ILS 2.0

Reinventing the First Semester — Proposal and Funding Request

PDF version of this document

15 February 2013

[toggle title=”Summary”]

The ILS graduate program is a cooperative venture currently involving 10 Life Sciences departments/institutes across 4 colleges. It is an admissions and first-year program only. Students obtain their degrees from their selected department or institute graduate program. First-year ILS graduate students rotate across 3 laboratories from at least 2 departments, then choose both their major professor and their home graduate program. ILS students thus have great flexibility in choosing which research program appeals most to them, sampling faculty from the participating units. The ILS program also allows us to highlight and advertise interdisciplinary research areas which are not obvious from our departmental structure, and provides a framework within which new integrative and interdisciplinary graduate programs can be more easily developed.

The ILS program was innovative in its concept, and it continues to develop new organizational and instructional approaches to graduate education. The original graduate stipend funding model was 6 stipends for 12 months each, paid by the Graduate School and OVPR for a total of $144,000. This has morphed into 8 stipends over 9 academic months, with departments and PIs picking up the summer cost, after students have committed to a laboratory.

We envision the program growing from 6 to 8 students per year to 30 to 50 students per year, becoming the admissions and first-year portal for more than half of the total graduate admissions across the participating units. Some units will choose to have most or all of their graduate admissions through ILS; other units may participate with part of their admissions through ILS. ILS will continue to encourage and support interdisciplinary groups within the ILS framework, and will work as a focus for to bring the Life Sciences units together to improve their collective graduate education. To achieve this, we propose the following changes to the ILS model:

  • First year ILS graduate students rotate 3 times during fall semester for 5 weeks each, then choose their major professor and home graduate program by the beginning of Spring Semester.
  • The home program and the faculty PI will pay for the first student stipends beginning in January of Spring semester, after the students have committed to a program. The departments and institutes will also cover part of the recruitment expenses, and fund the stipends for years two to five
  • Central administration funding is requested for most of the fall semester stipends, during the time when the graduate students are rotating among laboratories; contributions are also requested for recruitment expenses and for program administration expenses.
  • We propose to plan for a growth of ILS from 30 matriculating graduate students in 2014-2015, to 40 in 2015-2016, to 50 in 2016-2017. In each case we request the Central Administration fund the first year fall semester stipends, 38% of the total, while the participating units fund the remainder of the first year, 62% of the total year 1 stipend. If years 2 to 5 are included, the participating units are funding 90% of the total stipend for the graduate students. Details are given in the tables below.
  • The revised ILS program also includes a substantial restructuring of first-year graduate courses. Three different modifications to the current curricular structure are under discussion, and are described in more detail below.
  • We also propose establishing a reporting line for the ILS program, and establishing a process for selection of Program Director and Graduate Coordinator.

The 10 departments and institute currently involved in the ILS program are a strong and productive group; in FY 2012 they collectively received $60,928,550 in sponsored program funding, 26% of the UGA total indicated in the 2012 OVPR annual report.


[toggle title=”Funding Request”]

The participating units of the ILS program request Central Administration funding for first-year fall semester graduate student stipends, for a portion of the recruitment costs and the administrative costs. This table presents a breakdown of the costs and potential funding sources based upon the current funding commitments, and the share the departments and institutes have committed to the ILS 2 program. The additional amount needed line indicates the funds needed to expand the program to 30, 40, 50 students, as described.

2014-2015 2015-2016 2016-2017
Projected enrollment: 30 40 50
Program Costs
Student Stipends, Fall of their first year $281,250 $375,000 $468,750
Student Stipends, Rest of their first year $468,750 $625,000 $781,250
Recruitment Expenses $48,000 $64,000 $80,000
Graduate Coordinator, 2 months salary $20,000 $20,000 $20,000
Program Director, 1 month salary $16,993 $16,993 $16,993
Graduate Degree Professional Staff $27,782 $27,782 $27,782
sum – Total Funds Needed $862,775 $1,128,775 $1,394,775
Potential Funding Sources
Graduate School, Current Level of Support $132,000 15% $132,000 12% $132,000 9%
OVPR, Current Level of Support $20,000 2% $20,000 2% $20,000 1%
Franklin College, Current Level of Support $10,000 1% $10,000 1% $10,000 1%
Proposed Departments & Institutes, Year 1 $492,750 57% $657,000 58% $821,250 59%
Additional Amount Needed: $208,025 24% $309,775 27% $411,525 30%
sum $868,843 100% $1,134,843 100% $1,400,843 100%
Proposed Departments & Institutes
Funding of Student Years 2-5
$2,400,000 100% $3,200,000 100% $4,000,000 100%


