Professor of Biology
Project Summary Infectious diseases continue to be a major cause of human suffering and mortality. While much research and training has focused on studying infectious disease at a single scale (e.g. within hosts or at the population level), a major challenge in the control of infectious diseases is that they routinely operate across scales. Specifically, the interactions between host immune molecules and pathogens determine their transmission at the population level, which in turn determines the spread of diseases across regions; in addition, a major feature of emerging infectious diseases is that they infect a wide variety of non-human hosts, complicating their control. Consequently, in order to effectively understand and control infectious diseases, researchers require integrated training in interdisciplinary, cross-scale approaches that span the full range of biological organization, from molecules to ecosystems. The proposed Infectious Diseases Across Scales Training Program (IDASTP) at Emory University is designed to provide such inter-disciplinary training. This program will partner with 30 faculty from multiple schools and departments to train a total of four graduate students each year, with each student obtaining two years of training. Students will be recruited from a total of ~19 training-eligible students in three graduate programs with exceptional strengths in infectious disease research related to immunology, population biology and public health. The most important component of training in these programs is research, first as part of laboratory rotations, then as part of the dissertation project. IDASTP trainees will obtain integrated training in cross-scale infectious disease research through interdisciplinary curricula and a course Integrating Study and Control of Infectious Disease Across Scales. They will also participate in a biweekly Infectious Disease Forum and an Annual Infectious Disease Symposium, presented by local and external infectious disease experts. Seminars and symposium will focus on the fundamentals of cross-scale interactions, control applications and career development, providing workshops and exposing students to cross-disciplinary career opportunities in academic and non-academic settings. Further integration of student training across scales is ensured by the formation of dissertation committees that include faculty with expertise in infectious disease research at different scales. The overall objective of this training program is to produce broadly trained and competitive scientists who use interdisciplinary and cross-scale approaches to better study and control infectious disease. Graduates from this program will have acquired: broad knowledge of cross-scale disease dynamics; in-depth knowledge of their field of research; the ability to effectively develop research projects, grant proposals, presentations and publications; and an appreciation of the career trajectories available to infectious disease doctorates. The implementation of this program at Emory University will attract and retain top-tier students and produce new cohorts of specialists who can effectively tackle infectious diseases by utilizing cross-disciplinary tool sets.