RNA Training Programs

Training the next generation of RNA scientists

Undergraduate Summer Fellowship       |       Doctoral RNA Training Program


Providing interdisciplinary training that crosses traditional curriculum boundaries is critical for preparing future RNA researchers to translate advances in RNA science into beneficial technologies.
 

Doris Chen and Jowa Shi, undergraduates, Jia Sheng, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Sheng Lab, The RNA Institute (Photo by Paul Miller)

 

 

Undergraduate Summer Fellowship 

The RNA Institute offers competitive summer fellowships for undergraduate students interested in pursuing interdisciplinary research within the lab of one of our Institute faculty. Students receive a stipend and are expected to pursue research for a significant portion of the summer. At the end of the summer, students present their research to their peers, donors, and members of the Institute. Interested students should contact one of the Institute faculty to discuss the opportunities available in their lab of choice.

This opportunity is open to undergraduate students enrolled for Fall 2021.

Contact Tammy Reid at [email protected] if you have any questions about this application.

undergrad
How to apply for the summer fellowship
Dates and Application

Applications due by April 30, 2021

To apply, please submit this form and email an unofficial academic transcript and your CV/resume to [email protected] by April 30, 2021. 
 

Note: We hope that the COVID-19 situation has improved by summer 2021, however, remote projects, such as learning bioinformatics and analyzing data sets, will be available as research projects.

Required Materials

Application materials you will need to submit

  1. Name and current year in school
  2. Lab and mentor you are applying to work with during the summer
  3. Provide brief responses to the following:
    1. Describe your proposed summer research project that was developed with a RNA Institute faculty or member of one of the Institute labs
    2. Describe your short term (while in school) and long term (career) goals
  4. Unofficial copy of your academic transcript
  5. CV or Resume

Doctoral RNA Training Program

RNA Institute student during poster sessions, Photos: Mark Schmidt

This novel, PhD-level training program for current University at Albany students provides a multi-disciplinary curriculum with a focus on RNA and its health relevance. We develop our future science leaders by providing students with access to faculty, techniques, and collaborations within UAlbany, including The RNA Institute, and SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

The participating students are selected from PhD programs within the UAlbany departments of Biological Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, and Chemistry, and SUNY Polytechnic Nanobiosciences. Funded in part by a T32 NIH training grant, the program supports a comprehensive, intellectually rigorous, and individualized PhD training experience.

The program also offers resource-faculty with RNA interests from the UAlbany Mathematics and Physics departments. The participating faculty represents a unique assembly of RNA expertise, ranging from single-molecule biophysics and chemical synthesis to developmental biology and infectious diseases.

phd
Doctoral Training Program Faculty
Leadership
Thomas Begley

Dr. Thomas Begley - Director of RNA Training Program

Thomas Begley is Associate Director of the RNA Institute and a Professor of Biological Sciences. He has trained in biomedical, engineering, public health and basic research settings throughout his career, with a focus on gene regulation and stress responses. He has mentored many graduate and post-doctoral students, with them finding positions in academia, government and commercial enterprises.
 

Marlene Belfort

Dr. Marlene Belfort - Co-Director of RNA Training Program

Marlene Belfort is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has trained many PhD students and postdoctoral fellows, some of whom have pursued careers at prestigious universities and biotech companies. Dr. Belfort is experienced in administering NIH training grants.

Training Program Faculty Members

The RNA Training Program faculty includes members from four UAlbany departments Biological Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, plus faculty from SUNY Polytechnic Nanobiosciences. In addition, we have resource-faculty from the departments of Mathematics and Physics at UAlbany.

Visit the RNA Training Program Faculty Page.

Marlene Belfort and student David Bunn - RNA Institute

Students will develop a basic understanding of RNA science and transform knowledge into technical applications. Trainees have the unique opportunity to choose mentors in one of the four departments, participate in cross-departmental collaborations, and have faculty members from all four departments or Physics and Mathematics serve on their thesis committee. We will thus ensure a broad experience that prepares our students for a wide range of career options.