1 Introduction

[toggle title=”1.1 ILS Concept”]

The concept of the ILS program is to admit graduate students to a program which will give them a choice of major professors across multiple Life Sciences departments and graduate programs, and across multiple colleges. First year graduate students will rotate across 3 different laboratories, then identify their major professor and home department. ILS students then become departmental graduate students, obtaining their degrees from their new program. The freedom to rotate across multiple departments/institutes/colleges is an attractive recruiting option, and also permits us to highlight areas of interdisciplinary strength which are not obvious from our traditional departmental structure.


[toggle title=”1.2 For What is ILS an Acronym?”]

ILS stands for Integrated Life Sciences. ILS houses, and strongly encourages the creation of interdisciplinary groups within the overall ILS framework, and hence has sometimes also been referred to as the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences program. The interdisciplinary groups are highlighted on the ILS web page, and are used as an academic structure within ILS. The ILS program thus promotes interdisciplinary work in multiple areas, within the overall framework of the program.


[toggle title=”1.3 Why Propose Changes Now?”]

During the Spring 2013 graduate admission season, the ILS program will be admitting its fifth group of students. This is the last group which can be admitted under the current funding agreements.
Students admitted in Spring 2013, and matriculating in August 2013, will be paid according to the agreement in which $144,000 of Central Administration funding is used to pay the 9-month stipends of 8 first-year graduate students.
This document proposes a new framework for going forward.


[toggle title=”1.4 Brief History”]

The ILS program was founded by Mark Farmer and Jim Hamrick in 2009, following the work of several committees and following discussions with the Vice President for Research and the Dean of the Graduate School. It admitted its first group of Graduate Students in Spring 2009, with matriculation in Fall Semester 2009. The ILS Graduate Program received the Graduate School’s Innovation Award during its Centennial Celebration in January 2010.

In Fall 2010, the Dean of Franklin College of Arts & Sciences asked Associate Dean Russell Malmberg to function as ILS Program Director. He was fortunate to identify Walter Schmidt of the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Department as Graduate Coordinator for the program.

In Spring 2012, Fall 2012, and Spring 2013, discussions regarding the future of ILS were held with Participating Unit Department Heads and Directors, with the ILS Executive Committee, and with several special purpose brainstorming and planning committees. This led to the current document and this proposal for ILS 2.0.


[toggle title=”1.5 Innovative Characteristics of the ILS Program”]

  • First year graduate students can choose a major professor from any of the participating departments/institutes, and pick any of these graduate programs as the one in which they will obtain their Ph.D., after doing a series of rotations.
  • ILS encourages the formation of interdisciplinary groups within the ILS framework. It provides a starting place or home for groups just getting organized. The ILS program uses these interdisciplinary research groups as a basis for organization during its first-year program. Currently there are 12 active interdisciplinary groups (Animal Behavior, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience, Chemical Biology, Developmental Biology, Ecological Genomics, Epigenetics & Chromatin, Evolutionary Biology, Fungal Biology, Infection & Immunity, Plant Molecular Biology, Plant Ecology & Evolution, Systems Biology).
  • ILS permits students to develop unique, interdisciplinary, programs of study, if the students are inclined to do this, and if they obtain appropriate advice from faculty in assembling a program of study.
  • ILS is working with the M.D./Ph.D. program at the Medical College of Georgia to develop the graduate research program for these students within the ILS framework.
  • The ILS web page for attracting applicants has set a standard for interdiscplinary groups at UGA. ILS also has an internal web site where the important documents and policies are kept for member unit reference.
  • Franklin College IT is developing an online database for ILS which organizes all program-related activities, and permits tracking of students through the cycle of application, admission, first-year rotations, departmental affiliation, and subsequent careers. An initial version of this database, developed on the Filemaker Pro platform, is currently in use by ILS and is serving as the template. The database has already served as a resource for units that are renewing/proposing graduate training proposals (Bioinformatics and Genetics)
  • The participating departments are cooperatively working on a new first-year curriculum for both ILS and Departmental students.

