Rheumatic Diseases Research Investigator Program

Principal Investigator
Professor of Medicine
Nunzio Bottini, MD., PhD.
Associate Director
Professor of Medicine
Maripat Corr, MD.
Associate Director
Professor of Medicine
Gary Firestein, MD.
Associate Director
Distinguished Professor
Andrea LaCroix, PhD.
Associate Director
Professor of Medicine

Marcia da Silva
Division Coordinator

2017 Annual UCSD Rheumatic Diseases Research T32 Symposium

UCSD NIAMS funded T32 Training Grant in Rheumatic Diseases Research

NIAMS funds Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Institutional Research Training Grants (T32) to enable institutions to support pre-doctoral and postdoctoral research training for individuals in the fields of arthritis, musculoskeletal, or skin diseases. The primary goal of the NIAMS T32 program is to prepare individuals to pursue careers in research that will ultimately improve the health of persons with arthritis, musculoskeletal, or skin diseases. The most desired outcome of the T32 program is that trainees pursue further career development, such as through K- or F-series awards, and develop into funded researchers in an academic setting, either as independent investigators or as critical contributors to basic or clinical research teams. However, NIAMS-supported trainees also contribute in other ways, such as in industry, science administration, policy or communications.

Rationale, History, and Mission of the UCSD T32 Training Program in Rheumatic Diseases Research

Rationale and Major Objectives of this T32 Training Program 
Millions suffer from rheumatic disease, with enormous economic/societal impact.Research advances have illuminated needs for more investigation to enhance prevention and treatment strategies, and improve disease outcomes.This mission requires programmatic measures to recruit, mentor, and develop basic and clinical investigators. This enterprise is increasingly challenging, in an era of multifactorial decline in commitment of a critical mass of young investigator Rheumatologists to research careers, and of increased technology-driven and specialized niches. 

- The program has 3 major theme areas of investigation: 

(1) Innate Immunity, and Connective Tissue Biology and Inflammation in Rheumatic Diseases.

(2) Adaptive Immunity in Rheumatic Diseases.

(3) Clinical, Epidemiologic, Genetic, and Translational Research in Rheumatic Diseases.

  • The program is designed to train researchers in biomedical research in the area of rheumatic diseases. We currently have 4 postdoctoral training slots (for MD, MD/PhD, MD/MPH, and/or PhD researchers in bench laboratory or clinical-translational investigation). For 2018-2023, we plan to offer 2 slots for predoctoral students (for dual MD/PhD and/or single PhD students, all to be trained in basic-translational research in the UCSD/La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology (LJI) Biomedical sciences Program in Immunology). 
  • The training program consists of a research experience typically of 24 months, and up to 36 months. Training is under close supervision of mentors collaboratively working on immunologic, molecular biologic, biochemical, and/or epidemiologic, health services, genetics, bioinformatics, and computational biologic problems relevant to the rheumatic diseases. 
  • Our emphasis is on recruiting and training new independent researchers to generate novel translational approaches and targeted therapies to rheumatic diseases, and to contribute to the pipeline of new leaders in Rheumatology research. Development of creative thinking, publication and presentation skills, along with inter-disciplinary team mentoring, and developing and improving faculty mentoring skills, are major features of the program. 
  • The training is directed using complementary expertise and resources of more than one preceptor, tailored to individual trainees and research projects.  
  • All trainees are required to take courses in scientific ethics and scientific research methodology appropriate to their training and development. Other formal academic course work is encouraged for those carrying out basic research. MD trainees without an advanced degree in clinical research methodology will take coursework to obtain a Master’s Degree in Clinical Research (in the UCSD CTSA U54) or an MPH from the UCSD Department of Epidemiology. 
  • To help foster longstanding career commitment to research in subjects relevant to rheumatic diseases, all trainees will participate in Rheumatology research community-building, San Diego community outreach. Non-MD trainees will have targeted didactic and medical observership experiences as educational efforts in Rheumatology. 
  • Trainees are chosen on the basis of their prior academic performance, research career potential and experience, publications, interviews, and recommendations from supervisors. Preference is given to those with acknowledged research interests in rheumatologic and immunologic diseases, and demonstrated capacities in research. 
  • The primary training unit is the UCSD Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology Division, UCSD. Additional training sites include UCSD and VA hospitals and clinics, the UCSD CTSA, and other UCSD Medicine Divisions and Departments, and labs at LJI and Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute. 
  • Program graduates will be primed to compete for academic positions as independent investigators in medical schools or research institutes, or as research scientists in industry.
History of this T32 Program at UCSD
Program Eligibility
T32 Program Leadership
T32 Internal Advisory Board (IAB)
Other Participating Faculty
Clinical Research Advisors
Methodology & Resource Advisors
Mentors in development 
Examples of Collaborations of Participating Primary Mentor Faculty with Other T32 Faculty


    Current Trainee:
    Listed here is our current trainee and information about the research projects

    Melissa Meyer, PhD.

    Melissa Meyer, PhD. 5/1/19-present.
    Dr. Meyer is a PhD graduate (in Molecular Cell Biology) of Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Meyer works on classical and nonclassical monocyte subsets in inflammatory arthritis. Her project and mentoring team are being formulated. Dr. Lynn Hedrick is her primary mentor.

    Recently graduated trainees (as of May, 2019):

    Dennis Wu, PhD.
    Dr. Wu is pursuing a scientific research career in precision medicine industry where he will continue to contribute to science and helping patients. Dr. Wu is a Scientist I at the Lynx Biosciences, Inc. 

    Chelsey Forbess Smith, MD.
    Dr. Forbess -Smith has moved to Cedars Sinai Rheumatology, Los Angeles, where she continues her studies of maternal-fetal medicine in rheumatic diseases. Dr. Smith will be joining UCSD Faculty in  August 2019.

    Angel Mei Bottini, PhD.
    Dr. Angel Mei Bottini will continue at UC San Diego, with faculty appointment requested as Assistant Project Scientist.

    Program Curriculum, Curricular Features and other Materials:
    Program Curriculum
    Postdoctoral Rheumatology Physician Training Pathway
    Postdoctoral PhD Fellow Training in Research
    Curricular Features 
    Single PhD trainees


    Syllabus, Schedule, and Materials for Specific Curriculum Components: