A new dual-mentorship program offers students the opportunity to learn from two faculty collaborators from different disciplines—most often a basic scientist and a translational scientist— and how to apply scientific understanding to a practical problem in human health.
Many students enter the University of Florida eager to dive into scientific research. They have completed advanced placement classes in high school and arrive on campus well versed in the basics of science and ready for some hands-on experience.
Since 2006, funding from HHMI has helped the university bring meaningful research experiences and valuable mentor relationships to students early in their college careers. Across the sprawling, 50,000-student campus, eight colleges and 50 departments are participating in the UF/HHMI Science for Life program. To date, 215 undergraduates have worked on faculty research projects, and students in the program have become coauthors on 57 research papers. As a result, more students and faculty want to be involved, says Ben Dunn, a distinguished professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and the HHMI program director.
Part of a new $1.2 million HHMI grant will give students the chance to participate in a new dual-mentorship program. They will learn from two faculty collaborators from different disciplines—most often a basic scientist and a translational scientist—how to apply scientific understanding to a practical problem in human health. For example, a student could work with a professor of chemistry who is creating a new compound to fight infection and then observe the compound being tested in a mouse model or in patient studies. Another student might join a team that brings together a mechanical engineering professor who studies movement of artificial joints with a surgeon who replaces knee joints. The students will learn about the different philosophies and approaches used in the two complementary laboratories.
“A student can make connections by doing time in each lab,” says Dunn. “Everybody who goes into an applied area needs a strong grounding in the basics. This is a way to enrich that and give basic science students an understanding of how their research may be used.”