GSBS PROFESSOR EMPHASIZES FAMILY APPROACH

February 1, 2003

Stephen Grant, PhD, associate professor of integrative physiology, believes in the power of mentoring.

Dr. Grant, who was chosen as the 2002 Outstanding Graduate Faculty Member by students in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UNT Health Science Center, emphasizes the importance of senior students teaching junior students and guiding them in their studies and research. Dr. Grant also allows students latitude to pursue their individual research interests.

â??I run my lab like a family. Students have their own identity and space, but they also have to support and contribute to the family,â? Dr. Grant said. â??The senior students, like the older siblings in a family, mentor the junior students.â?

Dr. Grant, who describes himself as â??stubborn and unconventional,â? believes his family approach is the reason his lab and the students in it have been successful. â??Ninety percent of what goes on in my lab isnâ??t about me, itâ??s about the senior students mentoring those below them,â? he said. â??By their last year with me, theyâ??re more like my colleagues than my students. Iâ??m successful because theyâ??re successful.â?

Driven by an infectious sense of curiosity, Dr. Grant challenges students to remain inquisitive. â??You have to have a hunger to chase science,â? he said. â??It should be what gets you out of bed every morning.â?In keeping with that belief, Dr. Grant encourages students to pursue their own research interests, rather than assigning them tasks from one of his grants. He has several students exploring ideas that are not yet funded, but he expects their research will result in future grants. â??Iâ??m like a military pilot training young flyers, not to do my projects, but to do their own,â? he said. â??Student ideas are where science really germinates.â?

The students in his lab apply molecular biology and genetics, with research aimed primarily at discovering new drugs and methods to treat cardiovascular disease. Student interests range from functional genomics, a method allowing researchers to look at an expression of all the genes in an organ, such as the heart, to transgenics, where laboratory models expressing certain genes are created and studied.

Dr. Grant expects his students to be high achievers, and takes them to high profile national conferences so they can see what is expected of scientists at that level. â??My goal for each of my students is the national level, whether they pursue academics or industry,â? Dr. Grant said. â??I believe the sooner you show them whatâ??s expected of them, the sooner they will perform.â?

Dr. Grantâ??s belief in aiming high is contagious, infecting his students as well. They have high expectations not only for themselves, but also for each other, he said. â??They constantly want to teach and mentor the students under them.â?

He also guides them in their preparation of manuscripts and presentations, and he often requires multiple drafts.

He applies his family approach to all aspects of his lab, including grant writing. â??Writing grants is a team effort,â? he said. â??Both junior and senior students help me prepare grants. Then, when they have to write a grant for their qualifying exam to become a PhD candidate, theyâ??ve had experience doing it.â?

Tom Valencia, MS, a research scientist in Dr. Grantâ??s lab and a part-time doctoral student at the health science center, testifies to the success of Dr. Grantâ??s approach. He serves as the senior â??family memberâ? in the lab, mentoring and supervising junior students, Dr. Grant said.

â??In the lab, Dr. Grant leaves it up to our ingenuity to design our experiments. He just directs the way he wants the research to go,â? Valencia said. â??Dr. Grant has also guided me through the scientific writing process as I prepare grants and papers.â? Valencia said also believes the â??family approach has allowed the lab to become a very close knit group. We try to resolve any problems or concerns among the family before going to Dr. Grant.â?

Dr. Grant is the director of the division of cardiac and vascular molecular genetics in the health science centerâ??s Cardiovascular Research Institute. Prior to joining the institution, Dr. Grant was a research assistant professor at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He received his masterâ??s and doctoral degrees in biochemistry from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Dr. Grant presented synopses of student research being performed in his lab in November during the Outstanding Graduate Faculty Seminar Series, sponsored by the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and the Graduate Student Association.

Outstanding Graduate Faculty are selected based on their commitment to higher education, involvement in graduate education and dedication to the student body, said Carla Lee, director of graduate admissions and services for the graduate school.

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