June 7, 2004
NIH training grants boost support for graduate
By Tim Stephens
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a new NIH training
grant in bioinformatics to the Department of Biomolecular Engineering
and has renewed an existing training grant to the Department of Molecular,
Cell, and Developmental Biology (MCD Biology).
The five-year grants amount to $850,000 for MCD Biology and
$800,000 for Biomolecular Engineering.
The prestigious NIH training grants provide support for graduate students
in specified areas of biomedical research.
"Receiving these grants is considered a sign of having an outstanding
graduate program," said Richard Hughey, professor and chair of
computer engineering and principal investigator on the bioinformatics
In addition to providing direct support for graduate students, the
grants also provide flexible funding that departments can use to support
graduate training programs. The five-year grants amount to $850,000
for MCD Biology and $800,000 for Biomolecular Engineering.
Budget pressures have made it more difficult than ever to win these
coveted grants, so UCSC faculty were especially pleased to see the campus's
share grow this year. The rising cost of supporting graduate students,
combined with a fixed pool of funds, means that the number of students
nationwide who can be supported by agencies like NIH is shrinking.
"It is definitely becoming more competitive, and we underwent
a very rigorous review of our program before it was renewed," said
Douglas Kellogg, associate professor of MCD biology and principal investigator
on the MCD biology training grant.
Hughey noted that the new bioinformatics training grant was awarded
despite the fact that the campus's Ph.D. program in bioinformatics had
not yet been formally approved when the application was submitted. Even
without a formal program, however, UCSC's faculty and graduate students
had already established a strong reputation in the field of bioinformatics,
which uses information technology and computer science to solve complex
problems in biology and biochemistry.
Hughey said the bioinformatics grant will provide full funding for
three graduate students the first year, increasing to five students
for the remaining four years of the five-year grant. Training for the
students will include a rotation program in which they will spend time
working in different laboratories with faculty in both biomolecular
engineering and MCD biology.
"By coordinating with the MCD Biology program, we're trying to
eliminate the boundaries between the disciplines. It's especially important
for students in bioinformatics to have relationships with people in
related programs," Hughey said.
The MCD biology training grant will provide support for four graduate
students per year initially, increasing to six students by the end of
the five-year grant, Kellogg said. The grant supports students involved
in biomedical research in four departments: MCD Biology, Chemistry and
Biochemistry, Environmental Toxicology, and Biomolecular Engineering.
Administered by MCD Biology, the awards are made to selected graduate
students based on merit.
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