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Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT): Scalable Computing and Leading Edge Innovative Technologies for Biology (SCALE-IT)

Principal Investigator: 

Dr. Cynthia Peterson
Department Head and Professor
The University of Tennessee
Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology
M407 Walters Life and Sciences Building
1414 West Cumberland Avenue
Phone: 865-974-1531

Grant or Funding Agency: 

National Science Foundation (NSF)

Project Description:

The Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) is an interdisciplinary training program created by the National Science Foundation.  This program works to educate U.S. Ph.D. scientists and engineers by providing education and training rooted in interdisciplinary fields of knowledge.  The University of Tennessee’s SCALE-IT project is funded through the IGERT program and this project works to train students in the fields of computation and biological sciences.  The program’s goal is to provide future scientists with the interdisciplinary knowledge, enabling them with the tools to provide comprehensive solutions to complex biological and computational problems.

Researchers and professors from the College of Communication and Information have worked with the SCALE-IT’s Principal Investigator to create a Science Communication Center.  This Center works to provide workshops and tutoring for the doctoral students that cover all aspects of science communication at the professional and general audience level.


This Integrated Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) Program on Scalable Computing and Leading Edge Innovative Technologies (SCALE-IT) for Biology will educate future biologists in a new way of approaching biology – a seamless combination of computing expertise and research using emerging tools that can attack the most challenging problems in biology spanning sub-cellular to organismal scales. These activities will be coordinated by a team of biologists and computational scientists at the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. 

The goal is to endow future scientists with the expertise to work at the interface of computational and biological sciences, giving them the foundation to grasp important biological problems, understand the scope of the data needed to address them, shrewdly design comprehensive solutions, and implement them in a reasonable and efficient fashion. 

SCALE-IT trainees will conduct research in an environment that includes state-of-the-art instrumentation, high performance computing and worldwide distributed computing via the Tera-grid. New curricula will provide trainees with the background to work across computational and biological scales, including in-depth problem-based learning with hands-on experiences. Opportunities will be available for students to intern with major industries, institutes and other academic programs.

Other broader impacts of the program include summer research experiences and curriculum development workshops for faculty and students from partner institutions. Collaborations with Delaware State University and Tennessee State University will provide pathways for underrepresented minorities to participate in this doctoral program. Training in effective communication of science will be fostered by establishing a Science Communication Center with colleagues in journalism. 

IGERT is an NSF-wide program intended to meet the challenges of educating U.S. Ph.D. scientists and engineers with the interdisciplinary background, deep knowledge in a chosen discipline, and the technical, professional, and personal skills needed for the career demands of the future. The program is intended to catalyze a cultural change in graduate education by establishing innovative new models for graduate education and training in a fertile environment for collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries.


Project Website:


Dr. Mark Littmann
The University of Tennessee
Journalism and Electronic Media
333 Communications and University Extension Building
1345 Circle Park
Knoxville, TN 37996-0333
Office Phone: (865) 974-8156
Fax: (865) 974-5056

Secondary Contact:

Harry Richards
Program Manager
The University of Tennessee
Biochem/Cell & Molec Biol
M3031A Walters Life Sciences Building
1414 West Cumberland Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996-0840
Phone: 865-974-4588

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