Training Grants

Columbia University has several institutional training grants that fund predoctoral candidates in research training with the goal of preparing trainees to have a significant impact on the health-related research needs of the country. Many of our prestigious biomedical training programs have been sponsored by Ruth L. Kirschstein Institutional National Research Service Awards (T32) for decades. Each of the training grants has a thematic area of research focus and is designed to ensure rigorous training in the biomedical sciences.

Training in Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Studies

The Integrated Training Program in Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Studies (CMBS) at Columbia University Irving Medical Center is a PhD granting interdisciplinary program that combines faculty from all the basic science departments. The CMBS Program is an umbrella program that presents students with a unique opportunity to obtain individualized training in basic cell and molecular biology, microbiology, structural biology, biophysics, genetics, immunology, neurobiology, structural biology, systems biology and computational biology, as well as translational biomedical disease-related research, such as cancer biology and neurodegenerative disease research. Our hope is to train the next leaders in biomedical research and also to provide training for future leaders in other areas where a biomedical research background will be of great benefit. The CMBS program has a distinguished, well-funded faculty, whose research expertise represents nearly all the areas of modern cellular and molecular biology, neurobiology and computational biology. Our graduates have gone on to postdoctoral positions in outstanding laboratories, careers in academia, the pharmaceutical or biotechnology industry, or careers where they use their biomedical training to provide other societal benefits. 

Advanced Graduate Training Program in Theoretical Neuroscience (T32NS064929)

The goal of this training grant is to train students who combine exceptional skills in mathematics, statistics, modeling and machine learning with a deep understanding of neurobiology. The complexity of neural systems and of the data that we can now obtain demands researchers with these skills if we are to realize the neuroscience community's goals of achieving a mechanistic understanding of nervous system function and making significant progress in the treatment of neural disorders and mental illness. Training will occur at the Center for Theoretical Neuroscience at Columbia University, supported by the 6 faculty at the Center, faculty visitors to the Center, and 26 other faculty from the Departments of Neuroscience, Psychology, Biology, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, and Statistics at Columbia. The Theory Center provides an exceptional environment in which pre-doctoral, post-doctoral and faculty researchers interact and collaborate extensively both within the Center and with researchers in experimental laboratories. Most trainees are members of the Columbia graduate program in Neurobiology and Behavior (with a small number drawn from other graduate programs) and take the courses that satisfy the requirements of that program. The required courses are augmented by a large selection of electives, including courses in theoretical neuroscience, statistics and machine learning. The goal of this training program is twofold: 1) To produce theoreticians who combine outstanding skills in analysis and model-building with a deep understanding and "sense" of biological neuroscience; and 2) To train experimentalist who are skilled at applying theoretical and computational methods in their research. This will be accomplished through extensive collaborations with outstanding experimental laboratories both at Columbia and elsewhere combined with training in state-of-the art theoretical methods. Whenever possible, students will be co-advised by both a member of the Theory Center faculty and a researcher from our associated experimental faculty, and they will be given desk space both in the Theory Center and in the laboratory of their experimental co-advisor. The opportunity to be involved in the operations of an outstanding laboratory and in the activities and intellectual atmosphere of a world-class theory center provides an exceptional training experience.

Columbia University Graduate Training Program in Microbiology and Immunology (T32AI106711)

