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MoDTS Curriculum & Course Descriptions

The Mechanisms of Disease and Translational Science (MoDTS) curriculum provides cross-disciplinary training that includes exposure to clinical and translational sciences and mentored clinical experiences.

The curriculum is superimposed on those of the existing Division of Basic Science (DBS) Ph.D. Graduate Programs. It kicks off in the fall of graduate year 1 (G1) with informal small group learning opportunities and ramps up with didactic courses and immersion experiences the summer before year 2 (G2).

MoDTS is designed to intersperse with the student’s graduate program course requirements, minimizing any effect on the overall duration of Ph.D. training. Most of the MoDTS courses will fulfill the Graduate Program’s elective course requirements. Students will be able to work on their dissertation research while taking MoDTS courses and its unique practicum experiences.

Required Courses and Training

Summer Immersion in Clinical and Translational Research (summer G1/G2)

  • Clinical Translational Clerkship (2 credits)
    Students will learn how medical principles are integrated into clinical research and clinical care. They will develop an understanding of the scientific and clinical background, research questions, and research protocols. They will:
    • Take online HIPAA training, attend an Institutional Review Board session (for human studies approval)
    • Participate in clinical research or clinical rotations led by clinician scientists
    • Observe in-hospital ward teaching rounds and outpatient clinics
  • Human Pathology (2.0 credit)
    A hands-on small group organ and tissue pathology course, with opportunities for immersion experience in the organ systems of your choice.
  • Bench-to-Bedside Mini-Internship (spring G3 or sooner, 1.0 credit)
    This course focuses on diseases directly related to the student’s dissertation research topic. The goals are to provide an individualized in-depth experience about the diseases, and to help the student identify outstanding questions that need bench to bedside translation.
    • The student, together with a clinical expert of his or her choice, design a clerkship that will include hospital-based and/or outpatient clinical experiences, and attend disease-oriented clinical and research conferences. Does not require research participation.

Informal Small Group Learning Curriculum/Opportunities

In addition to the Works-in-Progress meetings and journal clubs required by the students’ home Graduate Programs, MoDTS students will have multiple informal opportunities to learn about translational research and to network with clinical science and medical school trainees. For example, MoDTS is closely allied with the UT Southwestern Center for Translational Medicine and leverages many of its resources. These opportunities include:

  • Weekly Translational Science Forums offered by the Center for Translational Medicine
  • Enroll in clinical translational research courses, e.g. Developing and Commercializing Biomedical Research (2.0 credits)

Students Emerging Academy of Leaders (SEALs) Workshop

The National Institute of Health, which supports the majority of biomedical research in the United States and predoctoral student training grants, recognizes that a range of skills is necessary for graduate students to become great scientists and biomedical research workers.

The MoDTS SEALs Workshop series was started in 2014. This is a joint venture by the MoDTS Track and the MSTP program. It is organized by students and sponsored by faculty. It is interactive and offers experiential learning opportunities that are particularly relevant to students conducting research in team based laboratory settings, which requires many soft skills for communication, negotiation, conflict resolution, and networking. SEALs is led by students and provides an outstanding opportunity to become a leader.

Dissertation Research

MoDTS students’ dissertation research should have relevance to human biology and diseases.

Topics include:

  • Genetic diseases
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Inflammation
  • Neurological disorders
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Regeneration
  • Immune dysfunctions
  • Infection
  • Biomedical engineering

The dissertation committee should include, if possible, at least one physician investigator. The student should include a short chapter in the thesis describing what he/she learned from the MoDTS experiences and how the experiences relate to translational medicine.