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CPGE Awarded NIH T32 Training Grant in Physical Genomics

The National Institutes of Health have awarded the Center for Physical Genomics and Engineering a prestigious T32 grant to establish the Physical Genomics Predoctoral Training Program (PGTP), the first training program in the United States to focus specifically on the convergent science of physical genomics.

The mission of the PGTP is to train the next generation of transdisciplinary scientists that will bridge molecular biology, bioengineering, physics, optics, chemistry, and medicine. Through collaboration of program faculty in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Feinberg School of Medicine and the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the PGTP aims to enable trainees to acquire and apply a broad skillset that addresses the physical manipulation of living systems in the pursuit of new strategies for the treatment of disease.

Physical genomics is a new field that involves understanding the structure, function, and fundamental principles of chromatin, an intricately folded group of macromolecules including DNA, RNA, and proteins that houses genetic information within cells and determines which genes get suppressed or expressed. With this understanding, researchers can reversibly regulate, control, and even reprogram global patterns of gene expression without altering the genes themselves. This has wide implications in the future treatment of diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s, and other potential applications such as improving crop yields and mitigating the impact of climate change on plants and coral reefs.

The PGTP deploys a range of strategies to help trainees integrate practical, hands-on experience with the knowledge base required to advance research in physical genomics. Through an evidence-based approach to training, trainees participate in experiential learning and seminars focused on reprogramming chromatin to treat disease and engineer living systems to overcome environmental challenges using breakthrough optical imaging, computational genomics, and molecular biology. The trainees are mentored by faculty with an outstanding record of productivity and mentorship. Program mentors provide ongoing review, evaluation, and mentoring of trainees with the goal of creating a resilient, diverse cadre of scientific professionals.

The ability to regulate the physical structure of chromatin represents a new frontier in biological discovery and has the potential to be one of the major drivers of 21st-century biotechnology. The PGTP positions its trainees as the next generation of interdisciplinary biomedical leaders able to explore this frontier through an exceptional training experience in physical genomics.

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