Training Program in Translational Research

Philosophy on Training

The Training Program in Translational Research is flexible and attracts applicants from a wide range of academic backgrounds. Furthermore, the TPTR is proud of its diverse student body and encourages students from traditionally underrepresented minorities, disadvantaged backgrounds, and those with disabilities to apply for training grant appointments. Appointing such students to the TPTR is an asset both to the Program and the student.

This program seeks to train a cadre of PhD researchers who are prepared to work at the interface of basic science and clinical medicine. A central goal of this program is to attract a group of highly qualified and ethnically diverse students, and to provide them with support and specialized training opportunities for the study of disease mechanisms, genetics, genomics, proteomics, discovery and characterization of disease biomarkers and therapeutic targets, drug development, and personalized medicine. During the course of their training, students will gain perspective and background knowledge of human disease from research scientists, clinicians and patients, while learning about the latest methods and approaches in cutting-edge translational research. This training will feature an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to apply research findings towards defining the risk, diagnosis, evaluation and treatment of diseases.

During the training program, T32 trainees will need to complete course requirements and participate in specific Translational Research activities. These training program requirements consist of three components (Table 1):

i) Didactic coursework, seminars, tutorials, journal clubs, and career development activities 
ii) Specific research projects.
iii) Individually tailored clinical rotations based on the student research interest


Table 1: Components of the training activities supported by the T32 Translational Research Training Program

Courses and Clinical Activities

Year 2 Fall/Winter Semester Courses Spring/Summer
  • Introduction to Biostatistics
  • Translational Pharmacology
  • Tissue, Cellular and Molecular Basis of Disease
  • Translational Sciences Journal Club
Clinical rotations (8 hours/month)
Preliminary exam in home department/program Dissertation research project
Year 3
  • Translational Pathology
  • Introduction to Scientific Communication
  • Clinical Trials, Study Design, and Ethics
Clinical rotations (8 hours/month)
Dissertation research project

Non-Courses Training Activities

Year 2 and Beyond until Graduation 
  • Dissertation research project
  • Translational Research Seminars
  • Annual Retreat
  • Attending clinical consensus conferences and clinical research meetings
  • Annual Dissertation Committee Meetings
  • Peer Mentorship
  • Travel

Career Development Activities

Year 4 and Beyond until Graduation 
  • Dissertation research project
  • Individual Development Plan (reviewed annually)
  • Career Development workshop
  • Dissertation defense



The graduate curriculum for each trainee is tailored to meet their research interests and career goals and to fulfill core requirements of our training program. The coursework required by the training program is detailed below.

Tissue, Cellular and Molecular Basis of Disease - introduces students to basic pathophysiologic mechanisms, the molecular basis of disease and its morphologic expression. The course begins with a review of normal histology and then focuses on a rigorous presentation of cellular and molecular mechanisms which are common to a number of diseases including the cellular response to injury, inflammation and immunity, infectious disease, disturbances of circulation, neoplasia, and aging. Specific prototypic disease entities are presented within the context of these mechanisms and the molecular events that govern their induction and maintenance. The course is presented in lecture format. Feedback from graduate students is that it is an excellent course that provides a foundation for understanding human disease.

Translational Pathology - Translational Pathology is an innovative graduate-level course designed to help meet the growing need for scientists and medical professionals who can bridge the gap between basic science and clinical practice. This multidisciplinary course trains both graduate students and clinical residents/fellows in the methods and principles involved in translating basic science findings into clinically useful interventions to improve human disease outcomes. The central objective is to illustrate how basic science when applied to human disease, can lead to the discovery of pathophysiology and the development of therapeutics and diagnostic tests. The course is taught from the perspective of the pathologist, wherein faculty experienced with successful translational research offer insights spanning the nature and manifestations of human disease, the mechanisms of disease pathogenesis, chemical pathology and drug discovery/development, laboratory diagnostics, clinical trials, personalized medicine, and the newest technologies in these arenas. The target mixture of research and clinical trainees participating in this course enriches the educational experience and makes it a unique learning opportunity.

The course objectives are met by providing a combination of learning experiences, with an emphasis on active learning. Didactic sessions bring students up to speed on the basics of core technologies involved in acquiring and translating basic research findings in the era of personalized medicine, as well as the background and unique challenges of translational research. Examples of successful translation are provided in moderated seminars by scientists, all T32 faculty mentors, who have made some of the most significant advances in translational research, particularly in biomarkers, diagnostics, and personalized medicine, and drug discovery.

As part of this course, students participate in student-led case reports. In this portion of the course, a series of patient-centered case studies will be provided to students and residents. These cases are selected to represent a variety of clinical areas and current directions in translational research, and/or because they expose an area of need where further translational effort could solve a problem and have a real impact. Feedback from graduate students who have taken this course is that it is an excellent course that gave them an opportunity to interact and work with clinical colleagues for the first time.

Introduction to Biostatistics will cover fundamental statistical concepts related to the practice of public health: descriptive statistics; probability; sampling; statistical distributions; estimation; hypothesis testing; chi-square tests; simple and multiple linear regression; one-way ANOVA. If the student has already taken this course, several additional biostatistics courses are available, and the following will be recommended depending on the student’s interests and thesis project.

Clinical Trials, Study Design and Ethics - This course provides a review of the ways clinical trials are used as a research tool: design of clinical trials; randomization; sample size; compliance; blinding; analysis of clinical trials data; stopping rules. The course also considers advantages and limitations of alternative types of quasi-experimental designs; nonequivalent control group designs; interrupted time-series designs; case series; crossover designs; meta-analysis. Throughout this series of lectures, the graduate students will also learn to: identify ethical issues in the delivery of healthcare and clinical research, as well as to implement tools and strategies to address ethical issues.

