T32 Training Program in Animal Models of Inflammation

This three-year graduate student program—entitled, “Training in Animal Models of Inflammation”—supports a select group of trainees learning to use animal models to research the molecular regulation of inflammation and its effect on disease progression.



The VBS department is proud to offer a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA), known as a T32 Training Program, through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The objective is to create a diverse and highly-trained workforce who will become leaders in research and make a significant impact in advancing the nation’s health-related research agenda.

Since 2011, our T32 program—entitled, “Training in Animal Models of Inflammation”—has supported a select group of high-achieving pre-doctoral  researchers whose work encompasses the use of animal models to study the molecular regulation of inflammation and its effect on disease progression.

This program features a variety of professors and mentors that come together to provide trainees with a highly unique and specialized curriculum. Learning experiences include five hands-on modules over three years, and travel opportunities to present posters and attend special training seminars—all of which are designed to hone the trainees’ skills as researchers.

The coordinator is Dr. Pam Hankey, Professor of Immunology and Director of the Bridges program and the co-coordinator is Dr. Mary Kennett, Director of the Animal Resource Program and VBS Interim Department Head. There also is a selection committee consisting of five Penn State faculty members; and an internal and an external advising committee to help guide the program and ensure the trainees have every opportunity to succeed.

Check out our graduate programs in Pathobiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases, and Molecular Toxicology.

Selection Process

Students must:

  • Pass their candidacies prior to applying;
  • Be in the process of completing most of the course work required for their individual programs;
  • Have already selected a thesis advisor;
  • Have attended/be attending VB SC 597A, Seminars in Inflammation;
  • Supply GRE scores, undergraduate grades, letters of recommendation, grades from the first year of graduate studies, descriptions of former research experiences and laboratory performance, and their original graduate school application;
  • Submit a three-page research proposal detailing their proposed studies on inflammation using animal models, under the direction of their thesis advisor. Special consideration will be given to proposals that are interdisciplinary and identify one or more co-advisors;
  • Interview with the selection committee, who will evaluate the applications and research proposals.

Candidates are chosen who have the strongest academic backgrounds, the most compelling proposals, and those demonstrating the most maturity, intellect and drive during the interview.


Trainees are supported for a period of three years. At the end of these three years, support will come from the thesis adviser.

During their first year of graduate school, applicants should have taken the one-credit VB SC 597A, Seminars in Inflammation, during which information about this training program will be presented and the application process explained. The Scholarship and Research Integrity (SARI) program is required of first-year graduate students, as well.

Year One

Beginning in the fall of the accepted trainees’ first year in the T32 program, they will take the one-credit VB SC 597B, Readings in Inflammation, which takes a journal-club approach for an in-depth analysis the field of study. An Ethics in Life Sciences (IBIOS 591, one credit) course is usually taken during this year.

During the summer of the trainees’ first year, they will attend the two-week Annual Short Course on Medical and Experimental Mammalian Genetics at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Year Two

Trainees will be required to take Laboratory Animal Biology and Methodology (VB SC 597C) and Animal Models of Inflammation (VB SC 597D), in which ten modules are taught over a two-year period. Each module is taught on three consecutive Fridays. The mornings are focused on lectures, lunch is provided, and the afternoons are devoted to hands-on training

Year Three

Trainees are expected to submit an abstract describing their studies for presentation at a national or international conference in their third year. While attending these functions, they are encouraged to attend small focus meetings in order to meet leaders in their fields.

Ongoing Opportunities

Grant-writing skills will be addressed by having trainees attend Penn State’s Grant Writing Workshops, available in fall semesters. They also will be encouraged to submit proposals for grants, such as the Pre-doctoral Research Fellowship Incentive Award and the College of Agricultural Sciences Competitive Grants program.

In addition, trainees attend the Annual Upstate New York Immunology Conference as a group. Also, there will be summer workshops focusing on animal models or techniques not routinely used by faculty in the program, during which experts are invited to present information and students will share research posters.

Trainees also can host speakers through the Bortree Seminar Series (VB SC 590); and will participate in the Penn State Summer Symposium in Molecular Biology, which focuses on inflammation every four years.

For more information regarding the Training in Animal Models of Inflammation program, please contact Dr. Pam Hankey at