Program Information

Goals of the IGERT training program

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IGERT students will receive training that will enable them to develop into a community broadly trained across areas of biology, engineering and/or mathematics in order to develop an appreciation for integrative and comparative approaches to motor control and movement. In addition to an interdisciplinary curriculum, students will need to have a broad perspective on their research and potential for future directions in science. For this reason the IGERT training program will augment coursework with experiences that provide exposure to a range of ways of studying motor control and movement and applications in diverse fields. Therefore IGERT students will be required to fulfill the following requirements as fellows in this training program. For all students and requirements, we are sensitive to the many time constraints of graduate students and will work with students and advisors to make the requirements time effective and reasonable.

Stipend and Tuition Support for IGERT students

IGERT students receive a stipend of $7500/quarter ($30,000 per year) for the duration of their tenure on the IGERT training grant. The grant also provides $2625 in institutional support/quarter (usually applied to tuition). IGERT students' other required fees are paid by sources from their home institution.

Internal Research Awards

$15,000-$20,000 per year will provide research and travel support for IGERT trainees through internal grants. To be eligible for funds, students are required to submit a short application form to request funds describing the project, value of their participation and budget. We anticipate making a number of awardsin the range of $1,000 - $2,000 per year. For awards involving travel to work on projects with faculty, the faculty member will be required to write a letter of support and discuss the role of the student on the project. We expect faculty to also contribute to funding for the research and believe that sharing this responsibility will encourage faculty and students to work to develop productive research plans. Application will be due twice a year, March 1 and August 1, and awards decided by a Research Award Committee of faculty and senior graduate students who previously have participated in the program.


Fundamentals Courses

We started coursework in Spring 2010 and are still working to make sure that the courses and time involved are effective and efficient for students and faculty. It is expected that there will be up to three class requirements: one in evolution and development, another on musculoskeletal systems and a third on neuromechanics. While one or more of these classes may be at the University of Chicago or Northwestern University, some travel to the other campus will likely be involved for one quarter. We will schedule classes to accommodate time constraints and the grant will pay for transportation (go cars, zip cars, etc). We will be considering accepting previous course credits for fulfillment of these courses.


SPRING QUARTER. Development and Evolution of Neuromechanical Systems (ORGB 32000). Faculty: M. Hale and C. Ross. This course is required of all IGERT trainees. We investigate neuromechanical systems from developmental and evolutionary perspectives, synthesizing recent research in the field.

MEETS: Spring Quarter in the Synthesis Center at the Field Museum of Natural History.


More courses and rotations are being developed. Contact Carolyn Johnson, program administrator, for the latest guidelines and current requirements and for information about related courses that are already running at our institutions.

Encyclopedia of Life Rotation

SPRING QUARTER. Research with the Encyclopedia of Life. (ORGB 32100)

This rotation in the Encyclopedia of Life's Biodiversity Synthesis Center at the Field Museum of Natural History will bring their expertise in animal motor control and movement to a MacArthur Foundation-supported bioinformatics project. The rotation will include work at the Field Museum and additional independent research time.

MEETS: Spring Quarter, in the Synthesis Center at the Field Museum of Natural History. Additional independent work at the Synthesis Center is expected.


ORGB 31900: IGERT Bootcamp in Motor Control and Movement
Autumn Quarter, Field Museum Biodiversity Synthesis Center, IGERT labs at member institutions

Bootcamp I: Outreach training with Project Exploration
A critical ability for research scientists is to be able to communicate with non-scientists about our work. Engaging with young people and adult non-scientists is rewarding and necessary to helping build a scientifically literate public and encourage future generations of scientists. Federal grants now often require creative and relatively sophisticated education/outreach components. In our IGERT outreach bootcamp Trainees learn how to develop and perform effective outreach. The bootcamp and subsequent outreach activities with PE are an important experience in education for IGERT Trainees. It can inform Trainees' educational objectives and grant proposals as they start post-graduate careers.