Collectively these have the effect that UGA can recruit students in, and make known its strengths in both our traditional department and institute-based programs, and in areas which are not obvious from our departmental structure and departmental web pages.

An additional benefit is that the participating Life Sciences units are now working together to improve graduate training across their programs.


[toggle title=”1.6 Participating Units”]

Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Franklin College of Arts & Sciences
Bioinformatics Vice President for Research
Cellular Biology Franklin College of Arts & Sciences
Entomology College of Agriculture
Genetics Franklin College of Arts & Sciences
Infectious Diseases Veterinary School
Marine Sciences Franklin College of Arts & Sciences
Microbiology Franklin College of Arts & Sciences
Pharmaceutical & Biomedical Sciences Pharmacy
Plant Biology Franklin College of Arts & Sciences

IInitially the Institute of Ecology and the School of Forestry were also participants. They dropped out citing problems with the $20,000 stipend for years 2 to 5 as being too high. The Institute of Ecology also indicated they were getting excellent students for the lesser funds. The Microbiology and Pharmaceutical & Biomedical Sciences departments, and the Institute of Bioinformatics, joined at various times after the initiation of ILS. Plant Pathology joined for one year, then withdrew. The ILS program is open to additional graduate programs joining the ILS umbrella in the future when these programs agree to the ILS structure and requirements.


[toggle title=”1.7 Admissions Summary”]

Applicants, GREs, GPAs

Year Total
2009 7 6 1 1249 3.65
2010 21 15 5 1264 3.55
2011 29 15 13 1328 3.57
2012 39 23 16 1264/308 3.47
2013 22 16 6 1273/313 3.51

Admitted and Enrolled, GREs, GPAs

Year Admitted Admitted
Enrolled Enrolled
2009 6 1235 3.81 6 1235 3.81
2010 5 1224 3.70 5 1224 3.70
2011 9 1312 3.71 5 1250 3.59
2012 15 1272/313 3.53 8 1244/317 3.64
2013 10 1360/315 3.65

Note the GRE score scale changed in 2010; hence 2 separate average scores are reported.

Current Affiliation of ILS Students

Unit 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
BCMB 1 2
GENE 2 1
PBIO 1 1 1

The 2012-2013 students will be choosing their graduate programs in the next few months.
X indicates the program was not affiliated with ILS for the year indicated.
1This student is in the Genetics program, working with a Microbiology adjunct faculty.


[toggle title=”1.8 Current ILS Finances and Structure”]

Category OVPR Graduate
Year 1 Stipend $12,000 $132,000 $48,0001
Recruitment Per Year $8000 $0 $25002

Administration: Franklin College contributes one month of the graduate coordinator’s salary, part of a program assistant’s time, the program director’s time, and IT time for database support.

1Originally the total funds for the stipend was calculated as 6 students @ $24,000 each for 12 months, or $144,000 funded from Central Administration. In 2012 the participating departments, or faculty, began paying for summer of the first year, after the students had selected a home. This permitted the program to admit 8 students, not 6.
2Departments contribute non-state funds which can be used for meals, etc. during campus visits.


[toggle title=”1.9 FY 2012 External Grants / Sponsored Programs Funding by Participating Units”]

FY12 Department External Funding
$9,173,367 Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
$259,394 Bioinformatics
$4,464,685 Cellular Biology
$10,760,713 Complex Carbohydrate Research Center
$3,755,773 Entomology
$5,558,670 Genetics
$10,256,337 Infectious Diseases
$3,532,624 Marine Sciences
$3,426,053 Microbiology
$4,830,921 Pharmaceutical and Biomedical
$4,910,013 Plant Biology
$60,928,550 sum

These figures are from the OVPR FY 2012 Annual Report. For the CCRC, 14/15 faculty are members of ILS affiliated departments; the CCRC total was multiplied by 14/15 as a quick estimate of their total contribution. The UGA total sponsored programs was $234,883,526.


