Joining Forces: A Doctoral Exchange Program in Berlin

Faculty in NYU's Department of Biology have established a Ph.D. student exchange program with the Berlin Institute of Medical Systems Biology (BIMSB), a division of Germany's Max-Delbrück Center (MDC). This program provides in-depth interdisciplinary training in modern molecular and cellular biology, combined with informatics and theoretical biology. It aims to combine the elite expertise and cutting-edge technologies at the MDC with the outstanding experimental and computational opportunities in NYU's Center for Genomics and Systems Biology (CGSB).

Nine students are currently enrolled in the program as recipients of four-year fellowships from the MDC. Each student is mentored by two faculty members, one at the MDC, and one at our Department of Biology. Projects are designed to bridge the research interests of the participating faculty. Furthermore, the program requires that students spend up to two years of their fellowship period at NYU. For example, three students have been co-mentored by BIMSB Director Nikolaus Rajewsky and NYU-Abu Dhabi Provost and CGSB Director Fabio Piano. These students have published three papers in excellent journals, demonstrating the early success of the program. This is a win-win collaboration for students and faculty alike; every participant is exposed to scientific excellence, research training, and cultural exchanges at two distinguished research institutions.

To monitor student progress and help direct the research projects, each student convenes two committee meetings each year, one at NYU, and one at the BIMSB. These meetings coincide with the Developmental Genetics Symposium at NYU and the Berlin Summer Meeting at the BIMSB. This allows the students to attend scientific meetings and hold their committee meetings without losing much research time.

This program was initiated as a grass-roots effort by faculty with common research interests at both institutions. Thanks to support from the Provost for Global Research Initiatives, short and extended stays by students and faculty from NYU will be possible in the near future, thus creating a true exchange program. More importantly, this program will serve as a model for other interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs that will soon become a hallmark of the global university we are building here on the square.

By Stephen Small, Chair of the Department of Biology at NYU.

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