RNA fellows are selected from the four participating PhD programs based on outstanding performance. These RNA fellows form a cohesive cohort that take an RNA-centric curriculum of courses and colloquia. They will also have the option to collaborate with the School of Business and the Writers Institute to gain experience in entrepreneurship and science writing, respectively.


Profiles of RNA Fellows

Doctoral Training Program Curriculum, Courses and Workshops
Curriculum

The training program has developed a curriculum based on the national need for interdisciplinary training, in the general area of RNA Science and Technology in Health and Disease, to prepare students for jobs in academia, industry, government, communication, scientific foundations, and other private sector enterprises.
 

View the RNA Fellowship Checklist of Requirements
 

First Year
Students in the program complete a series of core courses required of their home departments, followed by courses on specific topics of interest in subsequent years. Students also undertake research rotations during their first year and then select a research advisor. Students will usually be selected for the training program in the Spring (second) semester of their first year.

Second Year and Beyond 
During their studies, trainees will take the two-semester RNA Flagship course. Other departmental electives can be selected. They will also present their work at the RNA Colloquium Program. At each colloquium given by an RNA Fellow they present on a topic that is broadly defined as the role of RNA in their research project or lab’s research area.

Students opt for the Entrepreneurship or Writing Workshop. Throughout their training, students will attend both their departmental and RNA-specific seminars.

Trainees, who are supported by teaching assistantships, will receive ample opportunities to teach. During their research training they will also be called upon to supervise undergraduates, allowing them to develop mentoring skills.

RNA Flagship Courses
  • RNA in Development, Disease and Therapeutics (HBMS692), students will be introduced to the diversity of RNA molecules and their functions, and the therapeutic potential of RNA.
     
  • Physical and Chemical Principles in RNA Biology (BIO619), students will learn about common RNA techniques, experience application of these techniques in journal club discussions and get to use computer programs to process data or visualize molecules.
     
  • Rigor and Reproducibility (BIO515A), students will learn basic statistical approaches and data analysis methods to design high quality experiments and interpret and report data with confidence. Rigor and reproducibility training is also provided though workshops and discussion group during the Annual RNA Symposium and summer RNA Retreat.

The courses usually meet twice a week over a 13-week period for 110 minute per class for a total of ~48 contact hours per semester.

Entrepreneurship Workshop

There are five main events that serve as the basis for the entrepreneurship track. The goals of these training events are to provide students with exposure to resources and tools used to train entrepreneurs and to identify organizations and people that could help them with future business ventures. Students are expected to attend each event and complete the associated assignment.
 

  1. IGNITEU Startup showcase

    Presentations by local entrepreneurs of operational startups companies that have completed the nine-week business Summer Accelerator Program. The Startups are competing for a prize package as chosen by a panel of local business experts and judges. Before August 2nd connect with Robert Manasier on LinkedIn.
     

  2. SBIR Road Tour and TAF Pitch Competition

    The Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program is a funding mechanism that many federal funding agencies utilize. SUNY and Innovate 518 program are sponsoring a “SBIR Road Tour” on September 17th that will feature panel sessions from federal agency managers that administer the SBIR programs. At the same time the SUNY Technology Accelerator Fund (TAF) is hosting a pitch competition from SUNY startups to compete for $50,000 to support commercialization milestones.

    The event run all day and you are welcome to attend provided it does not interfere with your research and you have checked with your PI. The pitch competition and SBIR/STTR workshop run from noon until 4pm.
     

  3. Innovate 518

    A discussion with Robert Manasier regarding entrepreneur training and activities available to students via Innovate 518. This “Where do you fit” discussion will be scheduled in the fall based on student schedules.
     

  4. Roundtable discussions 

    1. Scott Tenenbaum: A guided discussion around how to start a biotech company, lessons learned, and advice on how to do it.
    2. Ken Halvorsen and John Cleary: A guided discussion on technology development, technology transfer, and intellectual property in a University setting.
    3. Susan Sharfstein: A guided discussion of STTR/SBIR grants and working with industry on joint projects.