The predoctoral Columbia University Graduate Training Program in Microbiology and Immunology provides with a unique opportunity to obtain individualized training within a broad yet cohesive program of scientific inquiry into the immune system, host response to infection, pathogen biology, systems approaches to microbiology and immunology, cancer immunology, human immunology, transplantation, and processes of microbial and immune cell replication. Extending beyond traditional boundaries that separate microbiology and immunology, our research interests converge on three cross-disciplinary themes: i) immune cell and tissue development and homeostasis, including a major emphasis on human immunology; ii) pathogen biology and host response; and iii) DNA replication and repair and their links to cell proliferation, including cancerous processes affecting the immune system. Our 23 preceptors, with primary appointments in basic science or medical departments at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), demonstrate outstanding research and training records. Most preceptors are appointed to the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, which administers this program. Trainees take courses in microbiology and immunology, molecular genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, computational and quantitative biology, and responsible conduct in research. Students also enroll in workshops on scientific writing, grant preparation, and critiquing. Trainees must also pass a qualifying examination that tests their ability to formulate and defend a hypothesis-driven project. Our programmatic framework includes an Advisory Committee that regularly evaluates student and trainer performance, the curriculum, and Training Grant Eligible applicants; a mentoring plan for junior trainers; and an External Review Board comprised of three Program Directors who provide regular feedback to help optimize program effectiveness. In the six years since our Graduate Program was first awarded NIAID funding, we have consistently recruited an excellent cohort of students, with a mean GPA of 3.6 and an average of 21 months of full-time incoming research experience for our TGE entrants, who constituted 90% of our entrants. Underrepresented minorities, who we actively seek to recruit, comprised 17% of our cohort. Our program is flourishing, as evidenced by the exceptional publication record of past and current trainees. Over >95% of our graduates have remained in science or science-related fields. We also benefit from strong institutional support from our Dean and the Office of Graduate Affairs, as well as the many scientific, educational and career development resources at CUIMC. Our dynamic, rigorous and enriching graduate program is committed to training future leaders and innovators in microbiology and immunology research.

Graduate Training in Nutrition (T32DK007647)

The overall goal of the predoctoral training program in Nutritional and Metabolic Biology is to train individuals to become leading investigators in the field of nutritional sciences who will contribute substantially to modern biomedical research. The program is housed in the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. This training program is broadly focused on the nutritional and metabolic sciences. The required didactic training consists of graduate level basic science and nutrition courses, and all PhD students participate in the Doctoral Seminar and Reviews in Nutrition course throughout their residence in the training program. All the training faculty have laboratory-based basic science research programs focused on nutrients or nutrition-related diseases such as diabetes, obesity, or cardiometabolic disease. Although training focused on basic nutritional research, the program also provides a broad education in clinical and public health nutrition. The program consists of a highly structured didactic component and a mentored research component. Support from this grant was the key ingredient that allowed this training program in nutrition to grow from 6 PhD students and 11 faculty in 1989 to its present steady-state size of ~30 PhD students and 38 faculty. The initial stages of the program provide comprehensive, structured training in modern biomedical research with a focus on nutrition and nutrition-related questions. Next, trainees are provided with rigorous mentored research training. This research training takes place in the research groups of one of the productive and well- funded independent scientists who comprise the training faculty. The data and narrative provided within this application demonstrate that we are very successfully training individuals committed to careers in research, teaching, and related professions with the fundamental knowledge, skills, and experience that are needed for developing successful, independent nutritional sciences research careers in the 21st Century.

Hormones: Biochemsitry and Molecular Biology (T32DK007328)

The long standing goals of this training grant are to provide support and training to highly motivated predoctoral and postdoctoral researchers in the field of endocrinology and related subjects dealing with all aspects of hormone biology at the physiological, cellular and molecular levels. We endeavor to provide our trainees with a broad intellectual background that includes coursework, experimental expertise, seminars and career advice. The program is aided by our outstanding training faculty and the rich research infrastructure at Columbia University. The training faculty are highly collaborative and have considerable research experience exploring the mechanisms of steroid, retinoid, thyroid and polypeptide hormones as well as the paracrine interactions associated with growth factors, cytokines and important signaling transduction pathways in diverse experimental systems. We continually update our training faculty to reflect the evolving trends in research and the changing Columbia faculty base. Overall, the training program emphasizes excellence in scholarship and research. We have also added a component of career advising. In addition, participation in the program exposes trainees from diverse disciplines to practical applications in endocrinology and highlights translational aspects of their research. We continue to work with our fellows to help them achieve success in their current and future research careers.

