PREP Program: Environment

Medical Center Expansion

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) is currently in an expansion mode. Two major research buildings added in 1999 and 2002 provided a total of almost 400,000 square feet of new research space. The Department of Microbiology and Immunology now occupies the entire second floor of the MRB-X, newest of these buildings, and the Center for Vaccine Biology is in the adjacent KMRB. The URMC is also in the midst of a five-year Strategic Plan that will add a total of 75 new research faculty to the institution, and the construction of several new buildings. The James P. Wilmot Cancer Center building opened in May 2008 and construction is now beginning on a new Clinical Translational Science Building that will house 12-18 new research faculty.

Department of Microbiology & Immunology

The Department of Microbiology and Immunology is focused on research and educational programs which relate to microbial pathogens (viruses and prokaryotic and eukaryotic microbes) and the host immune defenses which protect against these organisms. Current research emphasizes cutting-edge molecular techniques and includes, but is not limited to, studies on: autoimmunity, biodefense, bioinformatics, biofilms, cancer biology, gene therapy, genetics, HIV/AIDS, immunologic mechanisms and vaccine development.

The University of Rochester has long been considered among the top 25 research universities in the United States. Recent evaluations of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, including rankings by national peer review groups and others place our Department among the very best in the country. Furthermore, NIH grant support in the Dept. of Microbiology and Immunology has grown considerably in the past five years, rising by almost 300%, from $4.4 million in FY 1999 to $12.6 million in FY 2004. According to current NIH data, the Department now ranks in top 20 the nation (out of more than 100 comparable Departments) in terms of total extramural grant support from NIH. The Department is tied for 2nd in the number of NIH institutional training grants that have been received, for training of predoctoral students. Thus, the Department has a superb training reputation and Departmental research is well-funded, and growing rapidly.

Diversity Considerations

Almost 20% of the predoctoral students who are currently mentored by the PREP faculty are members of underrrepresented minority groups, as defined by the NIH (African-American, Hispanic-American, Native-American, Pacific Islanders or Puerto Ricans). This rate of minority representation in our Ph.D. program reflects: (1) outreach efforts by the Department and its faculty; (2) a very strong commitment to graduate training (which is reflected by the multiple NIH-funded predoctoral training programs that are presently awarded to the Department); and (3) the direct relevance that work in microbiology and immunology has with respect to minority health concerns.

The availability of a significant cohort of minority graduate students is expected to contribute to the creation of a more diverse learning environment for our PREP trainees, and to provide ready access to important peer role models.