    Assignment: After the conclusion of the roundtable discussions series, students will prepare a short summary on how they would incorporate the lessons learned in future entrepreneurial ventures.
     

  5. RNA Café speaker 

    Pairs of students will co-host an RNA Café talk for a speaker with business and/or entrepreneurial experience. Students will be responsible for introducing the speaker, escorting and introducing them to faculty, and conducting a brief post-café interview.
Communication Workshop

SCIENCE WRITING

Scientists need not only write in lucid and creative ways, but to communicate their work to other scientists and to the public. Students trained to do experiments must be educated to write in ways that project their work and open doors to writing creatively in an increasingly competitive arena.

Science writing and communication constitute an important platform of education for RNA Trainees. They will have many opportunities to learn to write well including access to introductory courses, Communication in Science (BMS510) or Responsible conduct and Skills in Scientific Communication (BIO 515b) to promote effective scientific writing of journal articles and data presentation skills for posters and giving oral presentations.

Students will have even broader opportunities to hone their writing and communication skills through the NYS Writers Institute. The RNA Training Program and NYS Writers Institute share common interdisciplinary goals including promoting creativity and critical thinking and a commitment to making something new. 

Individuals who have written about science for a broader public and have visited the Writers Institute include premier scientists like Jon Beckwith, Michio Kaku, Eric Kandel, Steven Jay Gould, Steven Pinker, and V.S. Ramachandran, and science journalists such as Natalie Angier and James Gleick.

It is of vital interest to the Writers Institute in this collaboration both to promote RNA students' communication skills and to prepare students to be honest brokers of their own research and ideas to a general public.


Science Communication with The Writers Institute 2020

Workshop: The science-writing workshop will consist of four 90-minute sessions with one session being held each month during the fall semester. All workshops will be led by Dr. Anette Breindl. Dr. Breindl, a neurobiologist, is senior science editor at BioWorld and a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

In the workshops, students will improve their own and each other’s science communication skills, primarily by learning to tailor communications to both the writers’ goals and their intended audiences. They will also learn about different science writing opportunities and careers. The expectation is that each fellow will produce a publication-worthy essay that could appear in the RNA Institute Newsletter, Trolley, the publication of the New York State Writers Institute, or similar publication. Dates and times of the workshops will be announced by Dr. Breindl.

Popular science presentations: RNA fellows will attend at least one selected presentation related to popular science, sponsored by the renowned Writer’s Institute. Presentations will be announced once the Fall Writers Institute schedule is set.

Description: Introduction to Scientific Communications Workshops, Fall 2020, Professor Anette Breindl

Seminars, Colloquia and Conferences
About

Scientific gatherings are invaluable to students, because they demonstrate how those highly skilled in a field present a seminar; expose students to basic approaches and principles which traverse disciplines; provide opportunities to discuss careers and decision-making processes; acquaint students with cutting edge, often unpublished, research results; and allow networking with scientists to increase job prospects.

RNA Fellows Colloquium

 2020

(Click on image for full size view)

HVRC RNA Salon 12-15-20 poster
HVRC RNA Salon 11-17-20 poster
HVRC RNA Salon 10-20-20 poster
HVRC RNA Salon 9-15-20 poster

2019 

RNA Fellows Speed Talks Nov 19 2019
RNA Fellows Speed Talks Oct 22 2019


2015-2016 

RNA Fellows Colloquium past

RNA Fellows Colloquium

May 21, 2019 

Justin Waldern, “Regulation of group II intron retrotransposition by a RNA methyltransferase”

