAS will train 30 PhD students as core trainees over a 5-year period, but the new integrative courses and computational workshops are open to students across campus.
The Population Biology of Infectious Diseases REU Site at the University of Georgia (2/2017-1/2022) is a nine-week NSF-funded program to provide students from across the country with research experiences at the intersections of quantitative and experimental studies in infectious disease biology. The goal of this program is to catalyze a new generation of inter-disciplinary infectious disease science by introducing life science students to computational and mathematical techniques and to provide students in mathematics, statistics, and computer science opportunities to collaborate with life scientists, to collect and analyze data, and to develop empirically-motivated research. Students may develop projects that emphasize experimentation, computational or mathematical modeling, or a synthesis project combining empirical research and modeling.
UGA has a Fogarty International training grant on Computation and Bioinformatics from NIH (6/2015-5/2020). The epidemics of tuberculosis (TB) and human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV) infection converge with the greatest intensity in Sub-Saharan Africa where both the incidence and the prevalence of TB increased as the HIV epidemic swept through the continent. In Africa today, TB may affect up to 30% of co-infected persons and is the leading cause of death among HIV seropositive persons. Although proper treatment of both infections may limit morbidity and mortality of the co-infection, treatment may not alter the underlying dynamics of the HIV and TB epidemics, so new approaches are needed that target transmission and prevent infection in the first place. The overall goal of the proposed training program is to build sustainable capacity at Makerere University in molecular and computational epidemiology by training Ugandan scientists in these new and emerging methods so that they may be applied to study the complex and interacting transmission dynamics of HIV and M. tuberculosis in Kampala. The program will achieve its goal by training 2 pre-doctoral students in molecular or computational epidemiology, 2 post-doctoral trainees, and 5 non-degree trainees in technical skills relating to computational epidemiology and bioinformatics. To supplement this training based at UGA, the program will put on a series of short courses in Uganda relating to network sciences and their application in Epidemiology, molecular biology and bioinformatics. The proposed training program builds on the 25-year collaboration between the Ugandans and the PD and extends the five-year collaboration between Makerere University and the University of Georgia on HIV and TB. The training will be embedded and integrated into ongoing, research projects designed to examine transmission patterns of M. tuberculosis within social networks in the context of a mature HIV epidemic. The program will be directed by Dr. Christopher Whalen, at UGA, with a co-director Dr. Moses Joloba at Makerere University.