Van Andel Institute Honors First Graduates of VAI Graduate School

Published: Jun 19, 2012

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., June 18, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Van Andel Institute officials announce a commencement ceremony to honor the first graduates of the Van Andel Institute Graduate School (VAIGS), a program established in 2007 with the goal of training Ph.D. scientists through a curriculum that closely represents the way scientists conduct research.

The VAIGS program is grounded in the academic disciplines of biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology and genetics, while students receive training in the context of problem-based learning instead of lecture-based courses. At VAIGS, students learn to think like scientists from the day they enter by actively engaging in the day-to-day process of "doing" science.

"We meet the same educational objectives as a traditional graduate school, but by following the path that scientists use," said Van Andel Education Institute Director and VAIGS Dean Steven J. Treizenberg, Ph.D. "Rather than reading about research in a textbook or listening to a professor, students are active participants in ongoing research focusing on the genetic and molecular components of cancer, Parkinson's and other diseases."

Natalie Niemi, 29, and Jeffrey Klomp, 31, are members of the first incoming class of VAIGS students in 2007, and will receive Ph.D. degrees. Both students have published manuscripts as lead author in peer-reviewed journals, have written and submitted grant proposals, and have presented their research findings at national conferences experiences that set their graduate experience apart from most other programs.

"I've gained a large skill set that I didn't have before," said Niemi. "Getting your first author manuscript is something that really stands out."

The program has grown to include 15 current students with an additional five students accepted for the upcoming school year. When current VAI expansion is complete, the program will recruit eight to 10 students per year with ultimate capacity planned at about 45 students.

"This milestone allows us to pause and consider the unique role that the Graduate School plays in the life of Van Andel Institute by so visibly blending its twin missions of research and education," said Chairman and CEO David Van Andel.

The inaugural VAIGS Commencement takes place Tuesday, June 19, at 1:30 p.m. at Van Andel Institute.

SOURCE Van Andel Institute

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