Q. What is IGERT?
A. IGERT is an acronym (Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship) for a National Science Foundation program that provides grants to universities to improve graduate education.
Q. Why does the IGERT program stress multidisciplinary education?
A. The IGERT program was created with the vision to educate students in a multidisciplinary environment because real world problems know no academic boundaries.
Q. Would I get my Ph.D. in an academic discipline or in biotechnology?
The role of the traineeship is to enhance your doctoral education by providing a broader perspective, practical experience and a collaborative research project.
A. Your Ph.D. will be in an academic discipline, which is obtained through a department. There are 6 participating departments.
Q. Do I apply to the Ph.D. granting department or to this traineeship?
A. You apply to both in parallel with one another. The Ph.D. granting department will gain you admission to the university, which is required to participate in the IGERT traineeship. Application to the IGERT traineeship enables you to participate in the IGERT activities and puts you in competition for a Fellowship.
Q. Will it take longer for me to get my Ph.D. if I "enhance my doctoral education?"
A. No, the intention is that it will not take longer. If you obtain a Fellowship, which gains you a faster start in research, it might even take less the time to earn the Ph.D.
Q. What would an IGERT Fellowship gain me?
A. The IGERT Fellowship would pay your stipend for typically one year in graduate school to allow you to get a faster start in your research. The IGERT Fellowship also typically pays a much higher stipend during this one-year Fellowship period than does a normal graduate stipend. IGERT Fellowships are limited in number, so please apply early.
Q. May foreign students obtain IGERT Fellowships?
A. NSF rules prohibit the use of these funds for supporting anyone other than U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Foreign students may still participate in IGERT.
Q. May I participate in IGERT even if I do not receive a Fellowship?
A. Yes. IGERT is a new model for graduate education that is intended to be accessible to everyone. You must still apply to the program so that we can make room for you.
Q. What exactly are these activities that go beyond the traditional Ph.D.?
A. The activities of this IGERT are these.
- A 3-credit course entitled "Multidisciplinary Teamwork in Biotechnology". This is the centerpiece of the curriculum, and we have students take it in their first semester. Industrial leaders come to the classroom to discuss with students what the current technological issues are in the world of biotechnology, including technological hurdles, scientific and engineering challenges, and business and societal considerations. There is also ethics instruction, and training in oral and written presentations. The course includes students from across all science and engineering disciplines together, plus entrepreneurial MBA students. Teamwork training is used to teach how to function productively and creatively in diverse multidisciplinary teams comprised by students in the course.
- Your Ph.D. thesis project with your major professor in your Ph.D. granting department will be deliberately collaborative with a research group in another department, and the professor in charge of that group will be a co-advisor. You will spend 6 weeks working in that lab during your initial training period. Subsequently, you will have access to their facilities, attend their group meetings, and you will learn how they do research.
- You will have at least a 6-week practical experience to be designed in consultation with your major professor. Practical experience could entail work in an industrial or national lab, a hospital or clinical lab, or a government agency.
- The IGERT students get to choose, invite and host seminar speakers on whatever topic students want to hear about, including technical issues, bioethics, career advancement, government policy, etc.
- There is an annual poster session for IGERT students to present their research to each other, the FACULTY, and scientists and engineers from industrial, hospital and government entities.
- Each IGERT student will be provided with funding to travel to a conference.
Q. Will participation in IGERT help me get a job when I graduate?
A. Yes. The NSF IGERT program is prestigious and its graduates are highly sought after. IGERT offers two big advantages in getting jobs. First, the preparation will give you skills that employers value, such as research on a hot topic, a broad perspective, knowledge about today's technological world, teamwork skills, and the ability to work productively in a multidisciplinary environment. These skills are valued by academic, industrial, clinical and government employers. Second, you will have access to valuable contacts who can help find the best job for you, telling you not just who has openings but who has interesting openings. The IGERT biotechnology group is a network of people. New jobs can be created for a person with unique skills. The network will gain you access to many industrial employers in the mid-Atlantic region, and the professors can help you find the right post-doctoral position to advance an academic career.
Q. Is the IGERT program designed only for students with aspirations for industrial or clinical jobs?
A. This program is a great opportunity for students interested in
academic jobs because they will learn how research questions are
formulated, they will learn what the real problems are today, and they
will experience a new model for education.
Q. If I plan an academic career, will I be prepared as a teacher?
A. The IGERT program is a great asset to those aspiring to a teaching
career because it provides you with the big picture that stimulates the
interests of students. The IGERT program also provides contacts for
life-long learning. You also have the option during graduate school to
work as a teaching assistant to allow you to develop teaching skills.
Q. Does the IGERT program really encourage participation of under-represented groups, such as women and minorities, or is this just the same old equal opportunity boilerplate you see everywhere?
A. This program really does encourage participation of under-represented groups, such as women and minorities. It's not just boilerplate. We understand that the science and engineering establishment has not been kind enough to under-represented groups, and we are doing something about it. We have enlisted the participation of people who do research on how to reduce racism and sexism. Our multidisciplinary course includes training by experts on bias reduction, which is also imperative just for multiple disciplines to work together. The program teaches people how to look beyond stereotypes and to focus on good ideas. It makes the environment pleasant for everyone.