Program History

Program Growth: 1959-1995

The ERP Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was formally organized in 1959. In 1963, Dr’s. L.E. Casida, Professor, Department of Genetics; W.H. McShan, Professor, Zoochemistry, Department of Zoology; R. K. Meyer, Chairman and Marshall Professor of Zoology; B. M. Peckham, Chairman and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology; and R.C. Wolf, Associate Professor, Department of Physiology. They submitted an application to the Ford Foundation and received $1,500,000 to support the program for five years, which was then further extended to 1970. In addition to the Ford Foundation award, this group prepared a successful training grant application to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for $1,000,185. Funds from both grants enabled the ERP Program to increase the number of trainees in the program. In 1968 the program staff also expanded to include: Dr’s. A.E. Colás, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Physiological Chemistry; N.L. First, Professor of Meat and Animal Science; O. J. Ginther, Assistant Professor of Veterinary Science; H. J. Karavolas, Assistant Professor of Physiological Chemistry; and K.W. Thompson, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The original group from 1963 and new faculty from 1968 proceeded with a renewal application of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development training grant (above). This successful renewal no longer stipulated a specific number of trainees from developing countries be enrolled in the ERP Program. The ERP Program then continued along these lines, and over the following decades, developed a worldwide reputation as a program of excellence. In 1972 additional faculty were added to the ERP Program including Dr. J. Gorski, Professor of Biochemistry and Dr. D. Dierschke, Assistant Professor of Meat and Animal Sciences. Of note, during the next three decades, the program was awarded further support both alone (NIH Training Grants 1970-1972, 1978-1982, AGRICCSRS 1987-1992, US Army 1996-2001) and in conjunction with other notable programs (Cell and Molecular Biology Program, Developmental Biology, and University departments under the umbrella of a Gamete and Embryo Biology training grant through NICHD (1989-1993)). Also by this time, the longstanding existence of the program was now shown by the prominent achievements of its early trainees, many of which have gone on to meritorious achievements.


The ERP Program went though a difficult readjustment period between 1995 and 2000 when program training grant support was on the decline and increased competition from internal and external graduate programs was on the rise. Dr. Ian Bird became the Program Director elect in 1999 and was officially in charge as of May 2000.

The Graduate School conducted a formal program assessment in 2001/2002 and provided the ERP Program with a list of recommendations to not only stabilize the program but also to encourage future growth in enrollment and training grant support. With these recommendations in hand, the ERP Program set out to implement new strategies in student recruitment, training grant support, student services and alumni outreach. In May 2003 a new NIH training grant application was submitted and received the top score – 118 – in the study section. Funding for 4 pre-doctoral trainees was awarded.

Building on the success of the pre-doctoral training grant model, a new complimentary post-doctoral training grant application is in the submission process to fund a combination of PhD and MD Fellows in basic and clinical research methodologies. Both PhD and MD faculty will serve as trainers in this new project.

In responding to the changing landscape of student recruitment methodologies, the ERP Program has taken advantage of the email marketing services provided by an off-campus vendor. Since implementation of the new email recruitment strategy in July 2006, applications for the PhD program have increased by 65% over applications received in fall 2006. The ERP Program has also joined by purchasing advertisement services for 2006/2007. The web site directed more than 1,500 individuals the ERP Program web site in the first 10 months of service.

Student services are the hallmark of a strong training program, both Dr. Bird and Tiffany Bachmann have taken an active role in managing and refining current student service functions. Positive changes have included standardizing the preliminary exam process to give students experience in writing a scientific grant application based on the dissertation project and peer-review process; the development and implementation of a new student orientation session before classes begin; funding for laboratory rotations for incoming PhD students; and access to a full-time Student Services Coordinator.

In 2006 a fund was established at the UW-Foundation for the ERP Program to accept gifts from alumni and friends to support special program initiatives not supported by general operating funds provided by the University. Gifts are welcome at anytime and can be made by online payment. In 2009, the ERP Program celebrated its 50th Anniversary as an interdepartmental training program on the UW-Madison campus. We will be contacting alumni during the next 18 months to help us mark this special milestone. Alumni members are encouraged to update individual contact information through the Wisconsin Alumni Association.

The faculty and students are looking forward to the continued growth and development of the ERP Program. If you are in Madison, please contact us, we are happy to have you as a seminar speaker or help you reconnect with colleagues and friends.