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Medical and Graduate Students

2022 Training Grants

Medical Scientist Training Program

This multi-disciplinary Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) is designed to provide education for trainees in clinical medicine and biomedical science with the goal of training physician-scientists who, because of their simultaneous and rigorous education, are well- equipped biomedical investigators. The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) is a campus with considerable strength in the biomedical sciences, which is enhanced by the local community and nearby institutions. The strong ties between the School of Medicine (SOM), the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science (SSPPS), the adjoining UCSD General Campus and nearby research institutes (e.g., the Salk Institute for Biological Studies [Salk], the Scripps Research Institute [TSRI], the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine [SCGM], the Sanford Burnham Institute [SB]), the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology (LIAI) and the overall San Diego biomedical community, create an academic environment highly suited for this MSTP and for the interdigitation of basic science, biomedical research and medical practice. The education is integrated: trainees begin research efforts before starting coursework and in the summer between the first two years of the preclinical SOM curriculum and utilize elective time to explore research opportunities and fulfill academic requirements in Graduate Programs. Students choose a Graduate Program near the end of the preclinical curriculum. The site of research training depends on the thesis advisor chosen by the student, with the Graduate Training Programs in Biomedical Sciences, Bioengineering, Neuroscience and the TSRI Program in Chemical and Biological Sciences being the most popular, though other training opportunities also are available. In recent years most students have chosen the Biomedical Sciences or Neuroscience Graduate Programs for their Ph.D. training. Completion of clinical clerkships in the SOM leads to the M.D. degree. Flexibility of curriculum design is stressed and each student's program is individualized. In addition, the MSTP engages in a number of activities designed to enhance the combined degree training and a sense of community among trainees embarking on careers as physician scientists. The Program is successful as shown by the high percentage of graduates who enter academic medicine and have careers as physician-scientists.

Medical Scientist Training Program

Cancer Researchers in Nanotechnology (CRIN)

This training program seeks to address two issues (1) In spite of all of the research advances in cancer biology and application of these discoveries to the clinic, cancer therapies have had limited success in prolonging life. Engineering approaches have begun to show promise, but there is a dearth of investigators who are trained in both cancer research and engineering/materials science. (2) Current PhD and postdoctoral training in cancer research focuses on preparing trainees to be independent researchers, but it doesn't provide a comprehensive set of skills for young scientists who, when starting their careers in academia, will be working closely with small/startup pharmaceutical or device companies or who may even work in a small firm before reentering academia. There is a synergy in addressing both issues since young scientists with cross training in nanotechnology and cancer biology are well positioned to work in collaboration with or work in small pharmaceutical or medical device companies focused on cancer. The proposed program will provide trainees with a balanced combination of (a) a comprehensive cancer biology, engineering, and entrepreneurship didactic training, (b) laboratory experience dual-mentored by a basic science cancer researcher and clinical/translational cancer faculty, and (c) practical skills learned by having the trainees work with small business entrepreneurs directly and/or prepare and defend research proposals. There will be two training tracks: one for trainees who plan to initially work in startup companies and one for trainees who plan to initially work in academia.

Cancer Researchers in Nanotechnology

Graduate Training in Cellular And Molecular Pharmacology

The Pharmacological Sciences Training Program (PSTP) at UCSD is one of the oldest and largest Pharmacological Sciences training programs in the nation. There is considerable demand for PhD graduates with training in all aspects of Pharmacological Sciences: the pharmaceutical and biotech industry needs scientists with strong quantitative skills and training in basic and systems pharmacology; courses in pharmacology need to be taught to medical, pharmacy and other health science professionals; and there is a need for individuals who understand drug action in government, regulatory affairs, public policy and secondary education. The specific objectives of the PSTP are to provide (1) training in the fundamental discipline of molecular pharmacology; (2) a strong foundation in quantitative approaches to biomedical science; (3) interdisciplinary training in areas that intersect pharmacology; (4) communications skills for disseminating information to scientists and the general public; (5) training in the ethical conduct of research, applying rigor and reproducibility; (6) career development for jobs in academia, industry, government, and teaching; (7) training to a diverse population of students; and (8) mentorship and leadership skills. The Biomedical Sciences (BMS) graduate program, which NRC ranked 3rd amongst umbrella programs in biomedical sciences, is the feeder program for PSTP students. BMS receives more than 400 applications and accepts on average 32 per year, 97% training grant eligible. Entrants have an average GPA of 3.6 and 25 months of prior research experience. We are routinely able to recruit ~30% of the entering students to PSTP faculty laboratories. This is facilitated by association of the PSTP with the Department of Pharmacology, which was ranked 3rd globally by US News and World Reports in 2017. The PSTP faculty are extensively involved in graduate training through service in BMS and engagement in student teaching and advising. Nearly all have extensive experience as mentors, and their research funding averages $900K/yr. 90% of PSTP trainees complete their PhD training, and do so in ~5.5 years. The PSTP curriculum includes requirements for coursework in basic principles of pharmacology, drug and disease mechanisms and pharmacokinetics, as well as quantitative skills, statistics, and research ethics, including rigor and reproducibility. Students also gain experience in writing and communication through yearly presentations to the Pharmacology Department as well as judged poster presentations. Career development is facilitated by a course introducing various career options; additionally direct industry experience is available through paid student internships. We sponsor interactions of students with PSTP alumni, most of whom are in research intensive (61%) or research related (24%) careers, by inviting them for seminars, retreats, and informal gatherings. The PSTP program is highly successful in recruitment of diversity students, with a significantly higher proportion (18.9%) than the campus graduate programs at large, and these students graduate with the same low rate of attrition as other PSTP trainees.

