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2021 Annual Report

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This is the 2021 Annual Report for Van Andel Institute.

Van Andel Institute

Van Andel Institute Graduate School Van Andel Institute Graduate School prepares students for outstanding careers as independent scientists who are not only experts in their area of study, but also in the business of science. Our students receive a rigorous educational foundation and intense training in cutting-edge techniques and approaches that prepare them to tackle some of science’s biggest questions. By the end of their studies at the Institute, students graduate not only with a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology, but also with the tools required to build a strong career as a biomedical scientist and research leader. Using an innovative, problem-based learning approach, graduate students learn to conduct high-caliber science focused on understanding the underpinnings of human disease, as well as prevention, detection and treatment — blending discovery with invention and insight with application. In spring 2021, the Graduate School moved into its new home at 234 N Division Ave., directly across from the Institute’s main building and next to Van Andel Institute for Education. The renovated space includes classrooms and workstations; quiet spaces for students to read, think and study; shared space where students can interact and collaborate; kitchen and lounge areas; and a reading room. The new space allows the Graduate School to comfortably grow into its next chapter while maintaining the characteristics that have long made it attractive to students: innovative approaches to teaching, intimate cohort sizes, access to cutting-edge technology, and guidance by faculty mentors at the top of their research fields. 24 VAI GRADUATE SCHOOL STUDENTS GATHER IN THE NEW GRADUATE SCHOOL BUILDING

2021 HIGHLIGHTS Thirteen new students joined the Graduate School as part of the fall 2021 cohort — our largest cohort to date. As of September 2021, 44 students were enrolled in our Ph.D. program. The student body included 28 women (64%), 13 international students (30%), two students from populations underrepresented in the biomedical workforce by National Institutes of Health standards, and four students enrolled in dual-degree (M.D.-Ph.D.) programs. The Graduate School set a goal of 15 new students for the incoming fall 2022 cohort. To date, 34 students have graduated from the Graduate School — 30 Ph.D. and four M.S. Of the 30 Ph.D. graduates, about 70% have gone to postdoctoral or research associate positions, and 20% have taken positions in industry. In fall 2021, the Graduate School implemented a significantly restructured core curriculum for first-year students. The curriculum retains the problem-based learning approach, supplemented with courses focused on experimental design and biostatistics, data analysis and bioinformatics, scientific communication, and experimental skills. RESEARCH Taylor Boyd joined Graduate School leadership. The Institute’s commitment to training the scientific leaders of tomorrow leapt forward in October 2021 with the hire of Taylor Boyd as director of assessment and professional development. Boyd, who previously served in the Office of the Provost at Grand Valley State University, is responsible for assessing the Graduate School’s curriculum and co-curricular activities. He also assists VAI faculty in enhancing their teaching and mentoring skills and is monitoring the progress of student learning, while also leading efforts to sustain the Graduate School’s accreditation. The 2021 Origins of Cancer symposium probed the intersection of cancer and neuroscience, an area that holds great promise for better understanding the complex biological interactions that give rise to disease. Students and scientists joined together for the virtual conference, held in July, to discuss how the future of cancer research may combine two discrete areas of study by exploring the common threads that unite them. This annual event, organized and hosted by VAI Graduate School students, serves as a shining example of collaboration — a value that is at the heart of VAI’s ethos. Graduate School students and alumni contributed 24 authorships on 17 research publications in 2020, and 12 authorships on 11 publications in 2021. Applicant Pool Academic Year 2019 2020 2021 Applicants 68 82 110 Admits 23 25 16 Admit Rate 34% 30% 15% Number of Graduate School student applications, by year: 2021 — 110 2020 — 82 2019 — 68 25

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