Multi-Disciplinary Training grant in Cancer Research
Program Summary Increasingly, new technologies and disciplines are being applied to challenges in translating fundamental cancer research findings into meaningful clinical outcomes. The Multi-disciplinary Training grant in Cancer Research (MTCR) is an established pre-doctoral training program at the University of Chicago supported by NIH/NCI T32-009594 that seeks to provide rigorous training and relevant experience to graduate students who will make up the next generation of cancer research leaders and pioneers. The core mission of the MTCR is to train our most talented pre-doctoral students to dissect and design new ways of attacking cancer as a disease, whether that be through achieving a better understanding of the mechanistic underpinnings of cancer initiation and progression, developing novel tools to monitor and modulate cancer cell responses to therapeutic intervention, or to exploit increased information about human cancer datasets and new computational methods to identify the most vulnerable cancer pathways. MTCR leadership carried out a strategic review in 2014 resulting in a re-alignment of programmatic goals to modernize training provided to pre-doctoral cancer research students at UChicago. Through more stringent selection of faculty trainers and introduction of new coursework and training elements in translational cancer research, chemical biology, molecular engineering and computational approaches, the MTCR program provides training that is multi- disciplinary and emphasizes problem-based learning and hands-on experience. The MTCR also promotes career development opportunities through the MyCHOICE program and the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the University of Chicago where our trainees are exposed through seminars, workshops and internships to skills relevant to a career in biotechnology, science journalism and other research-intensive careers. We have also developed more effective mechanisms for recruitment of students from diverse backgrounds through deployment of current trainees and our alumni network, in combination with more holistic rubrics for recruitment. As a result of all these various program changes in the past cycle, our program has shown enhanced productivity with reduced time to graduation, improved training outcomes in terms of publications, fellowship awards and percent trainees going into research-intensive and research-related careers. Over the next 5 years with renewed funding, we aim to build on our successful training approaches, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that the next generation of cancer researchers have the knowledge, skills and tools to make a meaningful impact on the collective goal of eliminating cancer deaths in our time.