Pharmacological Sciences

Contemporary Approaches to Cancer Cell Signaling and Communication

This proposal represents a continuation of a training program at UC San Diego in the Contemporary approaches in cancer cell signaling and communication, requesting funding for Years 34-38. All faculty mentors are members of the Moores UCSD Cancer Center, with appointments in Chemistry & Biochemistry, Bioengineering, Biological Sciences, or the School of Medicine. Our program also incorporates faculty from the Salk Institute. Training faculty include 5 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 3 Fellows of the AACR, and 1 Lasker recipient. Faculty mentors are organized into three broad research areas: 1) Biochemistry of tumor cell signaling; 2) Cell plasticity and tumor microenvironment; 3) Engineering approaches to cell signaling and communication. Training involves a monthly Training Grant Seminar with two presentations by trainees, formal courses, journal clubs, trainee/faculty luncheons, and events to promote program cohesion. A Supervisory Committee provides strong program oversight in trainee selection, evaluation, and programmatic decisions, continuing unchanged from the past 5 years. With this submission, program leadership envisions continued vibrancy for our program with the inclusion as the lead PD/PI for Years 34-38 of Prof. Jing Yang, a mid-career expert in tumor metastasis, who will strengthen our leadership team with her commitment to training and mentoring in cancer biology. Overall, this program remains highly dynamic, synergistic, and interdisciplinary. TRAINEES: Current and past trainees have excellent records of research accomplishments. We have requested 6 postdoctoral positions and 4 predoctoral positions for Years 34-38, unchanged from present. The requested slots continue to be justified by ongoing growth at UC San Diego, by the ability of the training faculty to recruit outstanding trainees to their labs, and by the interactive nature of the training labs that collectively provide a superb training environment. Predoctoral trainees are drawn from graduate students accepted into Chemistry & Biochemistry, Bioengineering, or Biological Sciences, and are appointed typically for 2 years. Postdoctoral trainees are selected from postdoctoral candidates applying for positions in the laboratories of the training faculty, and appointed for a maximum of 2 years. Trainees accepted into our program are expected to have strong backgrounds in chemistry, biochemistry, bioengineering, and molecular and cell biology. All trainees are expected to publish first-author publications and encouraged to apply for independent fellowships. PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS AND CHANGES: This renewal highlights several changes, including: eight exciting new faculty additions, strengthened interactions with the Moores UCSD Cancer Center; greater faculty/trainee interactions to promote program cohesion; strong support from five members of our External Advisory Board; compelling letters of support from members of our supervisory committee; and strong endorsements and commitments of support from key administrative leaders.