2 Proposed Program Finances

[toggle title=”2.1 Objective of 30 to 50 Students Per Year”]

The goal is to have ILS move from having 6 first year students, largely funded by the Graduate School and the Vice-President for Research, to 30 to 50 first year students funded by a mixture of Central Administration and Departmental / Institute funds, with most of the funding coming from the participating units. ILS will become the admitting program for about half the total graduate students in the participating units, with some units directing most or all their admissions through ILS, and other units participating to lesser varying levels.

Each department or institute can decide how its funding contributions may be made, using either department/institute funds or requiring that faculty with external funding make the required payments. From the standpoint of the ILS program, these sources will be referred to and treated as department/or unit.


[toggle title=”2.2 Proposed New Financial Structure to Begin Fall Semester 2014 (FY 15)”]

Central administration / ILS program funds will be used during fall semester of the student’s first year, during the time that students are rotating among departments and laboratories. The participating departments/institutes and faculty P.I.s will pick up the cost of the stipend starting with spring semester of the first year. Overall, the participating departments and institute will be paying more than 60% of the total first year cost.

In contrast, the current (ILS 1.0) model, the central administration contributes $144,000 per year configured as eight nine-month stipends of $18,000 each, for a total of 75% of the first year stipend cost.

2.2.1 Graduate Student Stipends, Per Student

  • $25,000 per student stipend for year 1. This base amount could be defined as some percentage of a defined standard, such as the UGA Presidential fellowship level.
    • $9,375 Fall semester supported by a mix of Central Administration funds.
      Fall semester is the time during which students do rotations, prior to selecting their home department.
    • $15,625 Spring and summer term stipend to be funded by Department/Institute.
      Spring semester and summer term the students will have a departmental home.
  • $20,000 or the department minimum, whichever is greater, as the stipend for years 2 to 5.


2.2.2 Graduate Student Stipends, Total

Stipends – Number Admitted Students: Year Term 1 2014-2015
Central Administration Year 1 Fall $9,375 $281,250 $375,000 $468,750
Departments & Institute Year 1 Spring $15,625 $468,750 $625,000 $781,250
Departments & Institute, Minimum Year 2 to 5 All $20,000 $600,000 $800,000 $1,000,000

Departments may fund additional years of stipend beyond 5, at their discretion, at stipend levels they define, consistent with their standard departmental policies.

2.2.4 Sources of Departmental Contributions for Stipends

Departments may use any standard source of funding, such as grant research assistantships, teaching assistantships or other departmental funds, for their $15,625 first year contribution and for the $20,000 (minimum) stipends for years two to five.

2.2.5 ILS Students Become Part of the Program They Join

The graduate students become fully members of the graduate program which they choose and to which they are admitted, and are subject to its policies, other than the defined ILS minimum stipend for years two to five. The ILS program will need to track the graduate students admitted through ILS.


[toggle title=”2.3 Recruitment Expenses”]

In this proposal we request splitting the recruitment expenses between the Central Administration help and Departmental/Unit contributions. Departmental/Unit contributions will be essential for the entertainment funds (food), which must be non-state in origin.
We estimate as follows:

Recruitment – Number Interviewees: 1 2014-2015
Central Administration, State $400 $24,000 $32,000 $40,000
Departments & Institute, State $300 $18,000 $24,000 $30,000
Departments & Institute, Non-State $100 $6,000 $8,000 $10,000
Sum $800 $48,000 $64,000 $80,000

The per department contribution will be based upon the average number of students who were admitted to the department through ILS in the previous 3 years. A department which recruits an average of 5 students per year through ILS, where an average of 50 students per year are admitted, will be asked to contribute 10% as the departmental share of the recruiting expenses.


