Program in Interdisciplinary Biological & Biomedical Science (PiBBs)

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The Program in Interdisciplinary Biology and Biomedical Science is a cross- departmental, college and institutional collaboration of students and faculty interested in interdisciplinary biological research. It developed from earlier antecedents (funded by IGERT and Biocomplexity grants) and is now formally recognized by the university. The impetus for the program was the recognition that progressive on fundamental problems in biology and biomedical science requires the input of new ideas, methodologies, and investigative strategies from other disciplines, in particular, the physical sciences, engineering, and mathematics. Yet, few scientists are trained or possess the necessary skills to conduct effective interdisciplinary work. By offering training opportunities to graduate students that are cross and interdisciplinary, PiBBs aims to produce scientists that think broadly, deeply and creatively across traditional disciplines. PiBBs is currently developing a curriculum that will lead to a concentration in Integrative Biology as a formal recognition of participation in the program. Students will receive disciplinary Ph.D.’s in affiliated departments, but will take a core set of additional classes and participate in other activities designed to produce a highly interactive community of interdisciplinary scholars.
There are two levels of involvement. Students can become “PiBBs affiliates” by simply enrolling and participating in PiBBs courses and activities. Affiliates are eligible for Student Enrichment Opportunity awards, able to propose and participate in Focus Groups, and other activities of PiBBs. They do not, however, receive stipend support, nor do they earn a concentration in Integrative Biology. Students interested in becoming fellows of the program apply (typically in their first year) and if accepted, will generally receive two years of stipend support. They are required to enroll and participate fully in the curriculum throughout their graduate career, and will earn a concentration in Integrative Biology. They are of course also eligible for Student Enrichment Opportunity awards, Focus Groups, and other funding. Fellows are also offered office space in PiBBs. Typically, PiBBs can support a total of ~12 students, drawn from the participating departments.

Coursework:

PiBBs fellow are required to enroll in a core set of courses. These courses have been developed with the specific aim of 1) developing a common baseline of mathematical, computational and biological knowledge and skills necessary for successful interdisciplinary collaborations; 2) exposing students to the disparate ways in which various scientific disciplines tackle and solve scientific problems; 3) exposing students to the language, culture, technology, literature and different perspectives/approaches used by various disciplines; and 4) learning the communication, scientific and social skills necessary to work effectively in small interdisciplinary research teams. These include a fall topics course (TiBBs), a spring seminar course (SiBBs), a course in developing and teaching topical interdisciplinary biology courses (CiT). Additionally, fellows take an integrated course in professional development, including ethics, surviving graduate school, grantsmanship and other topics.

Doctoral Committee:

PiBBs fellows are required to have an interdisciplinary doctoral committee, with either co-mentorship or active participation by faculty from two or more different departments, including biology.

Summer school/internships:

Fellows are required to participate in internships and summer courses at institutions and laboratories outside of UNM. We seek to provide a mechanism for students to obtain research and learning experiences not represented at UNM, while at the same time broadening their scientific network and experiences. Typically students take the Santa Fe Institute Complex Systems Summer School, with provided by PiBBs and/or SFI.

Thesis work:

Fellows are expected to develop and participate in a research collaborative team.

Graduate students are typically nominated by faculty in departments affiliated with PiBBs. For beginning graduate students, the nomination letter by the advisor or prospective advisor is accompanied by the students application packet (CV, statement of interests, standardized test scores, and undergraduate and graduate transcripts). For students already enrolled at UNM, the nomination letter is also accompanied by a current research statement. PiBBs fellows are selected by an advisory committee drawn from representatives of the participating departments. Fellows are supported initially for one year; a second year of funding is contingent on satisfactory progress.

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