Regardless of whether your future leads you into academia, industry, or some other career option, as a graduate student you have two tasks: 1) to learn how to be a scientist, and 2) to obtain a broad training in many different areas of science. The Department of Biology at UNC provides a superb environment to carry out both of these tasks. The road to becoming a scientist involves learning to plan, carry out and interpret experiments. One of the best ways to obtain this sort of training is in work on a model biological system such as those studied in our department. The strengths of these model systems are the many tools available to attack a problem, allowing students to work at the cutting edge of biology. The boundaries formerly separated different disciplines have disappeared; one can no longer be simply a geneticist or just a cell biologist. Rather, one must attack a problem with all of the tools at hand. A student who carries out thesis work studying a fundamental biological problem in one of our labs will be exposed to a wide array of technological approaches.
All of our labs offer the opportunity to use genetics as one approach– genetics allows the researcher to ask the organism what molecules are important for a given biological process, without built-in biases on the part of the investigator. Our labs also offer the opportunity to attack problems with the tools of modern cell biology, using cutting-edge imaging equipment alongside colleagues who are pushing the limits in these areas. They also offer the opportunity to get your feet wet in biochemistry, asking about the function of and the interactions between molecules required for the process you are studying. Many of our laboratories have begun using the most recent genomics approaches also. Our students have an opportunity to carry out experiments in each of these areas, achieving the broad training they need to become independent scientists. This broad training is illustrated by the publication records of our recent students and the postdoctoral opportunities of which they have been able to take advantage.
In addition to lab work, our Department offers a number of other training opportunities. Students in our Department will spend the first year taking a set of courses tailored to their own interests and needs. They attend our weekly Department seminars, and also have an opportunity to attend the seminars in other Departments, Curricula, and programs on our campus and in the broader Research Triangle area. Our students are trained to present their work in yearly seminars for their fellow graduate students, and in yearly meetings with their thesis advisory committees. They also have the opportunity to present their work at National and International scientific meetings in their area of study.
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