Neurobiology and Behavior Training Grant (T32NS115699)

The grant supports students in year 1 and 2 training in Columbia's University-wide Doctoral Program in Neurobiology and Behavior (NB&B). The goals of this program, established in 1995, are two-fold: First, to prepare exceptional predoctoral students for productive careers in neuroscience research and related fields; and Second, to train scientists who seek to broaden our understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of the nervous system and the many disorders that affect it. The program achieves this through a multidisciplinary training program aimed to provide students with a solid foundation in rigorous experimental design and strong quantitative and analytical skills, coupled with broad based knowledge of neuroscience and allied disciplines. The first year begins with a student run orientation – “Bootcamp” – which introduces trainees to current research approaches. During the first year, students take Analysis for Neuroscientists, which lays a foundation for rigorous research during three laboratory rotations and subsequent thesis research. A year-long Survey of Neuroscience course provides an in-depth introduction to Cellular and Molecular neuroscience during the Fall semester and to Systems and Developmental Neuroscience during the Spring, ensuring core knowledge for all students independent of prior academic background. By the end of their first year in the program students select a mentor to guide their thesis research. In their second year, students begin thesis research, develop a research proposal, select two advanced elective courses, and take a qualifying exam. Research progress is monitored by the mentor, Co-Directors, the student’s thesis committee, and a Student Progress Committee. Students gain professional skills in writing, presenting, and cutting-edge research techniques through research-in-progress talks, a weekly seminar series, skills-based nanocourses, journal clubs, and a program retreat. These events also ensure an active and cohesive community of mentors and students. Students participate in nationally- recognized outreach programs including NeuWrite and Columbia University Neuroscience Outreach (CUNO). The program is administered by the Department of Neuroscience, and is strongly interdisciplinary with 63 participating faculty from departments across the Health Sciences campus, Schools of Arts and Sciences/Engineering, and the Zuckerman Institute. Mentor labs provide a broad range of research topics and training opportunities for NB&B students. The program receives feedback from External, Internal, and Student Advisory Committees. Between 2013-2019 the NB&B program received an average of 423 applications per year, with 64% of these training grant eligible. In 2019 the NB&B program accepted 35 students and 18 will enroll, for a 51% yield. The NB&B program actively recruit applicants from underrepresented groups and between 2-8 have matriculated annually over the last 10 years. Graduates go on to make substantial contributions to biomedical research within academia and in science-allied careers outside of academia. 

Predoctoral Training Grant in Genetics and Development (T32GM007088)

The objectives of the Predoctoral Training Program in Genetics and Development are: to provide a solid and broad education in genetics, including molecular genetics, developmental genetics, and human genetics, to provide rigorous training in scientific research, and to develop a scholarly, ethical and professional attitude in the trainees. The program emphasizes experimental skills and critical thinking, as well as written and oral presentation of ideas and research findings. We teach our students a rigorous scientific approach in the design of experiments and evaluation of data, and provide them with the tools to maintain the highest ethical standards in their work. We encourage students to give and receive constructive criticism and challenge them to be self-critical in order to become capable, independent scholars. The program aims to recruit 5-8 new trainees each year. The training grant supports eligible students in their first and second year and occasionally in later years on a competitive basis. The entire program typically consists of between 30 and 35 trainees at all stages of training and the duration of training is typically 6-6.5 years. A Training Committee consisting of five faculty oversees admissions and administration of the program and meets regularly with students. This committee monitors each student's progress through written reports of rotations, qualifying exams and thesis research advisory committees. Training consists of two years of didactic course work in prokaryotic and eukaryotic molecular genetics, biochemistry, developmental genetics, statistics, genetic approaches to biomedical problems, and responsible conduct in research. Three research rotations are done in the first year followed by research in a laboratory of choice. Students have a wide range of research opportunities across the entire Columbia University Medical Center campus as well as the main Columbia campus. A two-part qualifying examination in the second and third years takes the form of a research proposal that is defended in a written and oral examination, followed approximately 6 months later by a progress report, similarly defended in a written and oral examination. Students run their own internal seminar program and also participate in the regular departmental seminar series by inviting outside speakers. There is an annual departmental retreat where all trainees are expected to present their work either as a platform presentation or a poster. During the course of training there are milestones at which the MA and MPhil degrees are awarded. With the successful defense of a research thesis, the PhD degree is awarded.

