Resources for Vision Research Trainees

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Vision Research Training Program (T32)

Our NIH-funded Vision Research Training Program (VRTP) provides financial support and training for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who seek careers in vision science. The goals of the VRTP are to provide breadth in research training and professional development to keep pace with the opportunities for careers in vision research. The VRTP (1) supports candidate-level predoctoral fellows as they undertake and complete their thesis research; (2) supports postdoctoral fellows as they begin independent research careers; (3) provides a formal structured education; (4) and requires trainees to participate in a program of professional development specific to vision research. Members of the Training Faculty are experienced mentors, who are well-funded, productive scientists that utilize the eye and visual system as models for basic and translational studies. The VRTP Director is Patrice Fort, PhD, and the Associate Director is Sara Aton, PhD. VRTP trainees benefit from U-M’s multidisciplinary research environment and the diverse range of projects available.

T32 Training Activities

The Vision Research Training Program provides a stipend, tuition, and health insurance to trainees who undertake their research in the laboratory of a member of the Training Faculty. The VRTP also supports travel to the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). All trainees participate in a multi-tiered program that teaches responsibility in the conduct and administration of research and a program of career and professional development. This program has several components.

  • Trainees are required to take MCDB 452 "The Visual System" and Ophthalmology 733 "Specialized Topics in Vision Research". More information about these courses can be found here:
  • Trainees are required to attend all Vision Research Seminars, the weekly seminar series held in the Kellogg Eye Center that is a mix of speakers from inside and outside the University. Following each seminar, trainees are required to attend an informal luncheon with each outside speaker. Attending these research seminars and lunches intersects several key goals of the VRTP, including gaining disciplinary breadth and building professional networks.
  • Trainees are required to deliver at least one formal research seminar in the Vision Research Seminar series and present in the annual Research Day hosted by the Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences. These seminars are generally delivered by PhD students as they near their defense date or postdoctoral fellows who have completed a significant study.
  • Trainees are required to complete an Individual Development Plan and annually discuss the plan with their research advisor.
  • Trainee are expected to submit a grant proposal for external training funding, likely an individual NRSA fellowship proposal to the NEI. In support of this goal, trainees are expected to enroll in Pharmacology 502 or an equivalent grant writing program/workshop.
  • Trainees participate in selecting and hosting outside seminar speakers.

How to apply

Graduate students should apply for VRTP support in the spring of their second year of graduate school.  VRTP funding begins after a graduate student passes the preliminary exam and achieves PhD candidacy. Those interested in postdoctoral positions in the VRTP should contact a member of the Vision Research Training Faculty directly. To qualify to the VRTP, candidates must be citizens or non-citizen nationals of the United States.

Vision Research Core Grant (P30)

The Vision Research Core grant supports five core facilities, which are supported by an NEI P30 award and available to all vision scientists at U-M:

  1. The Electronics and Computer Module designs and fabricates electronic equipment not available commercially, repairs existing electronic equipment, and supports and repairs research computers.
  2. The Functional Assessment Module provides training and support to help investigators perform non-lethal measures of ocular structure and function.
  3. The Instrument Shop produces precision instruments and parts for use in the laboratories.
  4. The Molecular Biology Module provides an array of services involving molecular biology technologies, statistical genetics, and bioinformatics. It also provides access to large equipment that would be impractical for a single lab to acquire or maintain.
  5. The Morphology and Imaging Module provides access to equipment and training to prepare, process and image ocular and brain tissues in histological sections.

University of Michigan Core Facilities

The university-wide Biomedical Research Core Facilities (BRCF) provides researchers access to the latest technology and opportunities to collaborate with top experts in various technical methodologies. The BRCF also provides access to state-of-the-art instrumentation, data analysis, sample and data storage and a distributed network of on-site stores (including a reagents store in the Kellogg Eye Center). The Core Facilities also sponsor relevant mini-courses and technical symposia for University investigators and implement new shared services as needed, as well as coordinates applications for externally funded instrumentation grants.