Through the grant, graduate students will study an organism or group of organisms from its genome to its evolution, ecology and behavior. This means that graduate students interested in biological fieldwork on a given organism will also learn about genomic tools that are available, and those interested in benchwork and bioinformatics will conduct biological fieldwork in order to put that research in a broader, species-specific context.
With this approach students will have a comprehensive knowledge of their organisms, says Suarez.
"We don't want to train students to generate huge amounts of data without knowing what questions they are really asking," says Suarez. "We want to train field biologists who know how to collect data with the genomic resources available in their mind and to train bench scientists and bio-informaticians to know about their organism."
In addition to being interdisciplinary, the program will have students working in research teams, rather than individual students interacting with individual advisers. Students are eligible to apply for two years of funding and will take specific classes that emphasize vertical integration.
The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), one of the world's premier tropical research institutes, is a partner in the grant and will host students at their research facility in Panama. Students will have access to STRI's large, diverse and long-term study sites and databanks for a wide variety of organisms and ecosystems in Panama.
This is the third IGERT the University of Illinois has received in the past three years, and the first going to a biology program.
|Contact: Nicholas Vasi|
Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign