For many years, Vanderbilt University has fostered the growth of a multi-disciplinary and highly collaborative culture in engineering and biomedical research. Faculty involved in these fields have established a range of vibrant connections that enhance both research and training. Since it was first established in 2014, the Integrated Training in Engineering and Diabetes (ITED) program has leveraged this unique environment to create a vibrant training program for PhD students and postdoctoral fellows involved in the application of engineering approaches to advance research in diabetes and metabolic diseases. In particular, the joint proximity of engineering, basic biomedical science, and clinical departments on Vanderbilt’s campus as well as a culture that encourages shared mentorship and collaboration have proven to be key ingredients for establishing an effective interdisciplinary training program. These relationships are formalized by the unique dual-mentoring structure that is central to the ITED program, where one advisor is required to have an engineering background and the other must be a researcher with expertise in diabetes. Interactions between trainees and faculty from different backgrounds are further reinforced through formal didactic coursework, seminar programs, retreats, and journal clubs that integrate topics from bioengineering, endocrinology, and diabetes.
Schematic flowchart of the ITED Program. Students and postdocs are recruited from an engineering or quantitative science background, and are trained in diabetes-related research areas using a dual-mentor approach. Their development as multidisciplinary scientists is facilitated by focused coursework and enriched by ITED program activities (seminars, retreats and journal clubs).
Public Health Relevance
Diabetes is a complex disease, and understanding its complexity is critical for creating new clinical therapies to control the current diabetes epidemic, better treat its complications, and lead to an eventual cure. Because engineering approaches have proven useful for solving complex biomedical problems, we propose to train a new multi-disciplinary work force with the skills needed to integrate both engineering and diabetes research approaches. This will be accomplished through formal course work and an unconventional dual mentor arrangement, where each student or postdoctoral trainee is supervised by one advisor with an engineering background and another from the diabetes research field.
ITED is supported by NIH grant T32 DK101003 and by the Vanderbilt Diabetes Research and Training Center (NIH grant DK20593).