13 months ago

20th Anniversary Highlights of Hope

  • Text
  • Hope
  • Institute
  • Scientific
  • Highlights
  • Epigenetics
  • Scientists
  • Michigan


SCIENCE EDUCATION Our Students Are Scientists—Van Andel Institute Graduate School Higher education and biomedical research have a symbiotic relationship. It is not unusual for a research institute to be connected to a place of higher learning, but Van Andel Institute Graduate School (VAIGS) represents a new way of viewing this paradigm. When the Graduate School was founded in 2005, its curriculum and structure were based on the innovation and creativity taking place in the Institute’s research labs. Built on the concept of former Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI) President Gordon Van Harn, VAIGS was designed to function in tandem with the Institute’s biomedical research programs and nurture the next generation of great scientists. “To have a research institute within a large university is not that uncommon,” Dr. Steven J. Triezenberg, dean of the Graduate School and director of VAEI from 2009 to 2015, said. “Many universities that are primarily education institutions will have a research institute in one area or another, but here at the Institute we have flipped that model.” Instead of research programs being informed by a university’s structure and organizational model, the Institute developed a graduate school informed by its leading-edge biomedical research. “One of the unique things about Van Andel Institute Graduate School is that we don’t just encourage our students to be effective scientists, we encourage them also to be effective biological research leaders who are able to run their own research groups, interact effectively within their institution and collaborate proactively with their peers,” Triezenberg said. Solving Real-World Problems Since VAIGS’ founding, the school has developed an innovative framework and curriculum that gives students the opportunity to spend the majority of their time working in the Institute’s labs where they can apply their knowledge toward solving real-world problems. “Our graduate students are integral members of the laboratory,” Triezenberg said. “They work with the senior scientists, with the postdocs, with the lab managers and with the research technicians in order to design projects, carry out and interpret experiments, and present their work at national and international conferences. They’re fully fledged professional scientists and regarded as such at the Institute.” In 2013, the Institute was fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It currently has 10 graduates of the Ph.D. and master’s programs, and 20 new students enrolled. “We expect the school will grow as the Research Institute grows," said Triezenberg. "In the next few years, our graduates will fill high-level positions in academia and the private sector, and I think we will start to see the impact we are having on the scientific community.” A Continuum of Knowledge The integration of scientific research with education, beginning with VAEI, has rendered some incredible results. “We know that the future scientific experts are the curious students of today, and 2015 Purple Community hosts its first annual Purple Community 5K. VARI scientist Dr. Gerd Pfeifer named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Winterfest, VAI’s signature special event benefiting Parkinson’s disease research, raised ,000,000 since its inception in 2005. Country and pop music star Sheryl Crow performs at the Hope and Denim event in Nashville, Tennessee, to raise funds for cancer and neurodegenerative disease research at VAI. Launch of NexGen Inquiry ® , VAEI’s web-based science education platform. VARI scientists Drs. Peter Jones, Stephen Baylin and Stefan Jovinge play key roles in discoveries that were hailed as notable advances of 2015 by Nature Medicine. Research!America's Geoffrey Beene Builders of Science Award presented to David Van Andel and Dr. George Vande Woude. His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands visit the Institute. 20 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE

sometimes their journey begins in the Education Institute, which brings grade school students into a laboratory-style environment that gives them an idea of what it means to think and act like a scientist,” Triezenberg said. “Some of the first students in the VAEI program are now college students interning in the Institute’s laboratories. So, for the first time, we are seeing students we worked with from the beginning of their educational development mature into young scientists with a passion for research and the desire to advance human health.” The Institute’s full spectrum of science education, from VAEI on through the research-focused Graduate School, creates a continuum of knowledge that can carry a student’s passion for learning into an undeniably bright and promising future. 2016 Van Andel Research Institute-Stand Up To Cancer Epigenetics Dream Team begins clinical trials on promising new therapies for cancer. Terra Tarango appointed VAEI Director and Education Officer. Dr. Peter Jones elected into the National Academy of Sciences. Center for Neurodegenerative Science adds new focus on neuroepigenetics. VARI significantly expands its structural biology capabilities with the establishment of a Cryo-EM Core, a suite of powerful electron microscopes that can image minuscule molecules that are vital in health and disease. VARI also recruits three exceptional scientists to augment the Institute’s existing structural biology expertise. VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 21

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