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Filling a Bioinformatic Training Gap

Duke and NC A&T Awarded $3 Million to Develop an Integrative Bioinformatics Graduate Training Program to Investigate and Engineer Microbiomes

Duke University and NC A&T have been awarded a National Science Foundation Research Traineeship grant to develop a program for graduate students who are interested in microbiome research.  This program is designed to transcend communication barriers between disciplines and promote team science.

Claudia Gunsch works with students in her labCombining advanced genomic analyses with biostatistical and bioinformatic tools presents a powerful approach to explore the complex microbial interactions underlying microbiome composition and function. Yet academic institutions have often struggled to keep pace with the growing and diverse biostatistical and bioinformatic training demands of students with various backgrounds.

With the support of the $3 million, five-year grant, project leaders across both institutions will create an interdisciplinary educational platform for biologists, engineers, computer scientists and biostatisticians. The new training program will address current training gaps by creating an educational model where microbiologists, engineers, statisticians and other empirical scientists will be cross-trained with theorists, model builders and computational scientists. They will also learn to engage with the community through outreach activities aimed at promoting science and engineering to the general public.

The project is a collaboration between North Carolina A&T State University and various corners of Duke’s campus, including Pratt, the Nicholas School of the Environment, Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Medicine. If successful, similar training programs could be implemented by schools nationwide.

“This program will fill a critical training gap,” said Claudia Gunsch, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and principal investigator on the grant. “We want to attract students from diverse fields and train them to work together. This is a fantastic opportunity to bring students together who do not typically interact and open their eyes to other activities or careers that they might not have otherwise heard about. Ultimately, we hope this program will better prepare our students to meet future research needs and accelerate research innovation.”