By Alexis Kessenich
The Center for Genomic and Computational Biology (GCB) received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create an International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) program called “Dissecting the Regulatory Genome Duke-Berlin Training Program.”
This international training program in interdisciplinary genome sciences, led by GCB director Greg Wray, supports Duke graduate students to visit host lab groups at four participating institutions in Berlin, Germany: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology at the Max-Delbrück-Centrum for Molecular Medicine, the Charité-Universitätsmedizin and Berlin Institute of Health, and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics. An international team of 22 mentors (11 at Duke and 11 in Berlin) will offer cross-training to graduate students in three areas: high-throughput genomics, computational biology and developmental systems.
One of IRES’ key components is the strong existing relationship between research groups in both countries – some collaborations stretching back over a decade. Duke and Berlin already have a program in place that mirrors IRES, an International Research Training Group (IRTG) in which Duke labs host Berlin students.
Each year, four Duke students will visit Berlin and four German students will visit Duke under the respective program for approximately three months. During visits, students will work in their host labs full-time, interact closely with their host research group and gain expertise complementary to their home group.
“The goal for IRES,” associate director of IRES Susanne Haga said, “is that graduate students in this program will transcend traditional boundaries between disciplines and develop into interdisciplinary researchers who combine deep knowledge of biology with cutting-edge experimental and computational training in a global research environment.”
Traditionally, genomics research consists of lab groups contributing defined pieces to an overall project, posing significant challenges to training. Graduate students must be trained to be deliberately interdisciplinary and adept at international collaboration to ensure continued long-term innovation in the genome sciences; much of the highly impactful research in this field over the last two decades has come from this approach. With the NSF’s grant and the corresponding IRTG, Duke and Berlin students have the opportunity to become the interdisciplinary research leaders of tomorrow.
Graduate students will be able to choose from several primary research mentors. “In doing so,” says Wray, “they will gain the opportunity to enrich their training, strengthen their dissertation research and develop professionally by embedding themselves in a research group with complementary intellectual and technical expertise.”
Along with Wray and Haga, members of the IRES team will include program coordinator Natasha Williams, and a steering committee composed of the director, associate director, program coordinator, two Duke faculty and two Berlin faculty.
Interested students who are a U.S. citizen and whose primary advisor is a Duke IRES program member can apply to IRES after affiliating with a participating Duke faculty member.