Interdisciplinary graduate training enhanced by NIH supplemental award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Graduate students in kinesiology and other graduate programs at Penn State have a unique opportunity to become innovators in physiology, bioinformatics, and genomics fields thanks to a recently awarded grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

With the advent of big data science and precision medicine initiatives, the NIH is prioritizing advanced training in issues related to scientific transparency and data reproducibility, as well as preparing graduate students for biomedical careers outside academia.

Toward strengthening these areas of emphasis, NIH has recently awarded supplemental funding to two Penn State faculty teams affiliated with the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences’ intercollege graduate programs in physiology and bioinformatics and genomics to augment their current predoctoral training programs. For the next five years, these new additions to the training programs led by professors Donna Korzick (kinesiology) and Cooduvalli Shashikant (animal science) will be funded by an $80,000 supplemental grant from NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences with matching support from Penn State.

“The ultimate goal of the training programs is to position Penn State graduate students as innovators in the 21st century biomedical workforce in industry, government, and entrepreneurial enterprises, and the new initiative will be focused on training graduate students from a variety of scientific backgrounds through weeklong executive-style boot camps,” Korzick said.

In a unique interdisciplinary collaboration with faculty in the Smeal College of Business, one of the camps will address key business, legal, and regulatory aspects specific to the biotechnology enterprise, and will include hands-on experience and training related to entrepreneurship. Students will then have the opportunity to put these concepts into practice through a two-semester program in mentored biotechnology entrepreneurship with Penn State faculty and alumni that will culminate in a business plan competition.

The second camp will focus on data reproducibility and scientific transparency, aiming to address growing concerns within the scientific community that research must be rigorously and transparently documented and able to be independently reproduced and verified. Students will receive training on research design, data analysis and interpretation, and related methodologies, employing sophisticated statistical and computational methods, as well as online tools and community forums.

“We were already making important advances in these areas of graduate training, and it is very exciting to get further reinforcement from the NIH,” said Korzick, who currently leads an NIH-funded graduate training program on physiological adaptations to stress and alternative career preparation.

“The additional funding,” added Shashikant, “will allow us to build, enhance, and intensify our graduate training programs and to widen our reach to include more students than was previously possible.” Shashikant currently leads an NIH-funded graduate training program on computation, bioinformatics, and statistics.

The camps are expected to launch in June 2016, with enrollment projected at 25 students each.

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Last Updated December 21, 2015