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Reintegrating the Phenotype

The phenotype includes all the observable features of an organism, from its physical features, behavior and personality to its response to environmental challenges like climate, toxins and diseases. Discovering how the phenotype is built from molecular and cellular processes, development and genetics is critical to solving real-world challenges that include human health and disease, food security, and managing biological and ecological diversity in the face of anthropogenic impacts on the environment.

21st-century life scientists will need to transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries in order to transform our understanding of complex traits and solve these problems.  Methodological advances in genomics, computation, and quantitative analyses are now shared across the life sciences, bridging our understanding of how the rules of life integrate across scales of biological organization. To train the next generation of professionals in health care, agriculture, conservation, management and data science, we offer a new integrative graduate program that explicitly combines interdisciplinary research with formal career exploration and development in order to move past the constrained thinking of traditional research silos.

Possible Areas of Study

This research cluster realigns doctoral training to respond to complex societal questions regarding the phenotype by bringing together faculty and students in cell and developmental biology, neuroscience, evolution, ecology, psychology and environmental sciences.  Participants will have the opportunity to explore a variety of topics, such as forecasting how changing environments will impact the biodiversity of phenotypes and species and understanding how the production and variation of disease and resistance phenotypes affect the development of effective management and treatment strategies.  Alongside their disciplinary focus, doctoral fellows will be mentored as creative thinkers and productive collaborators across lab groups. 

Mentoring Plan and Resources

This research cluster will provide fellows with:

  • A unique integrative core course that crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries to explore the phenotype from cells and development, molecular and quantitative genetics, evolutionary mechanisms, and the structure and dynamics of populations, communities, and their environments;
  • Two semesters of coursework in quantitative methods assembled from across the participating programs that provide comprehensive training in programming, modeling, statistics and tools in data science;
  • Stage-specific professional development, including a first-year seminar that explores career options, skillsets and preparation, and a final-year transitions seminar designed to support dissertation writing and the job search;
  • Tangible career development through tailored seminars and internships; and
  • A broad mentoring program with support from graduate student peers, faculty and the life sciences professional development community.