About the Program
Program design and philosophy:
The course of study encompasses a 10 week, full-time commitment (July-September, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.) that is divided into 10 one-week sections. Five weeks are devoted to topics in cell biology or biochemistry followed by a second five week block that focuses on problems in molecular biology.
The program's format is structured as a series of distinct exercises in problem solving. At the beginning of each week, the trainees are introduced to a single, key problem within that faculty’s field of expertise. The goal is to lead the trainees to the problem's solution via a series of carefully planned classroom discussions and laboratory-based experiments. The faculty directs the course of the discussions by both questioning the trainees and soliciting their answers. In this manner, the trainees are "forced" to critically analyze the methods, results, and conclusions of a focused series of papers under the guidance of a recognized expert in that field.
- In the classroom setting, the instructor introduces the trainees to the week's problem on Monday and provides a standard lecture-type background (usually two to three hours).
- Throughout the remainder of the week, the trainees play an active role in analyzing a series of four research articles that are assigned for reading at a rate of one paper per evening. These articles are specifically chosen such that their correct interpretation will allow the trainees to directly participate in the resolution of the week's problem.
Because an analytical and logical approach to problem solving requires an opportunity to also generate and assimilate data acquired in a laboratory setting, a series of benchside experiments have been designed to reinforce those concepts introduced in the classroom. As in the didactic sessions, the focus in the laboratory is to "think and solve" rather than to reduce problems to "cookbook" exercises.
Taken together, the classroom and laboratory sessions are designed to use emerging concepts in the biological sciences as a means of introducing trainees to the critical importance of identifying the "right" question, selecting the "best" tools to answer that question, using sound logic to interpret experimental results and correctly synthesizing the information to construct appropriate conclusions.
In summary, a course of study has been designed whose specific goal is to introduce trainees to a series of rigorous exercises in problem solving from the perspective of cell and molecular biology. Minimally, the trainees are exposed to important new areas of investigation and are given the opportunity to see complex techniques "demystified." In addition, at a time when young investigators are increasingly drawn to technology-oriented approaches, the program plays an important role by demonstrating that methodology is simply a set of tools. Rather, efforts focus on helping trainees realize that clarity of thought and creativity remain the most difficult and important skills to acquire. Of course, no program can transform an individual into a successful scientist. However, for the properly motivated, this program offers trainees an opportunity to be taken under the collective wing of a group of dedicated scientists who both educate and spark desire.