[toggle title=”2.4 Administrative Expenses”]

The current administrative expenses for ILS 1.1 are:

  1. One month salary for the Graduate Coordinator, Walter Schmidt, currently paid by Franklin College.
  2. A part-time Graduate Program Assistant, currently this is the Administrative Assistant for Russell Malmberg, Leslie Morrow, whose time donation is currently paid by Franklin College.
  3. The time of the program director, Russell Malmberg, which is currently donated by Franklin College.
  4. The time of the IT staff supporting ILS, particularly the database development and implementation.

We request continued payment of the Graduate Coordinator’s salary, increasing the amount to two months salary or the equivalent in a research account, as needed by the individual; this time increase will be justified by the proposed increase in size of the program. We also request continued donation of part of Leslie Morrow’s time as graduate program assistant until such time as the program requires a full-time assistant, when this person should be hired. The program director position is discussed more fully below.

Graduate Coordinator, 2 months salary $20,000
Program Director, 1 month salary $16,993
Graduate Degree Professional Staff $27,782
Sum $64,775

These administrative expenses have been borne by Franklin College. One possibility to help with these expenses is for ILS to request that the Deans of all the participating colleges share in these expenses in proportion to the number of graduate students who enter their college’s programs; alternatively, these expenses may be paid by the Central Administration unit with which ILS establishes a reporting line, as discussed below.


3 First-year Curriculum

[toggle title=”3.1 Objective”]

We plan to implement several new courses and course revisions to improve some of both the ILS students and purely departmental students’ first year program.

The specific course numbers listed here were chosen because none of the participating departments are using them, permitting any interested department to cross-list them.


[toggle title=”3.2 Research Skills Sequence”]

This is a series of 3 proposed one-credit, five-week, modules to be held fall semester. ILS program students will take all 3 courses; purely departmental students would be welcome as well to any of the modules.

BIOL 8391 Introduction to Research – This will be an introduction to the Life Sciences Departments and interdisciplinary research areas represented by ILS.
BIOL 8393 Responsible Conduct of Research – This will cover how to conduct scientific research responsibly, and will examine some of the ethical issues in scientific research.

This course sequence has met with general approval by the participating Life Sciences Departments. Course applications have been submitted to the UGA Course Approval System, with potential implementation as soon as Fall 2013.
PDF document describing the 839x professional skills sequence


[toggle title=”3.3 Revisions to Instruction of the Scientific Material”]

The first-year courses currently taught by the Life Sciences Departments could benefit from improved coordination. The departments are discussing 3 ideas to restructure the introductory curriculum to improve it, and to improve coordination across departmental courses. These are not mutually exclusive possibilities.
Any one of these three proposals would result in a substantial, novel, change in the graduate curriculum resulting from the participating departments working together.
A course number sequence has been proposed, the 8370s, which is currently not used by any department, and thus could easily be cross-listed by any.

3.3.1 Option – Designing a New Primary Literature Course

The spirit of this proposal is to immerse the incoming graduate students in reading the primary literature during fall semester, when they are taking the professional skills course, and doing rotations. No other regular course would be taken fall semester. Student schedules might include: 3 credit-hours from the professional skills sequence, 6 credit-hours from rotations, 4 credit-hours from the primary literature course, plus a seminar course.
A cohort of faculty from all the participating departments would select roughly 30 important papers for the students to read in detail and discuss. The students would be in sections of no more than 12 students per faculty. The experience of the students, the papers read, would vary from year to year, and session to session; the important skills of literature reading and scientific criticism would be the focus; a similar idea has been implemented as GENE 8000.
One way to organize these reading courses would be through the existing interdisciplinary groups within ILS.
More standard lecture/content courses would begin in spring semester.

3.3.2 Option – Changing Current Courses into a Modular Format

This idea is to identify the courses currently taught by the participating departments which are comparable. These courses would then each be reorganized into 3 five-week modules. Coordination of schedules and topics across departments would occur.
A graduate student would be able to take module 1 from one department, module 2 from another department, and so on. Purely departmental students would simply take all 3 from the same department.
This structure would allow students great flexibility in their program of study. It would improve coordination across departments, while still allowing each department to have its own emphases.

