UCSF to Establish Chancellor's First-Year Graduate Fellowship Program

By Lisa Cisneros

UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann talks with students.

UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, is providing new funding this fall to enable the University to provide innovative and cutting-edge training for the next generation of academic science students.

UCSF will offer new funding this fall to provide innovative and cutting-edge training for the next generation of graduate academic students.

The increased funding will allow UCSF to boost the enrollment of the most talented and diverse graduate students, who are in high demand at institutions across the nation. These graduate students already receive full support from UCSF for their important contributions to life sciences research and now the campus will be able to welcome more.

UCSF will make the new funding available through the Chancellor’s First-Year Graduate Program, which represents an extraordinary investment in graduate education by Chancellor Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH.   

The new program will allow UCSF to:

  • Give graduate programs the stability and flexibility to plan for the future;
  • Restore enrollment in disciplines that had to reduce the number of graduate students admitted due to a lack of funding to pay them; and
  • Reduce the time to earn a graduate degree to about five years, the national standard.

Supporting UCSF Students

Joseph Castro, PhD

Joseph Castro, PhD

The chancellor, who has made increasing professional and graduate student financial support a priority, approved $3.9 million in additional funding to support this program beginning in fall 2012. Of that amount, $1.5 million is permanent funding and $2.4 million is available through at least 2014-2015, according to Joseph Castro, PhD, vice chancellor for Student Affairs and interim dean of the Graduate Division until Elizabeth Watkins, PhD, takes over as dean on April 1.  

The new student aid initiative led by the Chancellor will result in additional private funding to support graduate fellowships.

“This is very exciting news for our students, our faculty and our programs, some of which decreased enrollments by 20 percent or more  over a five-year period,” Castro said. “Everybody was concerned about this trend because these are the kinds of students we need in California to support a more vibrant economy.”

Indeed, graduate students bring a heightened energy and enthusiasm to UCSF’s laboratories, where they work with scientists to understand the basic biological mechanisms of life ultimately aimed at improving human health.

This Graduate Fellowship program includes two key components — new Chancellor’s Fellowships for each graduate program as well as funding to support the first year for basic science graduate students beginning this fall.

This new initiative to support graduate education is on top of Desmond-Hellmann’s pledge to provide greater financial assistance to UCSF students enrolled in the four health professional schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy and the Graduate Division. The chancellor and her husband contributed $1 million to the four schools in a matching program. So far, the schools of medicine, pharmacy and dentistry have received matching gifts and the School of Nursing is now finalizing its matching funds, Castro said.

All UCSF Graduate Programs to Benefit

Each graduate program (Bioengineering, Biological and Medical Informatics, Biophysics, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Development and Stem Biology, Neuroscience Oral and Craniofacial Studies, and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics) will receive funding from the Graduate Division for one new Chancellor’s fellowship.

Because of their larger size, the Tetrad and Biomedical Sciences programs will each receive two new Chancellor’s fellowships.

The non-basic science graduate programs (Doctor of Physical Therapy Science program (DPTSc), Epidemiology and Translational Science, History of Health Sciences, Medical Anthropology, Nursing and Social and Behavioral Sciences) will also each receive one new Chancellor’s Fellowship.  

Kimberly Topp, PT, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science at UCSF, is thrilled about the new funding to support the Doctor of Physical Therapy Science program (DPTSc), a three- to-five-year academic program that prepares clinical researchers and academic educators in physical therapy and rehabilitation science.

“We are ecstatic to have these new funds to recruit an outstanding candidate into the Doctor of Physical Therapy Science program (DPTSc),” she says. “We plan to target an experienced physical therapist who will join the current students developing skills in clinical and translational research. The new graduate student funding will complement our strong clinical care in orthopaedic and neurological physical therapy, and will bring a clinical perspective to the broad areas of basic science research at UCSF.”

In addition, the Graduate Division will provide funding from the Chancellor that supports first-year students in the basic science graduate programs. This funding will be allocated by the Graduate Division based on a five-year rolling average of such students in years 1 through 5.

Matthew Jacobson, PhD, a professor in the departments of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences and California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, is grateful for the support the Graduate Group in Biophysics.

“This program will of course directly increase the number of students we can admit, but I also hope to use it to help recruit the very best students from anywhere in the world,” Jacobson says. “Among other things, this program will give us flexibility that other sources of funding do not.”

In addition, Castro notes, that he expects graduate students will be able to earn their degrees faster than their current averages.

“Along with this significant investment of support comes an expectation that we will work together to lower the overall time-to-degree for our graduate students and to develop measures of success,” Castro says. “We will do this in a manner that provides necessary flexibility for graduate programs to design and implement strategies, in collaboration with the Graduate Division, that enable us to accomplish these overall goals.”

Castro expressed appreciation for the efforts of former Graduate Division Dean Patricia Calarco, PhD, and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Jeff Bluestone, PhD, who has championed this new program.

Top photo by Susan Merrell