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URMC / Clinical & Translational Science Institute / Stories / June 2024 / Clinical and Translational Sciences Major Provides Interdisciplinary, Team-Focused Career Training

Clinical and Translational Sciences Major Provides Interdisciplinary, Team-Focused Career Training

Five CTS graduates and Edwin van Wijngaarden pose for a photo in their graduation regalia
Graduates of the CTS class of 2024

Undergraduates at the University of Rochester have a unique option to start a career in science and medicine: the Clinical and Translational Sciences (CTS) major. Students who participate in this challenging, interdisciplinary program receive in-depth instruction in the principles and practice of clinical and translational research, preparing them for scientific careers with a team-centered mindset.

“The CTS major was appealing to me because it offered a mix of natural sciences and social sciences that wasn't available through other majors,” said Jack Guerinot, who graduated with highest distinction and research honors this spring. “I took basic science classes like genetics and biochemistry, but also enjoyed statistics and population science. I sort of stumbled upon the major but it was a happy accident, really.”

Guerinot cited the research experience provided by the capstone course as a key feature. In the course, students from multiple disciplines share their projects with one another, and participants learn about the fundamentals of team science and interdisciplinary research.

“I feel aptly prepared to tackle projects on my own and to learn by doing, which is what I think research is all about,” Guerinot said.

“Journal clubs were also very helpful for the process of dissecting research, whether in a work or academic setting.” Guerinot will be pursuing a master’s in clinical investigation in the Department of Public Health Sciences this fall.

Aditya Gunturi, a fellow graduate of highest distinction and research honors of the class of 2024, benefited from the interdisciplinary approach and personalized research experiences in the major.

“The research seminar enabled me to learn about several of the transitional opportunities for research to move out of the lab—from medical device development to community implementation and team science—which helped me understand how our research could be utilized to improve the lives of patients,” Gunturi said.

Gunturi will return to URMC this fall to begin medical school. Inspired by the CTS program, he intends to focus on public health in both his practice and research.

“The CTS program was flexible, interdisciplinary, and provided me the academic leniency to graduate early, study abroad, and to ensure that I was engaging in research and academic activities that I was deeply passionate about,” Gunturi said.

The CTS major was developed in part to help address the national need for a workforce engaging in patient-oriented translational research.

“While graduate programs exist to address this need, there is a lack of undergraduate programs that prepare trainees earlier in their education for a career in clinical research,” said Edwin van Wijngaarden, PhD, strategic director of the Research Education and Career Development Branch of UR CTSI. “Our program helps students gain practical skills and learn translational science principles earlier in their academic careers. By expanding opportunities for more people to get involved in clinical and translational research earlier, the program potentially contributes to increased diversity of the clinical and translational science workforce.”

Van Wijngaarden said that the major is ideal for students interested in a science career, translational or otherwise.

“There is a national shortage of physician-scientists right now, and this major is a great preparation for those interested in that highly sought-after career path,” van Wijngaarden said.

Nine students—the second cohort ever of CTS majors at the University—completed the CTS program this year. The program, much like the field of translational science itself, is still young. As the need for interdisciplinary, team-focused researchers grows, so too will the demand for graduates like Guerinot, Gunturi, and their peers.

Jonathan Raab | 6/13/2024

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