NSF, NIH give $5.2
million to UC Berkeley to train scientists for the post-genome
Robert Sanders, Media Relations
- Two grants from the federal government totaling $5.2 million
over the next five years will help the University of California,
Berkeley, in partnership with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory,
train graduate students in the physical, biological and computational
approaches needed to tackle problems in the post-genome era.
Institutes of Health's Human Genome Research Institute has
awarded the campus $2.5 million over five years to fund a
Berkeley Program in Genomics and Computational Biology, which
will train graduate students to deal with the explosion of
genomic information now revolutionizing the fields of biology
the National Science Foundation (NSF) granted UC Berkeley
$2.7 million over five years to train graduate students in
the physical biosciences, which entails applying mathematical
and physical principles to biological questions. The grant,
one of 19 Interdisciplinary Graduate Education and Research
Training grants totaling $49 million, was announced this month
will provide support for graduate students as they pursue
interdisciplinary studies in fields that increasingly use
technology to answer questions about biology and health. The
grants tie in with the campus's Health Sciences Initiative,
which pulls together researchers in a broad range of fields
to tackle health-related problems in the new century.
the graduate training component of the Health Sciences Initiative,
funding students who will think about health science problems
from a new perspective," said Daniel Rokhsar, a professor
of physics and a lead investigator on both grants. Last month
he was appointed acting associate director for computational
genomics at the Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute
in Walnut Creek, Calif.
the problems in interdisciplinary fields is how to get students
who already have a sophistication in one field to think creatively
in another. These grants marshal the strengths of every science
department on campus, plus LBNL and the Department of Energy's
Joint Genome Center, to train multidisciplinary scientists
in biophysics, structural biology, genomics and newer fields
two new graduate level courses have been inaugurated: physical
and computational genomics, and an introduction to biophysics.
Rokhsar anticipates four or five more interdisciplinary courses
over the next few years.
of this is the kinship of people across campus who are creating
a different dimension in basic research," said Ehud Isacoff,
an associate professor of molecular and cell biology and director
of the Biophysics Graduate Program. He, Rokhsar and Carlos
Bustamante, professor of physics, chemistry and molecular
and cell biology, are the lead investigators on the NSF grant
for the physical biosciences. All three are faculty scientists
in the Physical Biosciences Division at LBNL.
nearing completion of the genome project, we'll have access
to all the genetic pieces, but we still don't know how the
resulting proteins assemble and function dynamically as a
molecular machine," Isacoff said. "To understand this increasingly
requires a biophysical approach, which means the ability to
use or develop special kinds of apparatus, and facility with
mathematical analysis and computer number crunching.
don't necessarily get that training, and physical scientists
don't have the biological background. We're going to fill
the major emphases will be training students to use these
new technologies to extract useful information from the detailed
sequence of the human genome. These new technologies include
gene chips, microarrays, robots, sequencing machines, and
new techniques for determining the three-dimensional structure
of proteins. The training grants will support approximately
25 additional graduate students in the areas of biophysics
and genomics, plus a half dozen post-doctoral fellows.
the goals of UC Berkeley's Health Sciences Initiative is to
build two new research buildings at a combined cost of more
than $300 million to house interdisciplinary programs like
biophysics, bioengineering, structural biology and genomics.
now we've had support for buildings and research; the missing
ingredient has been funding for students," Isacoff said.
Program in Genomics involves over 30 research groups actively
working to develop new technologies for the rapid acquisition
of biological information on a genomic scale, to exploit these
technologies to solve essential biomedical problems, and to
create new computational approaches to analyzing the resulting
Graduate Program currently involves about 40 faculty and some
30 graduate students. With the help of the NSF grant, it should
expand to as many as 60 graduate students.
information on the various programs involved, check their
Program in Genomics and Computational Biology
Berkeley's Health Sciences Initiative
Life Sciences Division
Physical Biosciences Division