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Interdisciplinary Approach

Contemporary biomedical research requires conceptual and experimental approaches that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries.  This concept was the driving force that led to the formation of the Interdisciplinary Biomedical Graduate Program in 1997.  The Interdisciplinary first year empowers students to explore rotations in laboratories whose research appeals to them and then to choose a program affiliation.  Students respond positively to this approach because it provides choice and the ability to follow important problems where they lead, regardless of disciplinary boundaries.

The first-year Interdisciplinary curriculum enables all students in the program to share a common experience that bonds them as professional colleagues.  During the first semester, all students take a core course and conference together, while conducting their first laboratory rotation.  The Foundations of Biomedical Science course introduces core questions and approaches in modern cell and molecular biology from an advanced research perspective. The course introduces students to mechanistic thinking described in experimental terms, with an emphasis on problem-solving and active learning. The Foundations conference helps students develop the skills needed to read and analyze primary scientific literature.  During year one, all students complete three 12-week laboratory rotations before matching with a dissertation advisor and transferring into a degree-granting PhD program.

During the spring semester, Interdisciplinary students can begin studying specialized advanced topics related to their specific research interests. By design, many of these courses are only 2 credits so that students can explore different topics before making final decisions about the degree-granting program they will enter.

The final elements of the Interdisciplinary year are courses in Experimental Design and Analysis, and Responsible Conduct of Research, which both incorporate many concepts regarding Rigor and Reproducibility. The Experimental Design and Analysis course aims to help all students develop skills for examining data and making reasonable inferences. The Responsible Conduct of Research course relies heavily on small group meetings that help students explore the contract between scientists and society.

Finally, upon completion of the Interdisciplinary year, students transfer into one of our degree-granting programs. Each of these programs has a similar approach to milestone exams and the graduate experience. Each of them also provides a unique specialized perspective related to the different areas of research they explore.