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UW-Madison Biotechnology Training Grant is Renewed

A National Institutes of Health grant that promotes graduate training in biotechnology has been renewed for an additional five years, according to bacteriologist Timothy Donohue, who directs the program.

At approximately $1 million per year, the UW-Madison grant is the largest of its kind in the country. Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the program supports more than thirty graduate students each year. Those students come from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the College of Engineering, the Graduate School, the College of Letters and Science, and the Medical School. The UW-Madison Graduate School provides matching support to help administer the training program.

“The program”s objective is to develop a new cadre of scientists and engineers whose training and experience cross traditional academic boundaries,” Donohue says. “There is an increasing need for cross-disciplinary teams of scientists and engineers to work closely on biomedical and agricultural problems. This program prepares students to function at the interface between the biological and physical sciences.”

“This is the largest program of its kind in biotechnology,” Donohue adds. “The campus has the largest number of training positions in this area in the country-which speaks to the strength of the UW-Madison in biotechnology and cross-disciplinary biomedical research.”

Students receive their Ph. D. in their chosen major, but also take cross-disciplinary minor courses. These provide students from the biological sciences with training in physical sciences, and vice versa.

A unique aspect of the training program is a requirement that all students participate in industrial internships, Donohue says. “The internships give students important exposure to cross-disciplinary research outside the university. Our industrial partners also get to work with some of the top junior scientists in the country. These students can immediately contribute to a company”s research program and may eventually become employees.”

According to one graduate student who participated in the program, the biotechnology training grant may make the UW-Madison more attractive to potential graduate students. “It”s a definite plus,” says Enid Gonzalez, a microbiology Ph. D. student who studies plant-microbe interactions with plant pathologist Caitilyn Allen.

“The benefit to me was broadening my horizons of science,” Gonzalez adds. “I learned that good science can be done in many ways, and that there are many techniques and resources available.”

To fulfill the internship requirement of the program Gonzalez spent three and a half months at an agricultural research company in the Netherlands. “I got to see how industry works around the world,” she says. “It opened doors to lots of new science and research for me.”