March 19, 2019 May Lee, "Epitranscriptomic writer deficient cells activate senescence and mitochondrial reprogramming"
January 22, 2019 Marissa Louis, “Dumbbell RNA structures in the Zika virus 3’ untranslated region modulates viral gene expression”
December 18, 2018 Ryan McDowell, " Insights into mycobacterial cyclic nucleotide signaling through phosphodiesterase, Rv0805"
April 17, 2018 Aly Hoy, “HNA: A new oligonucleotide”
April 17, 2018 Rachel Nelson, “Structure and Mechanisms of C-Family Bacterial DNA Polymerases”
March 20, 2018 Jamie Corro, “Zinc depletion regulates expression of alternative ribosomes and promotes hibernation in Mycobacterial species”
March 20, 2018 Neil M. Robertson, “Controllable RNA and small molecule therapeutics using MRI-active nanoparticles”
February 20, 2018 Shane Breznak, “Transcriptional silencing promotes timely differentiation”
February 20, 2018 Rebecca J. D’Esposito, “Using coarse-grained molecular dynamics and ion mobility mass spectrometry for nucleic acid gas-phase structure determination”
January 16, 2018 Amber Altrieth, “Profiling of Endothelial Cell Signaling Using RNA-seq”
January 16, 2018  Patrick Blatt, “Regulation of Maternal mRNAs”
December 19, 2017 Alicia McCarthy, “Cracking open the epigenetics of making an egg”
November 21, 2017  Rachel Netzband, “RNA modifications as tools for viral infection”
Nov. 15 2016 Botros Toro, "Studying weak nucleisc acid interactions using ESI-MS"
May 17, 2016 Rachel Nelson, "What determines polymerase specificity for RNA and DNA primers?"
April 19, 2016 Marissa Louis, "Using viruses as a model system to study RNA structure and function"
April 19, 2016 Lauren Cooper, "Self-targeting by the E.coli CRISPR-Cas system"
March 15, 2016 Neil Robertson, "Novel single trigger, dual responsive magnetic nanoparticles for the treatment of resistant cancer phenotypes"
February 16, 2016 Rebecca D'Esposito, "Use of Ion Mobility Spectrometry - Mass Spectrometry (IMS-MS) to elucidate nucleic acid structure"
December 15, 2015  Patrick Blatt, "Germline RNA Regulators Spape its Immortality"
November 17, 2015  Alicia McCarthy, "A tail of two histone modifiers"
October 13, 2015  Rachel Cary, "RNA Research methods in studying Flavivirus-host interactions"
Seminar Activities and Functions List
* RNA FELLOWS REQUIRED TO ATTEND
Activity/Function Frequency Description
Biology Seminars Weekly Broadly-based research presentations by external speakers
BMS-Wadsworth Weekly Broadly-based research presentations by external speakers
Career Day Annual Joint with Career Services. Invited speakers from different science-based professioins (business, government, journalism, law)
Chemistry Seminars Weekly Broadly-based research presentations by external speakers
Hudson Valley RNA Club * Monthly RNA-specific, local/Northeast
Life Sciences Research Symposium Annual Students and post-docs presentations fro the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology)
New PI-in-RNA Presentation Monthly New PI's present research ideas or grant applications to established faculty
RNA Fellows Colloquium * Monthly Presented by RNA Fellows
RNA Institute Retreat * Annual  
RNA Symposium * Annual RNA-based. Technology workshop plus celebrated speakers
Visiting Writers Series Weekly Public lectures of acclaimed authors at NYS Writers Institute
WISC Symposium Annual Workshop for interaction and scientific collaboration - Capital District PIs. Started in 2013 Viruses and other possible elements. 2015 - Neuroscience Development. 2016 - Expanding the Life Sciences Toolkit.

How to Apply for the Doctoral RNA Training Program

All admissions to graduate programs at the University at Albany and SUNY Polytechnic Institute are handled by their respective Offices of Graduate Education. Program deadlines and admission requirements can be found here. Contact the Office of Graduate Studies at [email protected] or 518-442-3980 with questions about admission procedures. You should in your application express interest in being selected for the RNA Training Program. Students will be admitted into the program after their first year of study in one of the PhD programs. 

If you are admitted to our program, you will be asked to select several laboratories in which to do rotations before you join one for your PhD work.


Applications due by February 5, 2021

To apply, please submit this form and email your CV, unofficial transcript and thesis abstract in a single PDF file to [email protected] with the subject line “RNA Fellowship Application.” Your application will not be considered final until these materials are received.