3.3.3 Option – Creating a Common Core Sequence

This proposal creates a common core course, running both fall and spring semesters. It could consist of 6 total 5 week modules, or be an integrated whole. The common core would be taken by ILS students and by many departmental students as well. The course would be structured with both main class sessions, and smaller group break-out sections.
PDF document describing this 837x common core sequence


[toggle title=”3.4 Other possibilities, unique programs”]

The ILS program will be open to working with other groups of Life Sciences faculty to develop innovative course structures that promote cooperation among the department and institute faculty.

Some incoming first-year students will have unique interdisciplinary interests. ILS can help these students define their programs of study within the ILS framework.


4 Administrative Structure

[toggle title=”4.1 Reporting Line, Reviews”]

There is not a formal reporting line, or administrative ownership, of the currently established ILS program. Although it may become a large central core of UGA Life Sciences graduate education, it is not on any formal program review list.
ILS is currently a cooperative venture of the Graduate School, the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Franklin College of Arts & Sciences, and to a lesser extent, the Division of Biological Sciences. ILS should formally report to one of these units, with documents on the web site describing the participation of the other units.


[toggle title=”4.2 Program Director”]

Once the reporting line of ILS is established, a policy is needed for selecting the Program Director with an appointment for a defined length of time, perhaps 3 years. The administrator of the unit to whom ILS reports would consult with the heads of the member Life Sciences Departments to identify the next ILS Program Director.
July 2013 is an appropriate time for a transition to a new Program Director, once a version of this financial plan is adopted by all participants, and ILS has a clear path for the next few years.


[toggle title=”4.3 Graduate Coordinator”]

The ILS graduate coordinator would continue as a position reporting to the Program Director. This individual should be appointed by the Program Director, after consultation with the participating unit heads or directors, for 3-year terms.


[toggle title=”4.4 Administrative Assistant”]

Leslie Morrow, the adminstrative assistant for Russell Malmberg, currently works part-time with the ILS graduate program. She enjoys this assignment. We will request that Ms. Morrow continue as a part-time graduate program assistant for the ILS program, until such time as a full-time graduate program assistant is needed and hired.


[toggle title=”4.5 Executive/Curriculum and Admissions/Graduate Life committee”]

The current constitution and roles of these two committees are described in the current organizational documents web pages Both will continue under ILS 2.0, with expansion of the Admissions/Graduate Life committee to accommodate the increase in students.
All units participating in the ILS program must contribute at least one faculty representative to the ILS admissions/graduate life committee, with additional representatives, beyond one, in proportion to the number of unit faculty who are participating as potential ILS faculty mentors.

The ILS Executive/Curriculum committee is composed of faculty from the participating units, nominated by heads and directors. It addresses administrative issues, such as the participation of new units, the formation of interdisciplinary groups, and the development and implementation of new courses. It typically meets once a semester.

The ILS Admissions/Graduate Life committee is composed of faculty from the participating units, nominated by heads and directors. This committee oversees admissions and the management of the first-year students.


[toggle title=”4.6 Online Database”]

Franklin College IT is currently developing an online database to serve the ILS graduate program. This will provide a convenient way for faculty and departments which are dispersed throughout the UGA campus (8+ buildings) to interact with the admissions process. It will also serve as a repository of information and statistics about applicants suitable for internal reviews and development of future training grant applications.
The database will be made available to other units as it becomes well developed and reliable.


5 Submitters

[toggle title=”Unit Heads or Directors”]

Stephen L. Hajduk Jessica C. Kissinger
Head, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Director, Bioinformatics
Kojo A. Mensa-Wilmot Raymond Noblet
Head, Cellular Biology Head, Entomology
Allen J. Moore Frederick D. Quinn
Head, Genetics Head, Infectious Diseases
Brian J. Binder Timothy R. Hoover
Head, Marine Sciences Head, Microbiology
Dexi Liu Michelle Momany
Head, Pharmaceutial & Biomedical Sciences Head, Plant Biology


[toggle title=”Document Preparers”]

Russell L. Malmberg Walter K. Schmidt
ILS Program Director ILS Graduate Coordinator
Nancy R. Manley
Chair, Developmental Biology