By Wendy Sarubbi | August 16, 2016 8:58 pm

The College of Medicine welcomes 68 new graduate students in the biomedical sciences this week – almost twice the number a year ago — including 17 master’s candidates enrolled in a new neuroscience program and the college’s first M.D./Ph.D. candidate.

The new students at the college’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences include 18 Ph.D. candidates and 50 master’s candidates. Their alma maters include the University of California, Davis, University of Chicago, Georgia Institute of Technology, North Dakota State, Washington and Lee and the University of Wisconsin. They come from across the world, including India, China, Brazil, West Indies, Egypt and Jordan.

“It’s an absolutely exciting time for growth at the Burnett School,” said Dr. Saleh Naser, associate director of graduate studies and professor of medicine. “These are high-caliber candidates with a passion for research and discovery.”

Dr. Griffith Parks, director of the Burnett School, recently reorganized the school into four research divisions – neuroscience, cardiovascular and metabolic disease, infectious disease and cancer. The organization is designed to make scientists more successful in securing large national grants and increasing collaboration between College of Medicine research faculty and those across UCF, Medical City, the state, nation and world.

As part of the effort, the Burnett School proposed four new master’s programs – one for each area of research specialty. Neuroscience was the first approved and admitted graduate students this fall. The three others are being reviewed by UCF academic committees and hope to begin accepting candidates in November, Dr. Naser said.

Burnett School faculty put a greater emphasis on recruiting graduate students this year and in the process almost doubled last year’s new student total of 37. “Administrators, faculty and students really made a push to be good ambassadors and market our programs,” Dr. Naser said, noting that this year, the College of Medicine had 93 Ph.D. applicants compared to 55 last year. As part of the effort, the Burnett School invited all selected applicants to visit the medical school, where they met faculty and toured labs at each of the school’s three locations, toured Orlando with students and had an opportunity to be interviewed by a variety of faculty.

Because of that effort, UCF received more applicants than it could accept, allowing it to be more selective in choosing new graduate students, Dr. Naser said.

Two key selling points for new students were the ability to do collaborative research with UCF’s Lake Nona partners, including the Orlando VA Medical Center and Nemours Children’s Hospital, as well as local hospital partners Florida Hospital and Orlando Health. Ph.D. candidates particularly like the Burnett School’s practice of having them rotate through different labs during their first year so they can make the best choice for a research specialty and faculty mentor.

On August 17, the Burnett School will have faculty research presentations throughout the day so graduate students to learn more about their teachers’ work. On August 18, the school will hold a research colloquium to honor graduates and hear from keynote speaker Dr. William M. Shafer, professor at Emory University School of Medicine.

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