FAQs about the Graduate Training Program in Translational Medicine


What is translational medicine?

Translational medicine or “bench to bedside” research has been defined as:

  1. Non-human or non-clinical studies conducted with the intent to advance therapies to the clinic or to develop principles for application of therapeutics to human disease.
  2. Basic science studies which define the biological effects of therapeutics in humans.
  3. Investigations in humans which define the biology of disease and provide the scientific foundation for development of new or improved therapies for human disease.
  4. Any clinical trial of a therapy that was initiated based on #1–3 with any endpoint including toxicity and/or efficacy.

How many trainees will be accepted in 2012?

Up to 11 meritorious applicants will be chosen for funding in the 2012-2013 academic year. If more than 11 deserving applications are received, some applicants may be offered acceptance but not funded. If such is the case, the student’s research advisor will fund the student.

Are the certificate requirements the same for trainees accepted into the program whether or not they are funded?

Yes the requirements are the same.

What are the certificate requirements?

  • Pursue a dissertation project with at least one aim involving clinical/translational research.
  • Take and pass: Molecular and Cellular Pathophysiological Basis of Disease (Path713-716, two semesters, with labs).  Students can also apply to program leadership to take a comparable pair of courses offered by the Cell and Molecular Physiology Department.
  • Undertake a multi-year clinical exposure plan with your clinical co-mentor and keep an electronic log of your experiences.
  • Attend the monthly translational medicine lunch and learn seminar series.
  • Attend the monthly closed door translational medicine seminar series and periodically present your research therein.
  • Attend and participate in periodic translational medicine symposia.

What does funding entail?

Funding will consist of at least $10,000 applied to the trainee’s stipend during the first academic year they are in the program. All trainees accepted into the program are also eligible for travel funds to present their work at a translational science conference (see below). 

How long does funding last?

Funding lasts 1 year. After the funded year there are still certificate requirements to fulfill, but your research mentor assumes responsibility for your funding.

Is there money allotted for travel to scientific meetings?

Yes, all trainees may apply for $750 for travel to a translational medicine meeting and $250 to sign up for courses or to purchase books. These funds are available at any time until graduation.

Will my stipend increase if I’m funded?

No, program funds do not cover the full cost of the stipend and other student benefits so the primary research mentor is responsible to bring the total up to the University mandated stipend level.

Can international students be funded?

Yes, international students are encouraged to apply.

I am doing a fourth rotation during the summer of my first year. Can I still apply?

If you are doing a fourth rotation and wish to apply to the program please contact Patrick Brandt (pdb@unc.edu) to discuss your options.

I’m currently a second year student. May I apply for the program?

Yes, students entering their second or third year may apply to the program.

Who funds the Program in Translational Medicine?

Funds come primarily from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute with additional support from the University Cancer Research Fund and the UNC TraCS program.

Will this program increase my time to graduation?

The program is not designed to increase the time to degree, although there are additional time commitments for scholars. When current scholars were asked if they felt the certificate requirements would increase their time to degree, they unanimously said no.  The 8 graduates of the Program so far have all graduated with their peers.

Does my entire thesis proposal have to be translational in nature to enter this program?

No, but at least one aim of your proposal must be translational in nature.

What kinds of clinical experiences will I have?

This is up to you and your mentoring team to decide. Current scholars have shadowed clinicians and residents in the clinic, witnessed patient interviews and enrollment, attended grand rounds (clinical seminars usually involving case studies), wrote portions of an IRB, and viewed procedures such as colonoscopy, blood collection, surgeries, or bronchoscopies.

How often will I meet with my clinical co-mentor?

This depends on the nature of your collaboration, but it is recommended that you meet with your clinical co-mentor at least once a month.

Are there translational medicine courses available in addition to the human pathophysiology course?

There are other courses offered through the Office of Clinical Trials, the UNC TraCS (Translational and Clinical Sciences) program, and other departments that are available to interested students.  Please talk with the program leadership about course substitution options.

How can I get help connecting with a clinical co-mentor?

Contact Patrick Brandt (pdb@unc.edu) if you need help contacting a clinician in your field.

What are the application Requirements?

From the student: CV and a 2-page description of their intended translational research project and career goals.

From the Ph.D. Mentor: CV and support letter describing how the proposed project will prepare the student to interface with clinicians in their research, and the mentor’s commitment to requirements of the program. The mentor can be a clinician-scientist if appointed to the Graduate School. A clinical co-mentor must be identified who is willing to provide clinical exposure related to the research project.

From the Clinical Co-mentor: CV and letter describing relationship to the mentor and the research project and commitment to provide the student with appropriate clinical exposure.

When is the application deadline?

For 2012 the deadline is 4:00PM, June 15th. Applications should be submitted in full to Patrick Brandt (pdb@unc.edu).  Letters of support can be emailed to Patrick by the applicant or directly by the PI and/or clinical co-mentor.

When will applicants be notified of acceptance?

The program leadership will notify all applicants of the outcome of their application by July 13th.