Program Overview

The underlying rationale for establishing the Boston University Training Program in Inflammatory Disorders (BU-TPID) was based on the common research interests of a number of investigators at Boston University, the recognition of the need to establish an integrated program in inflammatory disorders, and to train students and fellows in common mechanisms of inflammation with particular emphasis on clinical and translational science.  The current faculty of the program are members of the Departments of Medicine, Microbiology, Pathology, Biophysics and Physiology, and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), the Department of Environmental Health, at Boston University School of Public Health, the Department of Oral Biology and Periodontology at the Goldman School of Dental Medicine, and the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering.

The major goals of the program are to 1) Recruit and enroll trainees of the highest quality, including underrepresented minorities; 2) Provide these trainees with a multidisciplinary background in inflammatory disorders coupled with intensive laboratory training in a particular research topic; 3) To teach the trainees critical thinking skills and how to ask relevant and feasible research questions; 4) To instill these trainees with a sense of ethical behavior; 5) To help develop effective written and oral communication skills among the trainees; 6) To facilitate collaborative interactions among both trainees and faculty of the training program.

The training program provides predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees with a solid academic background in immunology with emphasis on multi disciplinary approaches to study common mechanisms of inflammation.  Training includes relevant course work, regularly scheduled seminars and journal clubs, and rigorous laboratory training with the goal of preparing our trainees for careers in research related to the goals of this program.  Boston University School of Medicine, School of Public Health, Goldman School of Dental Medicine, and the College of Engineering collectively have an outstanding group of faculty with long standing interests in inflammatory processes who are members of the BU-TPID. Faculty research interests encompass three broad research areas including 1) Pathogen induced inflammation; 2) Chronic non-communicable inflammatory disorders;  and 3) Therapeutics and preventative strategies.

Joining TPID

After a formal application and interview process, successful candidates are appointed to the Program in Inflammatory Disorders.  The course requirements for predoctoral trainees vary somewhat for students admitted into the different departments, but all students are expected to develop a strong background in multiple areas of the biomedical sciences and a solid foundation in inflammatory disorders research.  Postdoctoral trainees are expected to attend program seminars, journal clubs, professional development workshops, and engage in original research.

In addition to the successful completion of the prescribed course work, Ph.D. and M.D./Ph.D. candidates also must complete laboratory rotations, participate in seminars and journal clubs, pass a qualifying examination, and successfully defend a dissertation based on original laboratory research.

Coursework

The curriculum for students in the TPID offers flexibility in training and is designed with the interests of the student and his/her prior background and training in mind. Formal coursework emphasizes breadth and depth in various areas of  microbiology, molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry.

Formal coursework is normally completed within the first 2 years of study, with the majority of courses taken during the first year. Students complete 28 credit hours of graded coursework, taken from an approved list of required and elective courses.

Laboratory Rotations

All predoctoral students are required to complete laboratory rotations. The purpose of laboratory rotations is to help students acquire a complete set of research tools, to experience different approaches to research, and to identify a major advisor for their dissertation research. Students are normally required to rotate through 3 laboratories before choosing one for their dissertation research. Students are strongly encouraged to begin their laboratory rotations during the first semester of their first year of graduate study. In some cases, rotations can begin the summer before commencement of class work.

Seminars

During the fall and spring semesters, TPID (along with the Microbiology Department and Immunology Training Program) sponsors a weekly seminar featuring a nationally or internationally recognized scientists. Students are encouraged to attend all of these seminars and to join the speaker over an informal lunch. In this way students are exposed to leading edge concepts in a rapidly advancing field and are able to discuss the science with the researchers driving these advances. Making connections with invited speakers also is important for networking for postdoctoral positions or other jobs after completion of the doctoral thesis. In addition, all trainees are expected to attend and participate in their respective Departmental seminars and in seminars offered by a variety of divisions and centers throughout the BU Medical and Charles River Campuses. This menu of seminar choices affords the student ample opportunity to sample multiple diverse areas of interest from cutting edge advances in molecular biology to the ethics of human genome research. Students may also attend a variety of seminars offered by our neighboring institutions including, but not limited to, Tufts Medical School, Harvard Medical School, MIT, Brandeis University and Massachusetts General Hospital. Students are expected to give at least one formal seminar a year.

Laboratory Research

Research is the central part of the graduate student’s training, and as such most of the time spent in graduate school is devoted to original laboratory research. This is carried out in the laboratory of a faculty member chosen by the student who serves as the student’s mentor and scientific advisor. A faculty research advisory committee, composed of scientists who provide additional expertise and guidance to the student, meets regularly to help direct the course of research. Students are expected to publish the results of their original research in refereed scientific journals.