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Basic and Translational Studies at the Host-Pathogen Interface

About the Program

The struggle between humans and infectious agents will be won at the interface between the host and the pathogen. This important area is precisely the research emphasis of the 'Basic and Translational Studies at the Host-Pathogen Interface' training program, a training program for graduate studies. We offer research training opportunities in the study of several important human bacterial and viral pathogens, including Salmonella species, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Brucella abortus, Influenza virus, Borrelia burgdorferi, Rotavirus, Coxiella burnetii, and Hepatitis virus. Other research projects focus upon pathogen-host interactions mediated by microbial toxins, such as Shiga-like and C. perfringens toxins. In addition, a large project in the study of microbial surface components that facilitate the binding of bacterial pathogens to host cell adhesive matrix molecules is a further area of emphasis to provide trainees opportunities for study. A major theme that cuts across specific research programs is translational research.

Discrete projects of the principal investigators of this program are connected by several themes that include:

  • Microbe-host cell interactions
  • Enteric pathogens
  • Respiratory pathogens
  • Vaccine-induced protection
  • Translational Research

Extensive collaboration already exists between many of the participating faculty members, and the research training environment is seamless from the trainee's perspective. The faculty have access to animal care facilities (both conventional ABSL-2 and ABSL-3) for small and large animal models, cutting edge technologies, and core facilities on the main campus. An excellent interdisciplinary curriculum, enriched by an outstanding seminar series and plentiful opportunities for trainees to attend and present their findings at regional and national meetings, will guarantee the ultimate success of our trainees as independent scientists.

Participating Colleges, Departments and Faculty

The faculty of this intercollegiate and interdepartmental program consist of an outstanding group of eighteen extramurally funded investigators with a cumulative wealth of experience in training pre-doctoral students.

Faculty members are drawn from components of the Texas A&M University System components and participating departments:

Texas A&M University

Graduate Training in the 'Basic and Translational Studies at the Host-Pathogen Interface' Program

1. Selection of Participants.

Outstanding graduate students will be selected by the training grant faculty for T32 training grant support through a competitive process on an annual basis. Selection criteria include excellence in undergraduate and graduate studies, recommendation from the student's mentor, GRE scores, and a statement of research and career goals prepared by the student. Students become eligible for an NIH pre-doctoral stipend upon completing their second year of study and after the selection of a research mentor.

2. Curriculum of Study

All trainees will be well grounded in the fundamental disciplines that comprise the complex biological processes of microbial pathogenesis.

  • A comprehensive review of cell and molecular biology
  • The two foundation courses of this program, Microbial Pathogenesis of Human Disease (MMPA 601) and Immunoregulation (MMPA 602)
  • A graduate level biochemistry course taught by the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • The statistics course for life sciences majors which provides fundamental understanding of statistical evaluation of data
  • Professionalism and Ethics (MSCI 687), a course designed to familiarize new researchers with appropriate professional conduct, including issues concerning human and animal use compliance, scientific misconduct, intellectual property, and grantsmanship and funding opportunities
  • An extensive menu of elective courses appropriate to each specific research focus

3. Host-Pathogen Interface Seminar Series

The Department of Microbial and Molecular Pathogenesis coordinates a weekly seminar series that hosts renowned scientists whose research focus is the host-pathogen interface. Seminars are held each Monday from 4-5 pm on the College of Medicine College Station campus. Presentations may be broadcast to remote locations as requested. Questions about this seminar series should be directed to the seminar coordinators, Dr. Robert Alaniz and Dr. Veronica Sanchez.

4. Microbial Pathogenesis Training Program Journal Club

This weekly journal club features student-led presentations of seminal papers from high-impact journals in studies at the host-pathogen interface and is held on Wednesdays from 12-1 pm. Attendance and presentation at this journal club is required of all stipend awardees. Questions about this journal club should be directed to the journal club coordinator, Dr. Jeffrey Cirillo (Jdcirillo@medicine.tamhsc.edu).

5. Stipend Support.

Stipends are set by NIH, and consist of approx. $22,000 per year, with payment of tuition and fees up to $7,700 each year, a travel allowance of $1000 for participation in professional meetings, and $2,200 for the purchase of supplies to support the trainee's research project. Additionally, recipients of stipends receive an out-of-state tuition waiver and are provided with health insurance.

 

Core Facilities & Campus Resources

Core facilities are available on the campuses of Texas A&M University and the Texas A&M University System Health Science Center and include core laboratories for Microscopy- Microscopy& Imaging Center, and additional facilities for electron microscopy, confocal microscopy, fluorescence microscopy, and laser capture microdissection), the production of monoclonal antibodies, genetically altered mouse strains facility and the Texas Institute for Genomic Medicine (TIGM), state of the art flow cytometry, sequencing, real-time PCR, microarray, and a variety of imaging techniques are available (including IVIS-200 live animal imaging capabilities).

AAALAC accredited animal facilities are available through the University Comparative Medicine (CCM) facility. BSL3 and ABSL-3 containment facilities for animal and non-animal research projects are available in the Reynolds Medical Building, in the Veterinary Research Building and the MERB facility. Researchers also have access to microcomputers in every laboratory and to mainframes and a Cray supercomputer through Texas A&M University.

 

Program Leadership

The Program Director, James Samuel, PhD, is Professor of Microbial and Molecular Pathogenesis. He has been a faculty member in the College of Medicine for more than 17 years, during which time he has managed several extramural grants from NIH and other sources valued in excess of $6 million in direct costs. Dr. Samuel has mentored many graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. He is currently Chair of the Department of Microbial and Molecular Pathogenesis.

The Executive Advisory Committee, which assists the program director in this training program, is composed of one faculty representative from each of the five thematic research areas. The functions of this committee include overall management of the program, establishment of criteria for entry and benchmarks for progress through the program, recruitment and selection of candidates for training, assignment of stipends, and monitoring trainee progress on an annual basis in close coordination with the trainee's mentor and faculty advisory committee.

The Seminar Coordinators, Drs. Robert Alaniz and Veronica Sanchez., are responsible for organizing a series of excellent outside speakers who represent an equitable balance between the five thematic areas and various sub-themes. The participating departments in this training grant offer outstanding seminar programs, that will enrich the training environment.

The Department of Microbial and Molecular Pathogenesis serves as the administrative home for the training grant. The Chair, Dr. James Samuel, and staff assist the Program Director and the Executive Committee in the daily administration of training grant activities, and in the maintenance of records and files on trainees.

For more information contact 979.436.0348.