Bootcamp II: Specialized Research Opportunities in IGERT Laboratories
IGERT trainees will visit some of the labs of current IGERT trainers, learning not only about the research opportunities in these labs for IGERT trainees but also the specialized equipment for research in motor control and movement purchased with IGERT funds for trainee use. Labs at University of Chicago, Field Museum of Natural History and Northwestern University will be included in this part of the IGERT Bootcamp.

Symposia, Seminars, and Special Experiences

Workshops and seminars will bring faculty and students based at different institutions together on a regular basis. We expect students, especially in their second and third years of IGERT funding, to get together quarterly to discuss research and have opportunities for feedback. The Field Museum provides a central location with facilities appropriate for presentations and discussions. We plan to have optional field trips for faculty and students.

Regular IGERT gatherings bring students and faculty together to socialize and share their work. At the first event, in November of 2009, all current trainees and their advisors got together for dinner to get to know one another.

In the Spring of 2010, a reception sponsored by the Center for Integrative Neuroscience and Neuroengineering Research (CINNR) provided an opportunity for the entire IGERT community to interact.

We have arranged with several seminar series to occasionally (1-2 per year) bring in faculty from international institutions who would be appropriate to the topic of the IGERT program. The speakers will be chosen and hosted by the IGERT students. In addition to giving their research talk, the speaker will give a less formal talk and discussion on science in her/his country. IGERT students will be encouraged to attend both the formal and informal talks. They will be required to attend if the talks are at their home institution.

Education in Effective Teaching and Outreach

We have partnered with Project Exploration, an organization that brings science to inner city youth in Chicago, to integrate education on teaching and outreach into our IGERT education program. In their Second Year on the IGERT grant, graduate students will participate in a training session and in outreach activities with Project Exploration, working with Project Exploration educators and providing programming that they develop to girls and boys from disadvantaged areas of Chicago. While the training is mandatory, alternative forms of outreach can count toward this requirement.

Acknowledgement of IGERT Support

IGERT students must acknowledge IGERT support for all presentations and publications resulting from their tenure in the IGERT training program. Title: IGERT: Integrative Research in Motor Control and Movement. National Science Foundation Grant. National Science Foundation Grant # DGE-0903637.

Journal articles supported by IGERT funding required by NSF to include the following statement: "This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DGE-0903637."

The grant should also be acknowledged in published abstracts.


The Influence of Auditory Feedback on Vocal Sequence Production

Former IGERT trainee Etienne Mandersheid received his Ph.D. in Computational Neuroscience from the University of Chicago in June 2014.

Field Museum Exhibit: "The Machine Inside: Biomechanics"

IGERT PI and Steering Committee faculty Melina Hale, Callum Ross and Mark Westneat all contributed to a new exhibit at Field Museum: "The Machine Inside: Biomechanics" which opened March 12, 2014.

Outreach: Applied Math Leadership Board at Northwestern University

IGERT trainee Namrata Patel has served as co-chair of the Applied Math Leadership Board since Summer 2013, sponsored by the NWU Engineering Sciences and Applied Mathematics Student Leadership Council.

Brains! Workshops in the Palmer Lab, March 24-27, 2014.

IGERT trainees Brett Aiello, Hilary Katz and Justin Lieber participated in workshops in Dr. Stephanie Palmer's University of Chicago lab leading students from a local Chicago elementary school through hands-on experiments to learn about neural signaling, including recording from a live cockroach leg and EMG recording of the students' own muscles.

Evolutionary Neuroscience Lesson for high school students February 26, 2014

IGERT trainee Yashesvini Vinayak Ram participated in "The Think Tank," sponsored by the UChicago NEURO club and UChicago CASCADE. Graduate neuroscience students talked with CPS students in grades 9-11 about the evolution of the brain and natural selection as a mechanism for evolution. Students were able to examine brains of various animals and compare their structures, then participated in a class debate on what traits can be affected by natural selection and what traits are plastic (learned during a lifetime).

IGERT presence at January 24, 2014 University of Chicago GradUCon Conference.

IGERT PI Melina Hale was a panelist in the session "Women in the Sciences: Addressing Common Challenges," partially organized by IGERT PD Carolyn Johnson.

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