The University of Chicago has developed a recipe for creating first-rate interdisciplinary biophysical scientists. Two of the key ingredients: take the very best physical sciences undergraduates, then put them through an experimental biology wringer during their first year as graduate students.
These students receive 600 hours of intensive interdisciplinary training under the supervision of Adam Hammond, the program's curriculum director.
"No other university or program that I know of has this level of dedication to the first-year curriculum," said Hammond, Ph.D.,'01. "We are hoping that this will produce scientists who are conversant across disciplines, can combine the best methods from multiple fields and sometimes think in completely new ways."
The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering harbors similar hopes. One of the National Institutes of Health, NIBIB has just awarded a $2 million grant to the University to provide stipends and tuition support for students in the innovative Biophysical Sciences program. The unusual terms of the grant mean that graduate students with degrees in physics and chemistry will receive NIH support. "This is significant for their future careers as interdisciplinary scientists," Hammond said.
Tobin Sosnick, Professor in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, conceived the rigorous practical training course "From Synthesis to Measurement and Analysis," which meets 50 hours a week for a month before the Autumn Quarter and 20 hours a week during the Autumn and Winter quarters.
"We learn all the ways that real experimental science is different from college lab scienceprimarily that any experiment is more likely to 'fail' than to go as planned, and why we make progress anyway," Hammond said.
Other key ingredients of the program include its dual-mentorship structure and its authority to grant degrees. M
|Contact: Steve Koppes|
University of Chicago