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Integrated Research Training Group (iRTG)

The overall educational aim of the iRTG is to train highly talented doctoral researchers and medical doctoral (MD) researchers in order to find and support the next generation of researchers and clinicians. The iRTG will provide an interdisciplinary and systematic educational program to foster expertise in basic cardiovascular research and to guarantee professional and transferable skills for future career development. Integrated students will be educated in basic principles of aortic disease development covering pathophysiological mechanisms, immunological pathways, and pharmacological and interventional therapeutic approaches. The students will learn the state-of-the-art techniques required to perform cutting-edge research, including the fundamentals of cell culture, complex animal experiments and phenotyping, molecular biology, imaging, flow cytometry, etc. Career-relevant soft skills will be taught, within established graduate programs of the Universities of Bonn, Cologne, and Düsseldorf.


The iRTG will emphasize the importance of translational research and stimulate the development of basic science that is tailored towards actual medical need. The clinical workshops will expose the students to cardiovascular medicine with all the modern diagnostic and therapeutic potentialities, but it will also work to elucidate unmet needs and future challenges in patient care. To achieve these ambitious educational aims, a structured training program for doctoral researchers and MD researchers will be established, which includes the specific work within the projects of the consortium that will be completed through the doctoral theses.


Professional guidance through all steps of the iRTG will be assured by a defined mentorship structure provided by the project PIs and complemented by a thesis advisory team (TAT) made-up of members from the three participating sites. Regular iRTG-specific activities consisting of local events at each site for the local doctoral and MD researchers (scientific seminars, journal clubs, specialized soft skill courses) and general events for all iRTG researchers (starting symposium, clinical workshops, annual retreats, summer school) ensure a broad scientific education for the iRTG students. Central coordination of the iRTG will be in Bonn, and each committee of the iRTG will contain experts from Bonn, Cologne, and Düsseldorf. Within the iRTG, we plan to enroll approximately 20-25 doctoral researchers. In addition, a specific year-long program for medical doctor researchers will be implemented to allow initial education and attraction for basic research. TRR259 will also provide a clinician scientist program within the framework of Project Z. The funded MD fellows will also be integrated into the training program of the iRTG.


PhD Students

One of our specific training goals for doctoral researchers is to complete their research within a three-year time frame with a first-author publication in a high-impact journal, while receiving a top-level scientific education and appropriate career-development training. One unique aspect of this iRTG program is the basic research mechanism-focused approach, closely linked to the clinical setting, at three sites with unique experimental and clinical skills. The iRTG program will provide an innovative and interdisciplinary education for our doctoral and MD researchers by integrating cutting-edge research projects with collaborative supervision, complemented by a structured training program. The iRTG will be hosted within a firmly established network of researchers and clinicians as well as outstanding facilities and support services at all three sites.


In order to achieve these ambitious goals and to guarantee a structured, high-level, and quality-controlled scientific education, as well as a successful completion of the doctoral research projects, we have developed a core curriculum for the iRTG with the following major aims: (1) give doctoral researchers the opportunity to find a suitable topic based on their personal interest, (2) ensure their development in a structure and schedule that helps them to achieve their scientific goals, and (3) to actively exchange results and ideas between colleagues at the three sites.



Medical Students

A unique aspect of our program is that it actively encourages highly talented MD students to apply to the iRTG, thereby supporting their research track within the Medical Faculty. The iRTG not only aims to train the next generation of cardiovascular scientists, but also to provide an optimal environment for aspiring MD researchers. Since the program is specifically designed to facilitate close collaborations between different research groups consisting of clinician scientists and basic researchers, interdisciplinary collaborations are a central core of our approach. Scholarship for approved candidates will last for one year including full-time lab work during one semester and the semester holidays. The students are obliged to attend the

majority of the scientific seminars, the journal clubs, and specialized soft skill courses.



Clinician Scientists/GEROK

In order to be able to attract and integrate additional research-enthusiastic young medical doctors to science in general, and into our program in particular, we will offer a clinician scientist program. Following vigorous evaluation of candidates, this program will annually fund the first research year of clinician scientists. Each candidate will subsequently be supported by the host research site for a second year.

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