IGERT & Illinois

What is IGERT?

The Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program has been developed by the National Science Foundation to meet the challenges of educating Ph.D. scientists in the United States who will pursue interdisciplinary careers in research and education. IGERT is a leading catalyst for cultural change in graduate programs by establishing innovative new models for graduate education, and by facilitating team-based and collaborative approaches that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries.

How will IGERT influence graduate education at Illinois?

Our IGERT proposal uses a "back-to-the-future" educational model that asserts that the best way to use genomics to address grand challenges in biology is to have a graduate program that blends state-of-the-art training in genomics and bioinformatics with a vertically integrated, taxon-oriented, perspective. VInTG will use this broad taxon-oriented perspective as a foundation to look out across biology rather than as an excuse for insularity - as more genomes are sequenced, the success of comparative genomics will hinge on a careful understanding of the evolution, ecology, behavior, physiology, molecular biology, and genetics of each organism. Research by VInTG fellows will focus on how the genome and the environment interact to give rise to phenotypic plasticity and biological diversity.

To achieve our training goals, we have created a cross-disciplinary educational environment that includes:

  1. A distinctive program of activities and experiences that will call for students to explore fundamental   questions in genome-enabled biology and challenges in problem-solving.
  2. Annual workshops and activities involving participating mentors and expertise in the Graduate College that   offer diverse perspectives in graduate mentoring.
  3. A network of partnerships with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) that will enhance   opportunities for students and their mentors to engage in interdisciplinary, international research.

VInTG will act as a hub that ties together existing campus resources. It will also generate new courses, foster collaborative relationships, and provide students with the opportunity to become involved in global research networks.