For doctoral students like Elisia Tichy, educational training grant support—such as the UC Environmental Carcinogenesis and Mutagenesis Training Program—represents a weight lifted.
“The financial support lets me continue my education while relieving some of the strains of living on a student income,” explains Tichy, a doctoral candidate in the cancer and cell biology department who currently receives support from the Environmental Carcinogenesis and Mutagenesis Training Program. “That lets me focus on my research without stressing about paying the bills.”
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) recently awarded $2.5 million to the UC College of Medicine to continue a competitive training program for environmental and cancer researchers.
The grant, which is in its 21st consecutive year of funding, provides financial support to eight doctoral candidates and four postdoctoral trainees annually at the UC College of Medicine. Money from the NIEHS grant will be disbursed over the next five years.
Known as the Environmental Carcinogenesis and Mutagenesis Training Program, the initiative directly aligns with one of UC’s 11 proposed statewide centers of excellence—environment and cancer—as well as the College of Medicine’s focus on cancer research.
Since its inception in 1988, the Environmental Carcinogenesis and Mutagenesis Training Program has provided support to approximately 100 doctoral and postdoctoral students at UC who have gone on to work at respected academic institutions, governmental regulatory agencies and pharmaceutical companies. Students are selected based on their academic merit and research interests.
Trainees are matched with a UC faculty mentor currently funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—such as training program director Peter Stambrook, PhD, who currently holds $4 million in grants for cancer research. Mentors come from various departments across the College of Medicine, with the majority being from the departments of cancer and cell biology, dermatology, environmental health, pediatrics and molecular genetics.
“One of the strengths of our program is that it crosses departmental boundaries. The idea fertilization that results is a major benefit to our students and a key focus of modern research,” explains Stambrook, a UC professor of molecular genetics, biochemistry and microbiology.
“The grant is important to student training because it provides all sorts of learning experiences—whether it’s attending a professional meeting and presenting research results for the first time or being interrogated by their peers during journal club discussions.”
Students accepted into the UC Environmental Carcinogenesis and Mutagenesis Training Program receive free tuition, a pay stipend and a limited amount of money for laboratory supplies. In addition, students are eligible for travel support to attend professional meetings—where Stambrook requires that they present some aspect of their research.
“I’ve had the opportunity to go to several professional conferences as part of the UC training program. They were great opportunities to present my research data, share ideas and meet people in my field of research,” says Tichy, who expects to graduate at the end of the year.
Tichy is looking at the ways that cells found early in development reduce DNA damage after treatment with chemotherapeutic agents. By understanding the underlying biology of genomic stability in these cells, researchers hope to identify ways to take advantage of it for the benefit of patients, since these cells have several things in common with cancer cells.
“Our program has a great track record of launching students into positions at impressive institutions,” adds Stambrook.
“There is something very gratifying about seeing students become successful—particularly after we have tracked their achievements and watched them grow as professionals through the program and know you’ve contributed to that success.”
“This grant is one of four such training grants at UC sponsored by NIEHS,” adds Alvaro Puga, PhD, professor of environmental health and deputy director of the Environmental Carcinogenesis and Mutagenesis Training Program. “Together, these four training grants constitute the strongest training program in environmental health sciences in the country.”
Student recruitment for the 2009–10 trainee class is under way. For more information on program eligibility, contact Stambrook at firstname.lastname@example.org or (513) 558-6151.