$1.2M NIH grant to support historically underrepresented students pursuing genomics research at ASU


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The Training in Genomics Research program, based in ASU's School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, will receive $1.2 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health over five years to support students from underrepresented groups who are pursuing genomics research.

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A new program based in the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences in Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences will receive $1.2 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health over five years to support students from underrepresented groups who are pursuing genomics research.

The Training in Genomics Research (TiGeR) program provides financial support for each student in the program to fully cover their tuition and educational research-related expenses as well as health insurance, travel expenses to conferences and stipends. The program is geared toward underrepresented and minority students who have undergraduate degrees in computer science, mathematics or statistics and little to no previous experience working with genomics data sets, but who are now seeking training in genomics and bioinformatics. 

Genomics research, the growing field of biology focusing on the structure, function, evolution, mapping and editing of genomes, enables medical researchers to develop improved diagnostics, more effective therapeutic strategies, evidence-based approaches for demonstrating clinical efficacy and better decision-making tools for patients and providers.

“The metro Phoenix area is becoming increasingly prominent in the biomedical and biosciences industry, among the fastest-growing sectors in the Valley, and ASU is within this industrial hub,” said Sree Kanthaswamy, professor in the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences. 

“This puts our program within the arm’s reach of industry partners for collaboration and critical infrastructure implementation to facilitate content delivery and experiential learning. The surge in demand for technical skills in the bioinformatics and genomics area is ongoing, and this program can help address the skills gap.”

The TiGeR program integrates genomics research training into New College’s pre-existing master’s degree in biological data science and creates a new track that includes intensive in-person hands-on exposure to genomics data sets and bioinformatics tool sets, as well as mentored research experiences.

"The TiGeR program is committed to enhancing the diversity of data scientists engaged in genomics science research,” Kanthaswamy said. “Students typically do not drop out of graduate school due to academic issues but instead because of financial and programmatic issues. Through the TiGeR program, we hope to recruit highly motivated students from racial, gender and ethnic minority groups, as well as those with disabilities and those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged.

“Too often, folks from these groups with these backgrounds do not have the same opportunities as others to pursue genomics and STEM research in a meaningful way. This program has the potential to develop an incredibly diverse group of thought leaders in the field of genomics.”

The faculty members who serve as mentors for the program have expertise in a wide range of interdisciplinary areas, from wet lab and field research to data science, genetics, genomics and bioinformatics.

As principal investigators of the project, Kanthaswamy and Associate Professor Valentin Dinu, of the College of Health Solutions, will lead the program, with support from Assistant Professor Jonathan Parrott, Assistant Professor Maria Sanin Perez, Associate Professor Maria Vibranovski and Professor Pamela Marshall, as well as Assistant Professor Kim Bussey of Midwestern University. 

The grant funding will be provided by the National Human Genome Research Institute, a branch of the NIH.

The program is now actively recruiting students to participate. To learn more about the program or the application process, students can visit NewCollege.asu.edu/Genomics-Prgm. The deadline for fall 2023 enrollment is July 15, 2023.

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