Introduction

What is the Genetics and Molecular Biology Graduate Program (PPG-GBM)?

Created in 1980, the PPG-GBM is an excellence Graduate Program (masters and PhD) which is free of charge. The Program has been evaluated by the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES), the federal organization that evaluates all Graduate Programs in Brazil, to achieve the maximum score of 7.  The PPG-GBM is open not only to students holding a bachelor’s degree in biology, biomedicine, medicine, pharmacy and related areas, we also welcome students with bachelor’s degrees in areas with strong interaction with biological sciences, such as computing science. The entrance exam for the Program is usually held twice a year in July and November. Generally, entering the Program involves passing a general knowledge test that can be taken at UNICAMP or another location, according to the rules of the corresponding call.
Our program receives young talent from across Brazil and other countries. Its teaching Faculty is highly qualified, conducting state-of-the-art research, mostly financed by the main public and private research funding agencies in Brazil and abroad. The research of professors in the program covers 6 different areas, namely: (i) Animal Genetics and Evolution, (ii) Genetics of Microorganisms, (iii) Plant Genetics and Breeding, (iv) Microbiology, (v) Immunology and (vi) Bioinformatics. The supervisors have proven technical-scientific output (publications in peer-review journals) in addition to teaching basic and applied subjects in Portuguese or English of significant academic and human relevance to the student body. Its interdisciplinary nature, along with its influential and international research, intents to create an effervescent atmosphere, thus ensuring a sound and international academic formation.

 

What does a student enrolled in this program learn?

The student will have the opportunity to achieve a strong foundation on Genetics and Molecular Biology, Immunology, Microbiology, Bioinformatics and related areas. Essentially, the student will comprehend the nature of the gene and how to utilize the methodology of molecular biology and genetic engineering to deepen knowledge on the functioning of organisms. Depending on the area chosen, the student will learn about development of vaccines and experimental drugs in addition to understanding the impacting aspects of the immune system in neurodegenerative and tropical diseases and in the cellular and systemic immunometabolisms. The contact with and training in high end techniques including sequencing, computing tools, cloning, flow cytometry and cell sorting are also differentials found by the students graduating in the program.

 

What are the main research projects in the different areas of this program?

Yes, several. In the areas of Genetics of Microorganisms and Plant Genetics and Breeding we are producing modified yeast to be used in fermentation of second generation ethanol, establishing new frontiers for the use of sugarcane bagasse. Another project related to gene discovery of genes associated with resistance to water stress also uses sugarcane. In Microbiology and Immunology our colleagues are studding violacein, a violet pigment extracted from bacteria that has been used as an active principle in the treatment of bacterial diseases and some parasitoses. Also on experimental drug development, some groups are focusing on understanding kinases as a molecular target of new drugs. In addition, we have recently initiated research on the biology of the ZIKA virus and its consequences on the host immune response. We want to understand how the virus infects its host and identify activating marks of the immune system aiming at development of drugs, vaccines and diagnostic kits. The same approach has been pursued for malaria, one of the world's major diseases. Also in immunology, our young researchers are conducting research to understand the interaction between nutrients provided by diet or formed during the digestive process (bacterial metabolism) and the response capacity of this system. Another immunology project by our colleagues is focused on uncovering the cellular and systemic immunometabolisms. Immunometabolism has emerged as a new knowledge frontier at the intersection between the historically distinct disciplines of Metabolism and Immunology. The growing interest in this area has been fed by the global obesity epidemic and by the recent discovery that obesity affects the immunological system and promotes inflammation. In the area of Evolution we have sequenced Berne fly mitochondrial genomes, which allowed to trace the evolutionary history of this cattle parasite. On the other hand, studies on human genetics have allowed us to identify mutations associated with deafness, and several genes related to cancer. Finally, in the area of Bioinformatics our colleagues have been working on modelling to explain genetic behaviors of complex biological systems, for instance related to climate change.

 

What is the importance of this area In Brazil and elsewhere?

Genetics has been instrumental in providing humankind with a profound and unprecedented understanding of critical processes that occur in living cells and organisms. Thanks to genetics we also understand now the causes of several diseases that affect human beings, other animals and plants. Molecular Genetics in particular allows us to identify genes associated with beneficial characteristics, translating to higher productivity or resistance to pathogens, as well as genes associated with undesirable effects such as antibiotic resistance of microorganisms or cancer in humans which lead to development of more appropriate diagnostic and treatment tools. Furthermore, studies conducted in the areas of Population Genetics and Evolution have been of great importance in several areas from medicine to comprehension of species evolution history. Immunology and Microbiology are both currently critical research areas. Investigating molecular mechanisms involved in the regulation of the immune system (IS), the interaction between IS and microorganisms, and between IS and metabolism, are essential to the development of new therapeutically strategies to treat several diseases. Finally, Bioinformatics has been an essential tool for interpreting the huge quantity of existing genetic data generated by the use of techniques that can increasingly explore the biological world in its amazing molecular complexity.

 

What are the job opportunities most sought out by students graduating in this area?

The students who graduate from the program can join Research and Teaching Institutions in Brazil and abroad. Alternatively, due to the innovative features of our Program, graduates can work in Research and Development departments in biotechnology companies and startups, conducting research and developing products in the area of agricultural genetics and biotechnology, animal genetics, medicine, molecular biology of microorganisms and immunology, among others. 

 

What makes this program special compared to those of other universities?

Unicamp stands out among other universities due to its high percentage of graduate students in its student body, matching that in the undergraduate student population, thus creating an effervescent scientific and academic environment. As a direct result, our University features in important scientific discoveries, with scientific publications of great impact in different areas and generating highly relevant knowledge. Such rich academic environment highly engaged in research and innovation is evidenced by the number of patents deposited by the university annually, the largest among all Brazilian universities. The Graduate Program on Genetics and Molecular Biology, the largest and one of the most highly regarded in Brazil, features high caliber professors with the highest qualifications and productivity, whose research projects are funded by several state entities and private companies.

 

How can I become a student in the program?

The first step is to find a professor in the program with a research focus of your interest. After contacting the professor and discussing the possibilities of participating in a research project, the student must take the entrance exam that is held twice a year (July and November), following the rules set out in the specific calls.