Overall Training Plan

Undergraduate Summer Research Training

Our two-stage program trains Fisk undergraduates in quantitative biology research, first instilling self-confidence through an inclusive orientation and then immersing them in research:

  1. Stage 1 (Orientation): Rising Junior students are selected to visit UIUC in June and receive daily training for 5 weeks in high-performance computing (HPC), bioinformatics software tools, high-throughput sequencing data analysis, and/or biophysics. Trainees are integrated into campus-wide activities for under-represented students organized by the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) and become acquainted with the academic culture of UIUC. Members of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB), the High-Performance Biological Computing (HPCBio) and the Center for the Physics of Living Cells (CPLC) at UIUC organize and provide this important training.
  2. Stage 2 (Summer Research): Students from the previous year’s Orientation program, now rising Seniors, return to UIUC to conduct research for 10 weeks in the subsequent summer.

Our program provides Fisk undergraduates with knowledge, self-confidence, and practical skills needed to pursue graduate study in STEM and medicine. These trainees are ideal candidates for the 4+1 Master's track in the doctral bridge program.

Doctoral Bridge Training Themes and Pathways

FUTURE-MINDS-QB bridges four Fisk Master’s programs with UIUC Ph.D. Departments that promote multi-disciplinary research at the interface of biology with computational, chemical and physical sciences. Our program has two Training Themes that create training, learning, and mentoring activities in which all trainees and faculty from different backgrounds can participate together and that train inter-disciplinary under-represented students who can readily employ a synthesis of quantitative approaches to tackle intransigent biomedical problems in the future:


Computational & Genomic Biology (CGB) Theme

This Theme will train (a) students from CS or mathematical sciences background in the rapidly growing field of biomedical data science and (b) students from genomics in applying high-throughput approaches to biology and analyzing associated big data, accommodating the needs of both quantitative students striving for expertise in computational methodology and experimental students seeking practical skill sets in bioinformatics.

  • Emphasis of Master’s training: Trainees will learn core concepts in molecular biology, genetics, genomics, epigenomics, multi-omics technology, bioinformatics tools, computer programming, statistical learning, probability, database and/or network science through individualized didactic work and aligned research.
  • Fisk Faculty: Dr. Damo (Chemistry); Dr. Hota, Dr. Hussain, MPI Qian, and Dr. Williams-Devane in the Dept. of Mathematics & CS; Dr. Nelms (Biology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology [BMB]); Dr. Ramanathan (BMB).
  • UIUC Faculty: 32 Program Faculty.
  • Faculty research areas & prospective Ph.D. specialties: text mining, biodata annotation & retrieval, network science, epidemic modeling, electronic health record (EHR) analysis, big data analytics, mobile health sensing, biodata visualization, bioinformatics, algorithms for genomics, single-cell omics, genome security & encryption, genetic association studies, population genetics, systems biology, genome engineering, and medical imaging.
Biophysics Theme

This Theme will train students at the interface of physical, chemical and biological sciences.

  • Emphasis of Master’s training: Students will acquire expertise in structural biology and/or biophysics, as well as theoretical/mathematical modeling, and grasp the fundamental principles of biophysics and biochemistry.
  • Fisk Faculty: Dr. Damo (Chemistry), Dr. Beezer (Chemistry) and Dr. Burger (Physics).
  • UIUC Faculty: 26 Program Faculty.
  • Faculty research areas & prospective Ph.D. specialties: all-atom molecular dynamics simulations, simulation and optimization of chemical pathways, theoretical population genetics, single-molecule measurements, super-resolution microscopy, optical trap, optogenetics, quantum dots, multi-scale modeling of biological systems, physics of data science, biomaterials, synthetic biology, tissue engineering, nanotechnology, and soft matter.

4+1 Master's Track

In addition to the traditional 2-year Master’s track, we offer early immersion of self-motivated Fisk undergraduates in scientific research and academic preparation, with a view towards obtaining a Master’s degree in their fifth year. Participation of Fisk undergraduates in our ongoing Fisk-UIUC summer research partnership provides a pre-Bridge cohort of eligible students. All 4+1 track students will apply to our bridge program in the Fall of their junior year through a formal application process, after completing the Stage 1 orientation program and before entering the Stage 2 of active summer research. Successful applicants will have completed their required courses in their undergraduate major by the end of Junior year, so that their fourth year at Fisk can effectively be their first year of graduate training; didactic work in this year will be credited to the undergraduate degree while also meeting the didactic requirements of the Master’s Degree. The fifth year (the “1” of the 4+1) will focus on Master’s research, leading to a completed dissertation in August and seamless transition to the Ph.D.