While biological understanding has long focused on understanding the behavior of single cell types, there is a growing realization that the microenvironment of a tissue may determine its fate. Hence, a quantitative understanding of the tissue microenvironment (TiMe) is critical for advancing biomedical science and healthcare in applications ranging from regenerative medicine to managing the burden of cancer.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers are leading the charge in this area with expertise in biology and bioengineering, computational methods and imaging. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is also recognizing Illinois’s excellence in TiMe by awarding a National Research Service Award Institutional Training Grant to the Urbana campus. This funding will help develop the next generation of scientific leaders. Illinois faculty member Rohit Bhargava is the PI of this award and more than 35 Illinois faculty from across campus will contribute to this new interdisciplinary training program for graduate students.
The program, which will be supported by the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, the Department of Bioengineering, the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Initiative, and the Cancer Community @ Illinois, will integrate several technological approaches in TiMe-related studies using the biological contexts of disease and development. Bhargava, professor in bioengineering and the director of this NIH training grant, says the program will provide the students with intensive mentoring and systematic activities designed to enhance their research abilities and subsequently lead to novel translational advances.
“Our training program is distinctly advantaged by the University of Illinois’ strong history of successful graduate training,” said Bhargava, who also serves as the director of the Cancer Community @ Illinois. “This includes a commitment to diversity and individuals with disabilities, a culture of productive collaboration, a vibrant and productive bioengineering department, and strong institutional support.”
Rex Gaskins, faculty member in the Department of Animal Sciences, will serve as deputy director for the training program. “The TiME Training Program will integrate education on technologies and engineering methods within the individual contexts of biologic processes (e.g. regenerative medicine and cancer) as well as individual trainee development to produce the next generation of interdisciplinary leaders capable of undertaking fundamental research and enabling translational advances,” Gaskins said.
The funding will support at least eight trainees for up to two years each. Students will be drawn from across campus via a competitive application process that is now open through August 1, 2016.