Training in Developmental Biology is essential to understand the mechanisms that go awry in many diseases, including a number of devastating birth defects such as lissencephaly. Many adult onset diseases, such as numerous cancers, appear to be due to developmental programs that are inappropriately expressed in the adult. The best way to understand, and thus design treatments, for these diseases is to train basic and clinical scientists in developmental biology.
The Developmental Biology graduate training program funds 7 predoctoral positions, within a developmental biology research program that includes approximately 66 graduate students and 47 postdoctoral trainees. Over the past year we have added three new faculty working on developmental biology of the mouse -- a new research area for our program -- as well as adding three faculty trainers in the area of evolution/development. These changes add new strengths and breadth to our core developmental biology training program. Our training program emphasizes individualized graduate research training within a group of interactive faculty that provides each student with diverse training input, and a number of students have co-advisors allowing them to integrate research training from two laboratories. Each predoctoral student is advised by a faculty committee that guides the student through a highly individualized training program; the committee meets at least once every year, in addition to many informal meetings (e.g. journal clubs and research seminars), resulting in excellent monitoring of the student’s progress and the creation of a supportive environment.
Twenty training faculty directly participate in the program. Faculty are all members in the Institute of Molecular Biology (10), the Institute of Neuroscience (7), or the Department of Biology (3). The University of Oregon’s research Institutes provide an interactive research environment; they bring together labs with common interests, run graduate programs, provide space and funding support, and have annual retreats. Institutes also support shared research facilities – such as the Genomics and Proteomics Center, Transgenic Mouse Facility, Monoclonal Antibody Facility, and Bio-Optic Center – all staffed with expert personnel who are available to the students for training and assistance in experimental design. The Institute of Molecular Biology and Institute of Neuroscience together provide an interdisciplinary approach to developmental biology that includes computational biology, structural biology, cell biology, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology. This breadth of training combines well with the highly focused project-oriented research training the students receive in their host laboratories, producing creative scientists who will be able to develop their own first-rate research programs, thereby strengthening the national resource in developmental biology.