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CBE Life Sci Educ. 2017 Winter;16(4). pii: ar61. doi: 10.1187/cbe.17-02-0038.

Graduate Training at the Interface of Computational and Experimental Biology: An Outcome Report from a Partnership of Volunteers between a University and a National Laboratory.

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Graduate School of Genome Science and Technology, University of Tennessee Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Department of Biochemistry and Cellular & Molecular Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996.
Graduate School of Genome Science and Technology, University of Tennessee Oak Ridge National Laboratory.


Leading voices in the biological sciences have called for a transformation in graduate education leading to the PhD degree. One area commonly singled out for growth and innovation is cross-training in computational science. In 1998, the University of Tennessee (UT) founded an intercollegiate graduate program called the UT-ORNL Graduate School of Genome Science and Technology in partnership with the nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Here, we report outcome data that attest to the program's effectiveness in graduating computationally enabled biologists for diverse careers. Among 77 PhD graduates since 2003, the majority came with traditional degrees in the biological sciences, yet two-thirds moved into computational or hybrid (computational-experimental) positions. We describe the curriculum of the program and how it has changed. We also summarize how the program seeks to establish cohesion between computational and experimental biologists. This type of program can respond flexibly and dynamically to unmet training needs. In conclusion, this study from a flagship, state-supported university may serve as a reference point for creating a stable, degree-granting, interdepartmental graduate program in computational biology and allied areas.

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