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The IGERT for Optical Techniques for Actuation, Sensing, and Imaging of Biological Systems (OTASI) is funded through the NSF "Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship" (IGERT) program.

Progress in biology and medicine relies increasingly on methods, approaches, and strategies derived from synergistic interactions with the physical sciences and engineering. This trend is exemplified by the use of optical methods for the actuation, sensing, and imaging of biological systems. Directions being actively pursued by members of this IGERT team reflect the diversity, scope, and significance of optics for biological and medical applications. On-going research programs address issues from the molecular level to imaging of whole animals, including fluorescence-based arrays for genomics and proteomics, optical probes for monitoring gene expression in living cells, nonlinear two-photon processes for subcellular analysis, laser tweezers for measurements of mechanical properties at the molecular level, and novel molecular optical imaging techniques for cellular and deep tissue imaging. Further nanoscale device fabrication capabilities for both microelectronics and photonics in which IGERT members have expertise enable the development of integrated biological sensor platforms with new levels of sensitivity and new modes of detection.

The strength of the IGERT program lies in the development of new technologies driven by biological questions and, conversely, deeper investigation of major biological issues made possible by the new optical methodologies. Given the wide range of biological systems (molecules to cells to tissues) and imaging modes (conventional microscopy to advanced photonics to novel sensor substrates) the concept for delivery of appropriate multi-disciplinary training of graduate students is central to our proposed IGERT program.

OTASI participants include students and faculty from nine departments over five schools within Columbia University along with strategic collaboration with the City University of New York. Departments represented in the IGERT program include:

The IGERT supports graduate students through two-year fellowships at stipends equal to that of the NSF Graduate Fellowship. These two-year IGERT fellowships convert to graduate research assistantships in the subsequent years of the program. Fellowships will be awarded to students who are citizens of the United States or permanent residents of the United States. Women and underrepresented minorities are particularly encouraged to apply.

Each IGERT fellow will be guided throughout his/her entire Ph.D. program by a mentoring committee of three IGERT faculty members, supplanting “normal” department-level advising so as to provide a truly multi-disciplinary Ph.D. program. Degree requirements will be determined by the mentoring committee drawn from faculty from the different focus areas.

Questions about the IGERT program may be addressed to Prof. Ken Shepard, the IGERT Director, or Ria Miranda, the IGERT Administrator. Please also see our FAQ.