International Research Experiences for Students

artistic rendering of the top of the duke chapel, strand of DNA and university in Berlinoverview

The International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) is an international training program in interdisciplinary genome sciences that will support visits from Duke graduate students to host lab groups at four institutions in Berlin, Germany: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HUB), the Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology at the Max-Delbrück-Centrum for Molecular Medicine (MDC), the Charité - Universitätsmedizin and Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics (MPI-MG). This program will allow graduate students to transcend traditional boundaries between disciplines and develop into interdisciplinary researchers who combine deep knowledge of biology with cutting-edge experimental and computational training. IRES is supported by the US National Science Foundation.

Program Focus ARea

Deciphering the regulatory code and understanding how it transforms DNA sequences into coordinated patterns of gene expression is one of the outstanding challenges in biology, as it is fundamental to processes such as development, homeostasis, and disease. The genetic code for proteins is deterministic, with strings of three “letters,” or codons, that directly specify the sequence of amino acids in a protein. The regulatory code is entirely different in that it is far more indirect, involves many more molecular processes and is highly context-dependent.

Effectively combining experimental and computational approaches is essential throughout genomics research, which poses significant challenges for training. As technologies continue to evolve and the scale of data becomes ever larger, the next generation of researchers must understand both the biological and quantitative components of genomics research. The International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) is an international training program in interdisciplinary genome sciences that will support visits by Duke graduate students to host lab groups at four institutions in Berlin, Germany: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HUB), the Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology at the Max-Delbrück-Centrum for Molecular Medicine (MDC), the Charité - Universitätsmedizin and Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics (MPI-MG). This program will allow graduate students to transcend traditional boundaries between disciplines and develop into interdisciplinary researchers who combine deep knowledge of biology with cutting-edge experimental and computational training.

Program Goals

The traditional mode of research in genomics, where each lab group contributes a defined component to an overall project, makes it difficult to train the interdisciplinary research leaders of tomorrow. This training program will embed graduate students in a group with complementary skills to learn new methods and participate in the dialogue that binds an international, interdisciplinary project together.

This program supports Duke graduate students in participating GCB labs to train in participating Berlin labs to gain complementary modes of inquiry to expand their technical expertise, sharpen their critical thinking, and develop important soft skills.

IRES will

  • Enable graduate trainees to become proficient with both empirical and analytical approaches and become capable of applying critical thinking in both realms
  • Provide graduate trainees the opportunity to gain hands-on experience coordinating projects that span lab groups with complementary expertise in different countries.
  • Introduce students to an international research environment and strengthen their inter-cultural capabilities.  Students will live and work in Germany and will likely work in a lab with trainees from multiple countries, amplifying this international working and cultural experience.
  • Expand students’ professional network, establish valuable connections with high performing researchers they would have otherwise been unlikely to meet in their current career stage, and attend conferences in Europe that would have otherwise been cost-prohibitive.

Program Directors & staff

Program Director
Greg Wray, Ph.D.
Director of GCB
Professor of Biology
gwray@duke.edu

Associate Director
Susanne Haga, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine
susanne.haga@duke.edu

Program Coordinator
Natasha Williams
natasha.bagley@duke.edu