The TRANSFORM TL1 Training Program for Doctroal Students

The TRANSFORM TL1 Training Program for Doctoral Students in the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research provides doctoral students with one to two years of research training, which run simultaneously with students’ ongoing doctoral training. The program allows doctoral students to gain knowledge and skill-sets that may be outside of their primary academic or clinical discipline. The interdisciplinary education gained as a TL1 trainee will serve as an invaluable asset in conducting future research and collaborating with scientists and investigators from other clinical and academic fields of knowledge. Participation in this program will not necessitate extending an individual’s doctoral training program. Initially awarded for one year and renewed for a second year with satisfactory progress.

Training in Biomedical Informatics at Columbia University (T15LM007079)

Columbia University's Biomedical Informatics Training Program seeks to advance the discipline of biomedical informatics by providing a broad and rigorous formal course exposure paired with intense research training in a strong health-focused environment. Our program is run by Columbia’s Department of Biomedical Informatics, and it offers an exceptionally rich environment as it is closely tied to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, the Columbia Data Science Institute, the Department of Systems Biology, and departments and schools throughout the university. We have a large, internationally recognized faculty with consistent involvement in national biomedical informatics projects. In addition, our clinical information systems service responsibilities offer trainees opportunities to get first-hand exposure to, and training on, state- of-the-art clinical and research information systems. Our curriculum includes a biomedical informatics core, additional courses in quantitative (including data science) methodology, qualitative methodology, information technology methodology, courses in the application domains, extensive research experience throughout the training period, teaching experience, and instruction on ethics. 

Training in Cardiovascular Translational Research (T32HL120826)

The goal is to train future cardiovascular scientists who have expertise in bringing basic discoveries from the laboratory into clinical practice through development of novel therapeutics. Faculty mentors direct research training in four primary areas: 1) Structural Biology of Cardiovascular Signaling Molecules, including solving structures of ion channels and G-protein coupled receptors; 2) Biophysics of Cardiovascular Cell Signaling, including ion channels, cardiac and smooth muscle signaling; 3) Animal Models of Cardiovascular Diseases, including mice models of heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, atherosclerosis, and diabetes; and 4) Clinical-Translational Cardiovascular Sciences, including integrated use of human stem cells, genetics of cardiovascular diseases, biomaterial scaffolds and bioreactors, clinical electrophysiology, and heart failure. Pre-doctoral candidates are selected from a large and diverse pool of outstanding applicants to several graduate programs at Columbia University Irving Medical Center: Physiology and Cellular Biophysics, Pathobiology and Mechanisms of Disease, the Integrated Program, Nutritional and Metabolic Biology, Pharmacology and Molecular Signaling. The training program provides cardiovascular seminar series, journal clubs, joint laboratory meetings and retreats that foster collaborations and interdisciplinary research. The program takes advantage of the many existing strengths of Columbia University, including the Irving Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CTSA), Mailman School of Public Health, Genome Center, Bioinformatics, and Tissue and Biomedical Engineering.

Vision Sciences Training Grant (T32EY013933)

Training focuses on analysis of the visual pathways from eye to brain, and cellular, molecular and genetic aspects of the normal and diseased eye, in both basic science and disease-oriented research. Twenty-seven training faculty who are members of biomedical doctoral programs are distributed on three campuses of Columbia University. The research carried out by the mentors and trainees matches the goals in NEI's promotion of eye and vision research, including the Audacious Goals Initiative. Trainees are recruited from selective graduate programs such as the Doctoral Program in Neurobiology and Behavior, and the Integrated Program in Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Sciences, both of which host MD-PhD students, and by advertisement. Through activities such as courses, thesis committees, symposia, seminars, and the Greater New York Vision Club (VisioNYC), it is expected that faculty and trainees will interact, collaborate, and produce a new generation of vision scientists who will elucidate information processing, development, and disease in the visual system.