Campus Life

New NSERC program links RNA research and industry partners

The next revolution in biotechnology will be rationally designed ribonucleic acid (RNA)-based systems, molecular machines and devices. To prepare the next generation of RNA researchers, the University of Lethbridge, Université de Sherbrooke and industry collaborators have come together to offer the new RNA Innovation program. This unique partnership aims to produce highly qualified personnel with skills in advanced RNA research, scientific leadership, and industry experience.

“We are very excited about the training possibilities offered to Université de Sherbrooke and University of Lethbridge students,” says Dr. Michelle Scott, grant co-applicant and Université de Sherbrooke professor, “These opportunities will be instrumental in helping prepare our students for future biotech jobs.”

Trainees will develop professional skills in management, leadership, communication and ethics. They will graduate with job-ready knowledge of applied and basic research and receive funding for on-site industry training and project development, while gaining access to leading industry-partner collaborations.

“We actively seek out graduates with advanced technical and professional skills, and are strong advocates for programs that help to develop those skills,” says Rory Degenhardt from Dow AgroScience and a strong supporter of the new program.

The RNA Innovation program is comprised of two key components, an entrepreneurial research and development challenge (deepYellow Challenge) and an extensive internship program (the Twinning Program).

In the deepYellow Challenge, trainees will collaborate as a team to solve a complex scientific problem proposed by the program’s industry partners. Through the Twinning Program, trainees will be matched with a specific industry internship, providing students with mentorship and personalized networking experiences. Contacts developed during this time will be extremely beneficial to the trainees for their future transition into the workforce.

“The University of Lethbridge is committed to upholding excellence in both research and graduate education," says Dr. Erasmus Okine, the U of L's vice-president of research. "This program will contribute to the training of high-quality personnel and effectively ensure the sustainability of Canada’s future knowledge-based economy.”

“The students engaging with RNA Innovation will be on the leading edge of RNA research and will graduate with strong connections to industry partners and the skills that they are looking to hire,” says Dr. Hans-Joachim Wieden, a U of L biochemistry professor who led the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) CREATE application process.

Competitive funding opportunities are available for MSc, PhD, and post-doctoral positions at this time. Interested applicants should have a minimum GPA of 3.5 in their last two years of undergraduate studies, although applicants with a lower GPA are still encouraged to apply if they have sufficient research and/or industry experience.

The program is open to Canadian and international students and the deadline to apply is April 1. More information about the program and the application process can be found at RNA Innovation.