Background on the Program
In 1989 the National Institutes of Health initiated a new and innovative funding program that would award graduate Training Grants in Biotechnology to public universities in the United States of America. The crux of the program was a need to establish a cadre of scientists and engineers trained to meet the nation’s biotechnological needs. One of the first nine grants awarded was responsible for establishing the NIH Biotechnology Training Program at Washington State University, which has been continuously funded by the NIH for 24 years to date.
The faculty members of the NIH Biotechnology Training Program at WSU, funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, make it their mission to train the next generation of scientists and workers with expertise in biotechnology. They execute this mission by providing interdisciplinary academic and industrial training in cutting edge biotechnology research at the graduate level. Twenty five individual faculty from six departments in four colleges constitute our core group of faculty that provides both depth and breadth of biotechnological training. Our rigorous program emphasizes the fundamentals and complexities of protein chemistry and draws heavily on the past and current research accomplishments of our training faculty. Here at WSU, members of the Program benefit from a wide array of resources, facile cooperation between laboratories and programs, strong institutional support and a culture that promotes and values diversity.
The Value of Diversity
We live, learn, and work in a world that is increasingly diverse, and it’s our diversity that adds depth, richness, and excitement to the experience of being a part of the WSU community.
As the demographic landscape continues to shift and expand on both a national and global level, so too the opportunities to expand our individual and collective knowledge, understanding and skills for working effectively with people who may have different world views, perspectives, backgrounds, values and experiences than our own. Creating a climate where everyone feels valued, respected and included is more important than ever.
As such, diversity is a core value of the program and the broader WSU community. That is why WSU maintains special opportunities for students of diversity. WSU is strongly committed to recruitment and retention of graduate students who are members of underrepresented minority groups, who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, or who face challenges due to disabilty.
- Depth and Breadth of Training in Protein Chemistry. For decades, WSU has been a leader in the study of protein chemistry. In fact, three of our faculty are members of the National Academy of Sciences. Our core group of distinguished investigators work with plants, animals and bacteria to address fundamental questions about proteins.
- Interdisciplinary Programs and an Emphasis on Cooperation. The community of biotechnology scientists at WSU is open, cooperative and interactive. And in addition to our many formal means of collaboration, graduate training at WSU is enriched by a culture that fosters friendly and informal instances of instruction, cooperation and assistance among laboratories across the campus.
- Strong Connections with Industry. A variety of biotechnology firms, many of which were established in the last two decades, regularly hire WSU-trained scientists. Some of these scientists have already attained considerable prominence in the field.
- Bridges Between Basic and Applied Research. Student members of the Training Program are strategically positioned for gaining experience in conducting biotechnological research in government and industrial settings and learning how to bring ideas to market. For example, the Program maintains a network of industry contacts useful for establishing an industrial internship experience. Additional avenues include:
- Institutional Commitment. A recently completed $60-million building program provides superb physical facilities for trainees and training faculty. An array of university-administered centers offer access to state of the art instrumentation.
Features of the Program
Students who are accepted into the Program will receive a state of the art education in biotechnollogically oriented fundamental and applied science, with emphasis laid on protein chemistry. We aim for a highly collaborative framework that provides the student with a comprehensive range of training options and learning experiences all managed under the expert guidance and care of our Training Faculty. Trainees will enter one of five Ph.D. programs in seven research areas: Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Molecular Biosciences (Biochemistry and Biophysics, Genetics and Cell Biology, or Microbiology), Molecular Plant Sciences, or Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, or Chemical Engineering. And because of the many cross-deparmental affiliations among the Training Faculty, Trainees may also have opportunities to switch from one Ph.D. program to another if the need arises and as contingent upon specific degree requirements.
The training program involves the following major features:
- Financial support (assuming acceptable progress) throughout the trainee’s graduate career. All tuition costs and medical insurance are also covered.
- Travel funds for attendance at national and international meetings.
- First-hand experience in the biotechnology industry through an industrial internship in a biotechnology firm or institution.
- Research projects chosen from 25 prominent research programs focused on a variety of aspects of protein chemistry.
- Visits by leading scientists and engineers from academia and industry to present seminars and interact with trainees.
- Core course work emphasizing protein chemistry and biotechnology.
Trainees who successfully complete our Biotechnology Training Program with its major emphasis on the fundamentals and real world applications of protein chemistry will be qualified for a vast array of positions in academic institutions, government laboratories and especially the biotechnology industry.
The Importance of Biotechnology
Protein chemistry is the chemistry of life. Proteins are essential biological macromolecules that make life possible and are major substrates of evolutionary forces. They also form the the basis for the biomolecular “machines” that organize, catalyze, and drive cellular function.
Countless diseases can be traced to corrupted protein expression, protein malfunction, or unwanted proteins within the cell.
Proteins are not only important inside the cells of living organisms. A wide range of societal problems and needs can be addressed through protein based technology.
Modern biotechnology leverages the science of proteins to: 1) Advance our accumulated knowledge about human, animal, and bacterial proteomes; and 2) Provide the means for the artificial and large scale production of proteins with high medical and commerical value.
Accordingly, many of the most difficult problems in the field of biotechnology involve knowledge gaps about the expression, properties, and function of clinically and commercially important proteins.
Continued scientific technological progress requires a substantial increase in the number of scientists trained in the fundamentals of protein chemistry at all levels of academic research, from basic to applied.
A biotechnologically competent industrial workforce of scientists and engineers is needed to bring advances in the science of biotechnology to market.