November 30, 2007

VU, St. Jude form scientist training program

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Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D.

VU, St. Jude form scientist training program

The Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital have established a joint training grant to help prepare scientists for the multi-disciplinary demands of today's workplace.

“It's a phenomenal opportunity,” said institute director Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D., who co-directs the training program with Kiplin “Kip” Guy, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Chemical Biology and Therapeutics at the internationally known research hospital in Memphis.

The St. Jude/Vanderbilt Chemical Biology and Therapeutics Training Grant is open to Vanderbilt students who have completed one year of graduate work in the Department of Chemistry, the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program or the Chemical and Physical Biology Program.

Trainees will work with dual mentors, one at Vanderbilt and one at St. Jude, in collaborative projects. St. Jude will pay the student stipend after the first year, as well as living expenses while students are working in Memphis.

While St. Jude focuses primarily on childhood cancers, “we do have a rather sizeable basic science enterprise,” with about 100 principal investigators in such fields as immunology, biochemistry and genetics, said William E. Evans, Pharm.D., the hospital's director and chief executive officer.

“We let research go where the science takes us,” he said. "We are building chemical biology to capitalize on our existing foundation of basic science discoveries, and to facilitate their translation into new treatments.”

Applications are currently being accepted for two training positions to begin next summer. Eventually, the grant will accept up to five graduate students each year, said Guy, who is the first faculty member from St. Jude to be appointed as an adjunct professor of Biochemistry at Vanderbilt.

Rapid advances in science are driving the need for innovative graduate training, Guy and Marnett said.

“We're seeing a lot of impact in our ability to do pharmacologically based cell biology,” said Guy, who came to St. Jude from the University of California, San Francisco, in 2005. “People are really starting to focus on the ability to develop new tools to probe specific biologies.

“We need individuals who have good integrative training on both sides of the fence (in chemistry and biology) to be able to do those endeavors well.”

Marnett said the grant also is a good way to stimulate interactions between faculty members of Vanderbilt and St. Jude.

“That's a major driver for establishing this program,” Guy added, “to help build strong bridges between the two institutions.”

For more information about the grant, click on