- The University of Southern Mississippi and University of Mississippi
are teaming up to train the next generation of scientists who will
develop new drugs and medical devices.
A $3.6 million
National Science Foundation grant funds an interdisciplinary effort
to combine education in medicinal chemistry and polymer sciences
with entrepreneurial and business training. The Integrative Graduate
Experience in Research and Training, or IGERT, program pairs the
Southern Miss School of Polymers and High Performance Materials
with the UM School of Pharmacy.
partners about six faculty and 12 graduate and undergraduate students
from each university with external experts to build education and
research teams. These teams develop joint projects exploring how
polymer science and medicinal chemistry can work together to make
new materials and new applications of biomaterials.
program gives two world-class universities a unique opportunity
to train the next generation of entrepreneurial scientists, who
will hopefully start new high-tech companies in Mississippi one
day," said Southern Miss President Shelby Thames.
U.S. Sen. Thad
Cochran applauded the program. "I commend these universities
for working together in an effort to promote economic development
in our state," he said.
polymer science professor Dr. Lon Mathias is the program's principal
investigator. Dr. Douglas Wicks, chair of the Southern Miss School
of Polymers and High Performance Materials; polymer science professor
Dr. Joshua Otaigbe; and UM professors of medicinal chemistry, Dr.
Mitch Avery and Dr. John Williamson, are co-principal investigators.
Funded for five years, the program includes development of a unique
entrepreneurial curriculum for science graduate students.
The idea is
to give students "the big picture" of how to take an idea
for a new drug or device and move it through development, testing
and marketing, Williamson said.
taking medicinal chemistry, which we're experts in here at this
university, and polymer science, which they're experts in at Southern
Miss, and blending in pharmacy administration, which involves a
lot of business, and pharmaceutics, which is the creation of new
drug delivery systems and technologies," Williamson said. "We're
really stepping out of the box with this program, and there are
a lot of students out there who will find this idea very attractive."
which joins a handful of similar efforts to blend graduate-level
education with entrepreneurial experience, is unique among programs
in pharmaceutical or medical sciences, said Dean Maurice Eftink
of the UM Graduate School.
concept behind the IGERT program is to provide a broad, integrated
graduate training experience so that a newly minted Ph.D. leaves
with more than just an in-depth knowledge of a specific scientific
field," Eftink said. "Graduate students involved in this
program will have an exceptional opportunity. They should be ideally
prepared to enter R&D positions in major pharmaceutical industries,
or be prepared to start up new companies."
principal at Aileron Partners, provides external leadership for
the entrepreneurial component. Experts from partner companies will
work with faculty from the UM Department of Pharmacy Administration
and Southern Miss' College of Business and Economic Development
to develop course and training materials.
the IGERT program grant was awarded to only about 5 percent of more
than 400 proposals from universities across the nation this year.
Nov. 15, and university officials hope to enroll students into the
program for the spring 2004 semester. Graduate students earn a $27,000
annual stipend for their efforts, and NSF has specified that all
students in the program must be American citizens.
includes for-credit courses, team-building activities, collaborative
projects on the cutting edge of scientific research, internships
in industry and a capstone international experience to learn how
startup companies are run outside the United States.
is designed to help students "cross train" in disciplines
so they can have the greatest "social impact," Wicks said.
part of this is very important, but the entrepreneurial aspect is
the component that can be exported to any science graduate program
anywhere," he said. "These students will learn how to
write business plans and do market research to show how their science
will enable them to have an economic impact."
expected to spend time on both university campuses for intensive
courses outside their respective academic disciplines.
may be completed through distance learning via Internet2, a high-speed
computer network used by universities and research institutions
to transfer large amounts of data or full-motion video. Both institutions
have meeting rooms equipped with Internet2 Access Nodes, and the
grant funds additional installations at Southern Miss.
an entrepreneurial component to a doctoral degree in science and
technology, the program provides a model for other programs not
only at Southern Miss and UM, but also for other graduate degree-granting
schools in the state.
program addresses America's long-term need for top-notch scientists
capable of translating research results into new technologies and
new businesses," Mathias said.
be able to start their own companies, perhaps even before graduation,
and will be prepared to step right into larger company research
and development teams, he said.
and education materials developed will be made available to local
communities, to industries in the state and throughout the nation,
and to students and faculty at universities everywhere through workshops,
seminars, books and distance-learning courses and degrees, said
Alice Clark, UM vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs.
like IGERT makes the most effect use of all our respective strengths
and resources for the benefit of all Mississippians," Clark
said. "IGERT will certainly serve as a model for future high-impact,