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  November 5, 2001

Federal Grants Help Train
New Generation of Experts

With more than $3.5 million in federal funds this year, the Health Center is training 25 pre- and post-doctoral students to become outstanding researchers, teachers and clinicians in their fields.

During the past 21 years, about 450 students have participated in training grant programs at the Health Center.

"These grants are critical to building programs and attracting high-quality young faculty and those just coming out of doctoral training," says Bill Tomlinson, director of research and sponsored programs at the Health Center. "They are essential in bringing highly sought-after individuals to the institution."

Trainees come from all over the world and are recruited through international journals and other professional publications.

The two most recent training grants provide $6.3 million for the next five years. They are the "Skeletal, Craniofacial and Oral Biology Training Grant" under Alan Lurie, a professor of oral diagnosis; and the "Neuroscience Training at UConn Health Center Grant," directed by Betty Eipper, a professor of neuroscience.

Funded for more than $500,000 in its first year, the oral biology training is intended to help meet the increased need for dental research scholars in the United States. "We want to mold dental scholars to meet the growing demands of academic dentistry," says Dr. Lurie, "scholars who are competent clinicians and independent scientists, who can initiate, maintain and take their research in new directions."

Students will focus on basic biological problems related to dental, skeletal, craniofacial and oral structures and functions, as well as clinical and behavioral research.

"The program allows flexibility, and is tailored to individual trainees, while focusing on the fundamentals of the field," says Lurie.

The neuroscience trainees will be involved in a variety of multidiscipl inary studies of the nervous system, with a focus on neurological disease, mental health and substance abuse.

"We want to develop young researchers with the knowledge and enthusiasm they need to be able to start independent research and teaching careers in the neurosciences," says Dr. Eipper. "We want our students to become proficient in hands-on research and to respect and appreciate the complex functioning of the nervous system."

Twenty-nine faculty members from the biomedical sciences will teach and mentor the students.

"The program's multidisciplinary nature should promote the exchange of research methods and ideas, which will benefit students and faculty members alike," says Eipper.

The first and longest running training grant, "Postdoctoral Training Program in Alcohol Studies," has been funded since 1980 and is directed by Lance Bauer, a professor of psychiatry. Over the years, about 50 people with various backgrounds have studied alcohol theory, research design, data analysis strategies, ethical research, and grant writing skills under the grant.

With the close supervision of a senior Alcohol Research Center investigator, trainees develop their already significant research skills in their chosen specialty. "We try to convey the complexities of studying alcoholism by providing lectures on topics ranging from the effects of alcohol on cells or organ systems to the effects of treatment," says Dr. Bauer. "Our postdoctoral program is designed to train the next generation of alcohol researchers.

Victor Hesselbrock, the Physician's Health Services Chair in Addiction Studies, director of the program for its first 20 years attributes the program's longevity to the interdisciplinary approach to the complexities of alcoholism and the commitment of both faculty and students. "The fact that 80 percent of those who participated in the alcohol studies training grant have continued with careers in clinical research speaks to the program's success," he says.

Other training grants include:

"Medical Scientist Training Program," Dominick Cinti, a professor of pharmacology;

"Communicative Disorders: Cellular and Neural Biology," D. Kent Morest, a professor of neuroscience;

"Short-Term Training in Health Professional Schools," Arthur Hand, a professor of pediatric dentistry.

Jane Shaskan