Project Period

December 15, 2002-November 30, 2011

Level of Access

Open-Access Report

Grant Number


Submission Date



The objective of this IGERT project is to initiate an interdisciplinary, inter-institutional degree program in Functional Genomics of Model Organisms supported by an interactive faculty from the University of Maine, the Jackson Laboratory, and the Maine Medical Center Research Institute. The major challenge for biological and biomedical research for the foreseeable future is to understand how the information encoded within a genome determines the development and functioning of a living organism. To move from the level of DNA sequence to an understanding of the molecular interplay producing the final traits of an individual will require a continuum of experimental approaches ranging from experimental genomics, molecular biology, and novel biophysical methodologies, to advanced data screening schemes and computational techniques. Traditional alignments of the biologically based disciplines will be insufficient to solve the complex problems associated with functional genomics. Genome projects, regardless of the organism, will rely increasingly on the physical and computational sciences. The increased need for interdisciplinary research will require scientists trained to work interactively in multiple disciplines. This program introduces a new educational paradigm, developed to train students to move freely among the disciplines needed to investigate genome function. Students receive training in the biological, physical and computational sciences through a combination of core and advanced courses, intensive workshops, and research seminars. Emphasis is placed on a high-quality research environment and a tutorial relationship between the student and her/his mentors and program committee. Central to the students' training in interdisciplinary research will be the use of a paired mentoring system, a concept referred to as twinning. The primary mentor plays a role similar to the traditional graduate advisor and comes from the student's primary area of research. The secondary mentor comes from a second discipline, and each student develops a research project dependent upon interdisciplinary collaborations.

IGERT is an NSF-wide program intended to meet the challenges of educating U.S. Ph.D. scientists and engineers with the multidisciplinary backgrounds and the technical, professional, and personal skills needed for the career demands of the future. The program is intended to catalyze a cultural change in graduate education by establishing innovative new models for graduate education and training in a fertile environment for collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries. In the fifth year of the program, awards are being made to twenty-one institutions for programs that collectively span the areas of science and engineering supported by NSF.