Other institutions offer some form of dual mentorship, but at Chicago both mentors invest equally in time, costs and laboratory space for the student. "This isn't one true mentor and one person to chat with occasionally," Hammond said.
The Biophysical Sciences program provides the graduate training component of an initiative that began with the establishment of the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics in 1998. The institute provided an administrative home for interdisciplinary scientific collaboration. The Gordon Center for Integrative Sciences then put many of the scientists in these collaborations under one roof.
The NIBIB grant is the third the University has obtained to support interdisciplinary graduate training in the physical and biological sciences in recent years. The first, also for $2.5 million, came in 2001 from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.
Next came a $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. This grant led to the establishment of the Biophysical Sciences program, with Sosnick as director. The program enrolled its first four students in 2007, and four more in 2008.
Competition for top students
"We're competing with other top schools for these students," Hammond said, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, San Francisco. Ernesto Vargas was one of the first four students to join the program. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Vargas said he chose Chicago for the opportunity to learn the latest biophysical techniques.
Vargas conducts laboratory studies on membrane proteins with Francisco Bezanilla, the L
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University of Chicago