Cancer Cell Signaling and Communication

Improving the Health of Aging Women and Men

This is an application for a new Institutional T32 National Research Service Award at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) designed to train predoctoral and postdoctoral public health scientists devoted to improving the health of aging women and men and understanding sex differences. The program focuses on preparing researchers to conduct translational studies of factors affecting aging through the life course from middle-age to end of life. Emphasis is placed on special concerns of aging women due to the unique challenges they face across the life course. The program will be directed by Andrea Z. LaCroix, PhD, Professor and Chief of Epidemiology, who is an internationally known senior “aging epidemiologist” with 10 years of experience directing a prior NIA-funded T32 program. Her leadership partners are Co-Directors Linda McEvoy, PhD, an established neuroscientist who studies risk factors for cognitive aging and brain imaging and Alison Moore, MD, Chief of Geriatrics who has 20 years of NIH funding and has mentored more than 50 trainees. The program is organized around 6 major research areas: 1) the study of sex and gender differences; 2) early life predictors of later life outcomes (an area that transcends all focus areas); 3) menopause and midlife; 4) healthy aging in mind and body; 5) chronic disease, multiple morbidity and survivorship; and 6) health disparities and vulnerable populations. Predoctoral trainees will be recruited from two highly selective PhD programs in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health (FMPH): 1) The UCSD/San Diego State University Joint Doctoral Program (JDP) in Public Health with tracks in Epidemiology, Global Health and Health Behavior; and 2) the PhD Program in Biostatistics. Postdoctoral scholars will be recruited from doctoral programs nationwide in public health, preventive medicine, neurosciences, psychology, nutrition, physical therapy, exercise science, demography, pharmacy, and other disciplines. The immediate goals of the T32 program are to ensure that each trainee: 1) establishes a research program and significant body of published research in aging women’s or men’s health and/or sex differences that is novel, significant and transformational as a foundation for future grant applications; 2) develops their oral presentation skills; 3) acquires detailed knowledge and strategies for success in setting and meeting career development milestones; 4) develops and submits a grant application appropriate to their level of training; 5) completes training and applies knowledge in the responsible conduct of research; and 6) becomes a valued and contributing member of the aging research community at UCSD and nationally. The Program Directors will host a weekly T32 Workshop that includes structured training in: mentorship; conducting aging research from conception of a novel and significant research question, to incorporating rigorous methods for evaluating health disparities, to publishing and dissemination; grant writing; and career development. Our long term goal is to build the next generation of interdisciplinary scientists across the US who will produce evidence that will have major impacts on the health of aging women and men.


Improving the Health of Aging Women and Men

Cancer Biology, Informatics & Omics (CBIO) Training Program

The Cancer Biology, Informatics & Omics (CBIO) training program in the School of Medicine (SOM) at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) provides graduate students and post-doctoral scholars with training in discovery cancer research that is directly relevant to the nation's goal of lessening the burden of cancer. The proposed training is based on three rationales: (i) Advancements in cancer diagnosis and treatment are propelled by basic research discoveries on cancer-relevant biological processes; (ii) Cancer omics data, combined with omics studies in model organisms, can and will accelerate the discovery of new and cancer- relevant gene functions and pathways; and (iii) Modern investigation of cancer biology in the human system requires proficiency in omics technologies and computational tools. Based on these rationales, the CBIO training curriculum is designed to (a) achieve research excellence in advanced systems and approaches, (b) provide foundation knowledge on cancer biology and bioinformatics, (c) develop translational insights through Tumor Boards at the Moores Cancer Center (MCC), (d) keep pace with advancements through seminars, workshops, national conferences, and (e) foster a collaborative community through program meetings and retreats. With an emphasis on big data collection and analysis, the CBIO program aims to prepare the next generation of leaders to accelerate the pace of cancer discovery and to advance the delivery of precision cancer medicine. The CBIO program selects faculty preceptors with cancer-relevant research expertise, productive research programs, principled research conduct and outstanding training history from the Departments of Cellular & Molecular Medicine, Medicine, Pathology, Pediatrics, Pharmacology and Surgery. CBIO also develops junior faculty co-mentors to update the research expertise and to ensure continuity of the program. CBIO selects predoc trainees with outstanding academic achievements and cancer-relevant thesis projects from PhD students in the Biomedical Sciences graduate program. Previous predoc trainees have established productive careers as faculty and research scientists in the public and the private sectors. In the latest funding period, training has been extended to post-doc scholars focused on cancer research. Moving forward, CBIO will provide individualized and tailored training and career development to postdocs with PhDs in biological sciences, bioengineering, or computer sciences. An Executive Committee, consisting of Program Director, Co-Directors, a faculty preceptor with global cancer research perspectives and two UCSD leaders in diversity enhancement, will select and evaluate trainees and faculty. An External Advisory Committee will review program metrics annually to identify strengths and weaknesses of training activities, trainees and faculty. An Internal Advisory Committee consisting of leaders in the SOM and MCC will provide guidance on program planning and development. Through its activities, CBIO will serve as a hub for big data research and training in cancer biology, cancer computational biology and cancer omics technology in the UCSD School of Medicine.

Cancer Biology, Informatics & Omics