Introduction to Scientific Communication - This course introduces graduate students to essential scientific communication skills as they develop individual NRSA fellowship applications on their dissertation topics. Beginning with the relatively easy task of learning to search the literature over the Internet and ending with the challenges of writing an NRSA grant application and giving a short seminar, each student will develop confidence in both written and spoken scientific communication. Class meetings alternate between presentations by local experts on various topics and student presentations of their work in progress. In-depth analysis of student writing and presentation skills will be provided in class by the instructor, by other students working in small groups, as well as by guest scientists. Through a series of assignments, each student will write a grant over the course of the semester on a topic of his or her choice. By the end of the term, each student will have polished and revised the proposal to a high-quality product that will be presented both orally and in written form to the rest of the class. Finally, each student will participate in a mock study section to constructively evaluate each other's grants.

Translational Pharmacology - This course will acquaint students with drug development, from the discovery process through clinical trials and FDA approval. Topics will include development and evaluation of pharmacologic targets, drug testing in animal models, clinical trial design and evaluation, statistical methods, and filing a new drug application.

Translational Sciences Journal Club - This is a literature-based course consisting of didactic overview lectures on translational science topics followed by guided discussions of recent research papers in the field.


Focus Areas Within the Training Program in Translational Research.png

Research project

We believe that the individual research projects constitute one of the most important components for our program. The research scientists affiliated with this training program are fundamentally interested in studying the mechanisms of human diseases and in translational research (e.g., target validation, developing therapeutic strategies, diagnostic test, biomarkers). These research mentors are engaged in projects supported by peer-reviewed extramural funding. Trainees are expected to present the results of their thesis work at national meetings, and to submit their work for peer review and publication. Mentors in the program are expected to be actively engaged with their trainees to ensure that their research remains focused and guided.

The preceptors affiliated with this training program are one of its major strengths. These faculty members have distinguished themselves by their commitment to predoctoral education and translational research. Our diverse research mentors investigate a broad range of disease topics, and focus on questions that offer students wide-ranging research opportunities. Many of these faculty members are already engaged in multidisciplinary collaborations with other research mentors, thereby enriching the training environment. As shown in Figure 1, our program will bridge several important areas in translational science, including cancer biology, development, epigenetics, aging, immunology, neuroscience and experimental therapeutics & biomarkers (predictive and diagnostic).

Clinical rotations

Trainees will participate in interactive clinical rotations, with the goals of developing a broader understanding of human health and disease, and increasing familiarity with the unique terminology used in clinical medicine so as to enhance communication with clinical colleagues. These rotations will be developed through close consultation between the trainee’s research and clinical co-mentors and refined in meetings of the Mentoring Committee. The clinical co-mentor will be selected by the research mentor and trainee, with input from the program’s co-directors, based on the student’s thesis project. Clinical rotations will be tailored based to the individual research project. Students will be required to complete rotations in clinical settings in their area of interest by participating in in-patient rounds or clinics, pathology signout, diagnostic consensus conferences and clinical research meetings. These rotations will allow trainees to learn firsthand about medical diagnosis, treatment and prevention, and will provide interdisciplinary training, sharpen problem-solving abilities, and educate students on the bidirectional transfer of information between “bench” and “bedside”. The trainee’s clinical co-mentor will also be a member of the student’s thesis committee so as to help direct the translational component of the research project. Clinical rotations will take place over the summer between the first and second years of appointment to the training grant.

Other training activities

The following non-coursework activities will be required of trainees through the completion of their PhD degree:

Translational Research Seminar Series: All T32-sponsored trainees will be required to attend this monthly series for the duration of their Ph.D. training. This series will be modeled after an on-going seminar series led by the Molecular and Cellular Pathology program that all trainees in our pilot program are required to attend. T32-supported predoctoral fellows will be assigned to present their research “work-in-progress” once each year. These sessions will bring important new findings to the attention of the trainees, and allow them to see how more senior scientists evaluate and contextualize new research projects. Trainees will receive specific oral and written feedback on their presentations from faculty within the training program. In addition, the T32 will invite distinguished research scientists from among training grant faculty and from other medical centers and research institutions to present in this seminar series and to meet with both trainees and faculty. A typical visit will include meetings with trainees whose research interests are closest to those of the visiting scholar and lunch with T32 trainees.

Annual T32 Retreat: All T32-sponsored trainees will be required to attend this annual retreat for the duration of their Ph.D. training. This event will showcase research presentations by senior students supported by the training program and T32 faculty mentors. We will give priority for research presentations by junior faculty members and new T32 mentors. Included in this event will be a Career Development Workshop.

Clinical research meetings: Based on the trainee’s research project, the Mentoring Committee will help identify clinical research meetings that will be most beneficial to the trainee. Examples of on-going research seminars in clinical departments include the Clinical and Translational Research Seminar Series in the Department of Internal Medical. This seminar series is co-sponsored by MICHR and provides students with exposure to clinically relevant research. A similar Research Seminar Series is organized by the Department of Neurology to cover on-going translational research in neurological disease.


Program Statistics

Students enrolled in the following programs are eligible to apply:

Biological Chemistry
Cancer Biology
Cell and Developmental Biology
Cellular and Molecular Biology
Human Genetics
Microbiology and Immunology
Molecular and Cellular Pathology
Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology