Training graduate and postdoctoral students lies at the core of research programs at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Dr. Robert Nickells presenting at the annual Kambara Vision Science Symposium
For decades, scientists in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences (DOVS) have mentored and supported such students, teaching them the craft of research and starting them on their path to independent, productive careers in the study of basic and clinical science of blinding eye diseases. Until recently, DOVS has never had an integrated training program dedicated to the visual sciences.
Due to a concerted effort to submit a comprehensive grant application initiated by Drs. Robert Nickells (then departmental vice chair of research) and Terri Young (DOVS chair), a multi-investigator plan was put into place. Professor emeritus Dr. Arthur Polans orchestrated construction of the application, with contributions from Drs. Curtis Brandt and David Gamm (director of the McPherson Eye Research Institute), plus a team of professors and staff throughout the UW campus to create the University of Wisconsin Vision Research Training Program. The efforts have paid off in a big way, with the first-ever award of a T32 Training Grant from the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health for the department.
This competitive grant kicked off in September 2018, and will support the training of two graduate students and one postdoctoral student every one to two years. The selected students will engage in a robust program focused on the understanding and exploration of the visual system and its diseases. They will participate in discussions and lectures ranging from the molecular and cell biology of the photo-transduction pathway (the process that converts light into a neurological signal), to the networks of neuronal connections in the retina and the brain, to the clinical management of major ophthalmic diseases. As part of this new program, students will complete a comprehensive course titled, “Introduction to the Visual System,” which should be active by the fall of 2019.
“We are looking forward to students conducting their own projects in the tradition of ‘bench-to-bedside’ that has been a mainstay of the outstanding research training that makes the University of Wisconsin–Madison famous,” says Dr. Nickells, professor and principal investigator for the T32 grant.
*Header image above courtesy of Hoon Lab.