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2007 Annual Report

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Van Andel Institute

Van Andel Institute Graduate School Convocation Commemorates Inaugural School Year Van Andel Education Institute

On August 20, 2007, in a ceremony laden with pomp and circumstance, attended by Van Andel Institute (VAI) officials, faculty, students and their families, VAI Graduate School ushered in its inaugural 2007-2008 school year with an opening convocation held in Van Andel Institute’s Tomatis Auditorium. The convocation commemorated the opening of the graduate school, whose mission is to train Ph.D. scientists and leading scholars in cell, molecular and genetic biology relevant to human diseases, and marked the beginning of classes for its first class of three graduate students. The students, Natalie Wolters, 24, Brent Vander Hart, 25, and Jeffrey Klomp, 26, work closely with Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) investigators, who serve as the school’s faculty. Courses blend traditional disciplines into a novel, problem-based curriculum that closely represents the way scientists conduct research. “These students are pioneers, accepting the challenge and opportunity of being the first cohort of students in the VAI Graduate School,” said VAI Graduate School Dean Steven J. Triezenberg, Ph.D. “We’ve chosen them because they have the qualities that will enable them to be leaders in various fields of biomedical research.” The students spent the first several weeks visiting each laboratory in the Institute and subsequently began a series of eight-week rotations in the laboratories of their choice, which will guide them toward determining their dissertation topics by the end of the first year. Above: convocation ceremony, Opposite page (l to r): Brent Vander Hart, VAIGS Dean Steve Triezenberg, Natalie Wolters, Jeffrey Klomp The students cite the graduate school’s emphasis on translational research and its unique problem-based curriculum that closely represents the way that scientists conduct research as determining factors in their decision to attend. “The classes will teach the basics of preliminary research, experimental design, and communicative skills in a more innovative and practical way than I saw anywhere else,” said Wolters. “Since the program is new and the entering class is small, the content of our studies can be focused to address our interests while maintaining a level of guidance that will help us learn more quickly than in a larger setting.” The VAI Graduate School doctoral program received an independent charter from the state of Michigan to confer advanced degrees and focuses research on the biology of various human diseases. Students will obtain their degrees after about five years of study. Initial plans call for the admission of two to four additional students each year for the next five to six years. Once current VAI expansion is complete, the program would recruit eight to 10 students per year with ultimate capacity planned at about 45 students. “We recognize that the remarkable advances in genetics over the last decade have charted a new course in biomedical research and medical practice,” said Van Andel Institute Chairman & CEO David Van Andel in his opening remarks. “In response, we will use a novel curriculum rooted in the practice of scientific research to educate our best and brightest in the technology and techniques associated with contemporary genetics.” VAEI VAI Graduate School 31

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