UGA Students on the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Program
In its first year, the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences program admitted six doctoral students in fall 2009. This new program allows graduate students to explore interdisciplinary research and take a wide range of classes during their first year of doctoral study before selecting a home department.
Already, ILS students are proving the benefits of the program.
Maria Francia, an ILS parasitology student, says the ILS program and its faculty have improved her academic experience and set her on the right track for her doctoral research.
"When I was offered admission to the ILS program, I thought it would give me a great opportunity to explore parasitology laboratories in different departments," she said. "As opposed to being restricted to a single department and what they offer, it has allowed me to pick and chose to participate in the activities that interest me the most."
Francia added that the ILS faculty has fueled her passion for parasitology research. Eventually, she plans to complete her doctoral work on tropical and emerging diseases either in the biochemistry or cell biology department.
Another graduate student, Britnie Foutch, was encouraged to try the ILS program after being impressed by the breadth of research opportunities available.
"I have gotten a glimpse of life as a university professor, different styles of mentoring, various methods of answering similar research questions, and, most importantly, research ideas and questions that I would have never thought of otherwise," she said.
Foutch chose the plant biology department for her doctoral research, since she is interested in the evolution of plant mating systems and how reproductive strategies can affect plant populations.
Likewise, Sean Buskirk was interested in the ILS program due to its freedom of study. He chose his home department after exploring labs in the cellular biology, biochemistry and infectious diseases departments.
"I did not really enter grad school with a specific research interest in mind," he said. "I ultimately chose the lab that fit me best and the one in which I knew I could make an impact."
Buskirk plans to join the infectious disease program under Dr. Lafontaine.
The ILS programís novel approach of allowing students to choose a home department and specific research focus after trying a variety of classes was recently recognized by the Graduate School when it received the first Innovation in Graduate Education award. Maureen Grasso, dean of the Graduate School, presented the award with $1,000 for the ILS faculty to use for educational expenses related to the program.
Perhaps most importantly, the ILS program allows UGA doctoral students to experience the benefits of interdisciplinary research across a variety of labs and departments.
Dean Maureen Grasso presents the first annual Innovation in Graduate Education Award to Dr. Jim Hamrick, left, and Dr. Mark Farmer at the Graduate Schoolís Centennial Kickoff in the Tate Center on Jan. 28, 2010.
"My goal is to become the best scientist I can," said Buskirk. "I have focused on surrounding myself with professors who can assist me in achieving this goal."
Nine departments participate in the Interdisciplinary Life Science program. They include the following:
- Department of Animal/Dairy Science
- Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
- Department of Cellular Biology
- Department of Genetics
- Department of Plant Biology
- Department of Marine Sciences
- Division of Infectious Diseases
- Odum School of Ecology
- Warnell School of Forest Resources and Natural Resources
Additional information about the ILS program is available at http://ils.uga.edu/.