Dr. Ralph Keil, Associate Professor in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Penn State College of Medicine, has been named as a recipient of the inaugural Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Award for Innovations in Research Training and Education. Dr. Keil’s winning abstract was titled Interdisciplinary Graduate Education in Biomedical Sciences. The major goal of the award is to identify bright spots in research training and education. A total of five winners nationally were selected by a panel of leaders in biomedical research, education and training from AAMC member institutions as well as AAMC senior staff. Entries were judged by the extent to which they advance creative, collaborative partnerships and their impact on institutional practices.
Interdisciplinary Graduate Education in Biomedical Sciences
Ralph Keil, Ph.D., Penn State College of Medicine
Despite the increasingly interdisciplinary and integrated approach to biomedical research, education of the future workforce has largely remained organized around traditional scientific disciplines. To address this issue, the core curriculum for graduate students at the Penn State College of Medicine was reorganized to integrate the teaching of fundamental principles from different disciplines. This curriculum serves to focus the attention of students on the importance and advantages of interdisciplinary approaches to study complex biological questions. Students develop an understanding of a wider variety of experimental approaches that can be brought to bear on solving scientific problems in their own research. A broader, unanticipated outcome of this curricular reorganization at the College was increased interdisciplinary communication within all components of the institution that catalyzed the development of an integrated Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Graduate Program that has now replaced the previous department-based graduate programs. In the wider scientific community, the importance and innovativeness of instituting this integrated, interdisciplinary curriculum was highlighted by being featured in a Leading Edge correspondence in the journal Cell [(2011) 147:1207-1208].