Mechanisms of Disease and Translational Science 

The Mechanisms of Disease and Translational Science (MoDTS) Graduate Track is designed to train Ph.D. students to become leaders of the next generation of translational scientists.

Translational research refers to the “process of turning observations in the laboratory, clinic, and community into interventions that improve the health of individuals and the public from diagnostics and therapeutics to medical procedures and behavioral changes.”

Research Opportunities

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MoDTS students will focus on laboratory research that has the potential for translation. Students will:

  • Have new opportunities to study human diseases at the interface between basic and clinical sciences
  • Be empowered to work with other members of scientific teams such as clinical researchers to spearhead the bidirectional translation of discoveries between the “bench” and “bedside” to improve human health.

Unique Curriculum

The MoDTS track is overlaid on the Basic Science Graduate Programs, and its curriculum is superimposed on those of the existing Basic Science Ph.D. Graduate Programs.

  • The MoDTS curriculum is designed to provide cross-disciplinary training that includes basic, translational and clinical sciences, and mentored clinical experiences.
  • MoDTS kicks off at the fall semester of graduate year one (G1) and ramps up in the summer before year two (G2).
  • Most the MoDTS required courses will fulfill the graduate program’s elective course requirements. Students will be able to work on their dissertation research while taking MoDTS courses and its unique practicum experiences.
Brittany Johnson

“I wanted to be the person who figured out how to treat diseases that currently have no available treatment or are difficult to treat so I decided to pursue biomedical research as a career path.”

Brittany Johnson

Mechanisms of Disease and Translational Science


How to Apply

MoDTS welcomes applications from anyone who is applying to the Division of Basic Science (DBS) in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. MoDTS is committed to increasing diversity in the translational science workforce. Students from historically underrepresented ethnic groups are particularly encouraged to apply.

On the application to the DBS, please indicate your wish to be considered for acceptance into MoDTS by answering yes to the question “Are you applying to MoDTS?” and uploading a MoDTS-specific essay in the tab labeled “MoDTS Essay.” This essay constitutes your application to the MoDTS track. Instructions for the essay are included in the tab in the application.

Acceptance to MoDTS will be based on multiple criteria, particularly the student’s passion for medically oriented translational research. Applicants will be notified of acceptance into the MoDTS track early.

Up to eight new students may be accepted in the first round. If MoDTS is oversubscribed, applicants may be placed on a waiting list. First-year graduate students who did not initially apply to MoDTS may also be offered spots on a space-available basis after matriculation. However, due to the limited number of MoDTS slots, we encourage applicants to seek admission into MoDTS while applying to the DBS.

  • Qualifying Exam
    The qualifying exam for the Mechanisms of Disease and Translational Science Track will be administered by the student’s home graduate program, with input from MoDTS. Students are required to develop a proposal based on their current thesis research. The specific aims of the research should be hypothesis-driven, and most will propose basic science studies, similar to the format for non-MoDTS students.
  • Exam Elements
    One specific aim must have a translational emphasis. In this aim, students will propose experiments that use biologic materials (such as blood, cells, tissues) derived from a targeted patient population. The translational study should be doable, and the student should establish feasibility.
    During the oral exam, the student is expected to give a brief presentation of his or her research proposal. This presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session that will cover broad areas related to the entire research proposal.
  • Exam Committee
    The qualifying exam committee will include faculty members from graduate programs in the Division of Basic Science. The inclusion of one physician investigator is encouraged.

Continued Grant Support

The MoDTS Graduate Track was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)-sponsored Med into Grad Initiative. After the Med into Grad Initiative ended, MoDTS was awarded a five-year NIH Molecular Medicine Predoctoral Research T32 Training Grant, which was renewed in 2019.

Meet the Program Chair

Thomas Carroll, Ph.D.

Graduate School: Ph.D., University of Texas-Austin, 1992
Postdoctoral Training: Harvard University

“The primary goal of this curriculum is to create a new breed of Ph.D. translational scientists capable of targeting their research programs to address unmet therapeutic and diagnostic needs of the future.” Read the chairs full message.

Thomas Carroll, Ph.d.