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TSRI Scientific Report 1998-1999

Gilula/CB/Photo2 Graduate Studies Program

Norton B. Gilula, Ph.D.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Graduate Studies Program at TSRI. Although lofty goals were delineated at the inception of the program to measure its value and success, we have exceeded these goals by every measure, and we have developed a quality program that is integrated into the very fabric of the Institute. The interconnection to TSRI in the Institute's areas of strength and expertise is probably one of the true measures of success of the program.

Just when we were looking for an external validation of the program's quality and its standing among similar programs at American research universities, we received the news that it was ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the most outstanding in the United States. The ranking was based on the results of a survey sent to department heads and directors of graduate studies at universities throughout the country.

The program ranked 8th in the top 10 Ph.D. programs in chemistry, a tie with Columbia University, and tied with The Rockefeller University for 10th place in the top 10 Ph.D. programs in the biological sciences. When the programs were further categorized by specialties within a scientific discipline, TSRI ranked 1st in bioorganic chemistry, a tie with the California Institute of Technology, and was in 7th place in organic chemistry.

Further, The Western Association of Schools and Colleges completed its reaccreditation process this year and conferred a 10-year accreditation on the program, subject to a midterm review. This term is the maximum granted to any institution and is a significant acknowledgment of the program's evolution and adherence to the highest standards. In their evaluation, the examiners stated: "The program has flexibility; the class sizes are small, which provides good student-mentor interaction; the students work on important research projects and they are given independence in their pursuits; courses provide formal training at the outset of the graduate careers; physical facilities and services are outstanding; and there is an overarching commitment to promoting interdisciplinary training through the multitude of interactions of those people doing biology and chemistry. . . . There was general agreement that the graduate program was novel and that TSRI had created a niche that set their graduate program apart from those in most other institutions."

Over the years, the graduate program has enhanced its competitive edge by selecting and retaining highly qualified students from various disciplines and with varied scientific interests. In addition, time has brought a movement to a central position: the chemistry program has incorporated facets of the macromolecular and cellular structure and chemistry (MCSC) program into its curriculum, and the MCSC program has taken appropriate elements from chemistry. The result has been a maturation of both programs with the central mission of graduate studies remaining intact. In addition, optional, short, independent courses have been incorporated into the MCSC program, providing special topics and methods training, such as in x-ray diffraction, statistical mechanics, special nuclear magnetic resonance techniques, immunology, and virology. These courses allow deeper forays into these topics for interested students and serve as supplemental studies to the core course work.

Although research is the major component of Ph.D. programs in other institutions, the emphasis on research at TSRI is unusually strong, underscoring the synergy between the missions of both TSRI and the graduate program. Students in the MCSC program finish the program as well-equipped problem solvers; nearly 70% enter academia upon graduation, and 30% are recruited to work in industry. Students in the chemistry track leave with the skills to become synthetic chemists in academia, where approximately 40% of the program's graduates obtain positions, or in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, where 60% of the students are offered career opportunities. Irrespective of the environment they choose, TSRI graduates are recruited to fill highly competitive positions in academia, government, and industry.

This year TSRI celebrated the conferral of doctoral degrees on 19 students. At commencement ceremonies held in May, Phillip Alper, Hui Cai, Xiaochang Dai, Janet Gunzner, Markus Isler, Bryan Lewis, John Trujillo, David Weinstein, and Ian Ollmann received degrees in chemistry, and Richard Bruick, Dayani Prabha Dias, Beth Anne Furnari, Ulrich Genick, Jeffrey Hartgerink, Hui Sun Kim, Stephen Santoro, Jarrod Smith, Carol Tang, and Sheri Wilcox received degrees in macromolecular and cellular structure and chemistry. Norman Davidson, Ph.D., Norman W. Chandler Professor of Chemical Biology, Emeritus, California Institute of Technology, received an honorary doctor of science degree, and Nobel Laureate Manfred Eigen, Ph.D., Director Emeritus, Max Planck Institut, Göttingen, Germany, gave the commencement address.

As in years past, an increasing number of students obtained financial support from a broad range of prestigious sources in government, corporations, and private foundations, including the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, National Science Foundation, La Jolla Interfaces in Science, Medical Research Council of Canada, American Heart Association, American Chemical Society, Heiwa Nakajima Fellowship, United Negro College Fund, National Institutes of Health, National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship Award, Roche Award, Hewitt Award, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and Le Fonds pour la Formation de Chercheurs et l'Aide a la Recherche.

The Distinguished Lecture Series hosts several prominent researchers at the forefront of the biological and chemical sciences at the Institute each year. In addition to attending formal presentations, students meet with the scientists on an informal basis in a small group setting. Speakers who participated in the series this past year included Dr. Carolyn Bertozzi, University of California, Berkeley; Dr. Steven Boxer, Stanford University; Dr. Peter Landsbury, Brigham and Women's Hospital; Dr. Susan Lindquist, University of Chicago; Dr. Mark Ptashne, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; and Dr. Roger Tsien, University of California, San Diego.

In an effort to make a contribution to the San Diego community, a group of 15 highly motivated graduate students developed a curriculum for high school students and a teacher training program under the auspices of TSRI's Science Partnerships Scholars Program. Each program combines aspects of presentation, demonstration, and experimentation. In addition, the graduate students serve as mentors to high school students, typically underrepresented in the sciences, guiding the younger students through the college application process and providing counseling on careers in bioscience.

TSRI's faculty maintains a strong commitment to the graduate program; more than 100 professors provide instruction to 65 students in the chemistry program and 75 students in the MCSC program. We are grateful to all of our senior scientific staff for providing the leadership and expertise necessary to maintain and enhance this program that serves as a reflection of the Institute's standard for scientific excellence.

 

 







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