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URMC / Clinical & Translational Science Institute / Stories / June 2021 / A Changing of the Guard for UR CTSI Translational Biomedical Sciences PhD Program

A Changing of the Guard for UR CTSI Translational Biomedical Sciences PhD Program

Timothy D. Dye, Ph.D. (left) and Edwin van Wijngaarden, Ph.D. (right)Timothy D. Dye, Ph.D. (left) and Edwin van Wijngaarden, Ph.D., (right)

After a very successful five years at the helm of the UR CTSI’s Translational Biomedical Science (TBS) PhD program, Timothy D. Dye, Ph.D., is stepping down as the program’s director.  Edwin van Wijngaarden, Ph.D., an experienced educator and mentor who currently serves as the strategic director of Research Education at the UR CTSI, will take on the role of interim director starting July 1.

“I want to thank Tim for his dedication to the program. Under his direction, the TBS program has flourished, attracting a promising and diverse set of rising translational researchers,” said UR CTSI Co-Director Martin Zand, M.D., Ph.D. “Both Tim and Edwin are highly accomplished researchers and educators. I have no doubt that Edwin, with his vast experience leading educational programs, will bring unique and exciting innovations to the TBS program.” 

Dye, who is a professor and associate chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology as well as professor of Public Health Sciences and Pediatrics, helped dramatically improve the diversity of the TBS program during his tenure as director. The program is now the most diverse PhD program at the University of Rochester Medical Center – with over 50 percent of its trainees coming from communities that are underrepresented in science – and it boasts the shortest time-to-completion.

“I’m exceptionally proud of our trainees, the science they undertake, and the career paths they choose,” said Dye. “Watching this community of scientists evolve involving so many disciplinary and cultural backgrounds is truly exciting – for us as a graduate program but even more for the future of translational science.”

Dye is stepping down to focus on this research, which frequently requires him to jet to remote areas of the world. Working with isolated and marginalized communities, Dye studies how cultural, commercial, ecological, and social factors impact health – particularly maternal and child health. With COVID cases declining and travel restrictions easing, he’s eager to get back to the communities he serves and is confident that he’s leaving the TBS program in capable hands.

As interim director, van Wijngaarden will draw on his substantial previous experience leading educational programs and mentoring early-career researchers. As associate chair of Public Health Sciences, he oversees the administration of the department’s educational programs. He has also directed the doctoral and master's programs in Epidemiology and currently directs undergraduate majors in Epidemiology and Environmental Health as well as the Health and Epidemiology Advanced Learning (HEAL) dual degree program. He has mentored more than 100 graduate students in public health and nine junior faculty members.

Serving as the UR CTSI’s strategic director of Research Education for three years, van Wijngaarden has supported the development and implementation of several new education initiatives. For the past year, he has also served as a co-principal investigator alongside Dye on the UR CTSI’s training grant, which funds the TBS program and several other UR CTSI educational programs. Van Wijngaarden will also step into Dye’s role as the principal investigator of this grant, and Juliee Thakar, Ph.D., associate professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Biomedical Genetics and Biostatistics and Computational Biology, will join him as a new co-principal investigator.  

“Dr. Dye built a unique and welcoming environment in the TBS program,” said van Wijngaarden. “I look forward to building on existing strengths in transdisciplinary, immersive research training, and maintaining and growing our community of trainees and mentors who represent a wide range of cultural experiences and identities.”

Van Wijngaarden is eager to meet with trainees and mentors to learn about their experiences and get their input on new directions and ways the program could improve.

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The programs described in this article are supported by the University of Rochester CTSA award number TL1 TR002000 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at the National Institutes of Health. Programs supported by the TL1 include the Translational Biomedical Science PhD Program, the Academic Research Track, the Population Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship and support for trainees in the Medical Scientist Training Program.

Susanne Pritchard Pallo | 6/22/2021

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