The ACT-GeM is pleased to work with graduate and undergraduate students interested in gaining first-hand experience in research and genetics. Our faculty collaborate with several departments and schools and we pride ourselves in training the next generation of scientists at all levels. Periodically we have special student programs, work study or research assistant positions available so check back often. If you are interested in training with us, please contact us at with the following information: your research interest, description of how ACT-GeM research aligns with your research and/or career goals (1 page document describing your career goals and how ACT-GeM can help you achieve those goals) and your curriculum vitae.

Northwestern University Graduate Programs

PhD Studies in Life and Biomedical Sciences, Genetics and Genomics

Genetics, the science of inheritance and variation among living organisms, can be traced back to the seminal work of Gregor Mendel, published in 1866. Yet today genetics is one of the most fast-moving fields of biomedical research. Technological progress driven by the relatively new science of genomics, the study of the genomes of organisms, has led to rapid advances over the past few years. We now have the complete DNA sequence of many genomes and are able to decipher the mechanisms that regulate gene expression, configure chromatin architecture, recruit transcription factors and activate or silence individual loci or gene networks. Moreover, we can investigate the cross-talk between the genome and the epigenome, the modifications that alter gene expression but do not change the underlying DNA sequence. These dynamic processes are critical for normal development and differentiated function of distinct cell types in an organism and their failure results in a wide spectrum of human diseases.

Northwestern University is home to a vibrant and interactive group of scientists carrying out world-class, state-of-the-art research into fundamental mechanisms of genetics, genomics and epigenomics. The Genetics and Genomics cluster enhances and builds advanced training for our graduate students in these subject areas. This is an inclusive training opportunity that is available to all trainees on the several university campuses, irrespective of their primary field of study, or their departmental or geographical affiliations.

Training opportunities include:

  1. State of the art workshops. Workshops will focus on technology or computational biology relevant to genetics and genomics Recent workshops include practical classes on bioinformatic pipelines, and programming skills.
  2. Genetics and Genomics seminars. High profile scientists will be chosen and invited by the trainees. Other relevant seminar series and journal clubs are ongoing.
  3. Annual Symposium. This event is organized jointly by the cluster leadership and the trainees. It brings eminent keynote speakers to the university and includes talks from Northwestern faculty and students. The symposium provides an opportunity for the students to showcase their work and network in the Northwestern Genetics and Genomics community.

PhD Studies in Life and Biomedical Sciences, Cell and Molecular Biology Cluster

The CMB cluster has three main goals. 1) Coordinate course offerings in the areas of cell and molecular biology to ensure critical subject areas are available to graduate students who have joined a participating research group. 2) Build a cross-campus community of research groups to promote intellectual exchange, collaborative opportunities, and sharing of technical expertise. 3) Provide advanced training in both fundamental and novel experimental approaches through short, intensive practicum classes.

Advanced Training

The fields of cell and molecular biology have been undergoing a revolution in the available experimental approaches and their sophistication. For even a large well-funded laboratory, it is very difficult to stay current with the latest technology in multiple areas. To address these needs, the CMB cluster will sponsor short practical classes in these emerging research areas. Appropriate topics include: advanced light microscopy, cryo-EM, mass spec, protein purification, bioinformatics, and high-throughput analysis. To provide these short courses, we will partner with local experts, relevant on campus facilities, and outside experts.

PhD Studies in Life and Biomedical Sciences, Developmental Systems and Stem Cell Biology Training Cluster

Developmental biology is an integrative discipline, and pioneering discoveries in this field have transformed the face of modern biological research. Landmark contributions include understanding the genetic basis of embryonic pattern and its conservation from flies to humans (1995 Nobel Prize), the mechanisms and importance of programmed cell death (2002 Nobel Prize), the underpinnings of aging and longevity, and the importance of cell and tissue polarity. It is also the origins of the field of stem cell biology (2007 Nobel Prize). Developmental model organisms have played a key role in dissecting major signaling pathways and uncovering the mechanisms controlling gene regulation, which create a foundation for understanding human health and disease, including cancer, birth defects and obesity. Developmental studies led to the discovery of RNA interference and microRNAs (2006 Nobel Prize), and they have provided fertile ground for the emerging disciplines of genomics and systems biology.

Research in the Developmental Systems and Stem Cell Biology Training Cluster is broadly focused on the complex processes regulating multicellular organisms over developmental time scales. Participating faculty members are drawn from numerous departments across Northwestern and have expertise in experimental biology, cutting edge cell biology, genomics, systems approach and network modeling. Ongoing efforts are aimed at understanding the conserved mechanisms and principles that govern body patterning, embryonic growth and organ development, how stem cells contribute to regenerative growth, and how the misregulation of developmental processes leads to diseases such as cancer. Cluster faculty have expertise across a broad swath of model systems including planaria, C. elegans, Drosophila, Xenopus, zebrafish, chicken and mouse, all of which provide distinct experimental advantages for addressing developmental questions.

Students in the Developmental Systems and Stem Cell Biology Cluster benefit from specialized training from a highly accomplished faculty. Cluster programmatic activities include formal and informal (“special topics”) course work, journal clubs, and a literature based “technologies” club. A quarterly cluster meeting / mini symposium that includes scientific talks and poster presentations bring faculty and trainees together in a dynamic and interactive forum. The cluster catalyzes interactions between faculty and students that cross both geographic and disciplinary boundaries in order to help trainees pursue research directions that are creative, powerful, and innovative, as well as to nurture interdisciplinary collaborations that enhance research and training.

International Graduate Exchange Programs

University Paris-Diderot, Paris, France: For the past several years, our faculty members have hosted M1 students for five-month internships during the summer to fulfill part of their Master’s training requirement. This experience involves full-time research, extensive experience with oral and written communication skills, and is an enriching experience for both visitors and our staff.

National Institute for Biotechnology at the National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE), Faisalabad, Pakistan: ACT-GeM is an active partnering institution with human geneticists at NIBGE offering 6-month (and extended) internships to their program’s top PhD students.

National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece: We host visiting PhD students from programs in Athens who bring research projects to ACT-Gem for further computational or functional validation. Students integrate fully into our team and stay for extended periods of time.

International Short Course Lectures