Many of our STEM programs are engaged in interdisciplinary research in the biomedical sciences. Ph.D. students have an opportunity to work with an extremely diverse group of faculty who are actively involved in basic as well as translational research in areas including Immunology, Biochemistry, Virology, Molecular Biology, Neuroscience, Medicinal Chemistry, and Environmental Science.
The Ph.D. program in Biology offers students two distinct degree tracks with research foci ranging from viruses to global climate change, and from harmful algal blooms to cancer. The Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology (EEO) track features the study of macro-organism body structures and systems, their relation to the environment in which they live, and how the latter may be impacted by human activity. The Cell, Molecular, Health, and Disease Biology (CMHD) track concerns the study of molecular and cellular-based pathways, and how they impact an organism's health. Both tracks allow students to obtain broad, foundational training in modern biology while also affording a focused, specialized research experience.
- Dr. Annie T. Ginty's research examines how the brain links psychological experiences, such as stress, with cognitive, biological, and behavioral changes that matter for health. Dr. Ginty’s research program integrates neuroimaging, psychophysiological, neuroendocrine, and epidemiological methods. Her particular focus is on the neurobiology of the peripheral nervous system and cardiovascular responses to stress and their relationship with unhealthy behaviors and future disease.
- Dr. Lara S. Hwa’s research focuses on the cells and circuits underlying how stress interacts with long-term alcohol drinking. Using mouse models, Dr. Hwa combines classical pharmacological methods with modern neuroscience strategies to answer fundamental questions in alcohol and stress behavioral neuroscience. This research laboratory seeks to understand the important external variables, such as social stress or the limited availability of alcohol, that contribute to excessive drinking in mice. Our exploration of the consequent neuroadaptations (e.g. dysregulated stress neuropeptides, alcohol-induced neuroplasticity) ultimately inform novel approaches for the behavioral prevention and pharmaceutical treatment of alcohol-related psychopathology.
- Dr. Elisabeth G. Vichaya's research is broadly aimed at understanding the mechanism by which the brain and immune system communicate. This includes an interest in understanding how psychological factors, such as stress, are able to impact our vulnerability to disease as well as how diseases, such as cancer, can impact how we feel, think, and behave. The primary focus of her research is understanding the mechanisms underlying cancer-related fatigue, employing mouse models to better understand these mechanisms. Further, the research within her laboratory examines why a subset of individuals continue to experience debilitating fatigue and depression for months and even years after completion of cancer therapy.
- Dr. Michael Trakselis's research centers on understanding the molecular mechanisms of DNA replication and repair and exploiting this knowledge for cancer therapeutics, biotechnology, and nanoscale applications. He utilizes a model archaeal DNA replication system which shares significant homology to that of higher eukaryotes but is amenable to in vitro biochemistry experiments. This allows for drawing parallels between different domains of life using simpler replication systems. Additionally, Dr. Trakselis's lab utilizes cellular biology approaches in human cells to investigate the roles of various enzymes in double-strand break repair.
- Dr. Patrick Farmer's research interests lie in Flavonol Complexes, Melanin/Melanoma, and Biocoordination of HNO. In the Flavonol Complexes area, Dr. Farmer's team is investigating a family of heterocyclic dyes with "pre-aromatic" constructs, in that oxidation generates pseudo-aromatic tautomers. In the Melanin/Melanoma area, his research team is interested in the coordination and redox chemistry of the black pigment melanin, the color in your hair and skin, especially as it relates to melanoma cancer. And concerning the Biocoordination of HNO, his work has reported extensively on the stable HNO adduct of deoxymyoglobin, HNO-Mb, generated by reduction of nitrosyl myoglobin or by the trapping of free HNO by deoxyMb, characterized by NMR, resonance Raman and X-ray absorption spectroscopies.
- Dr. Jung Hyun Min's research seeks to understand how cellular DNA repair works by investigating the structures and dynamics of protein-DNA complexes involved in DNA damage sensing and repair using X-ray crystallography and various biochemical/biophysical techniques. Her research group is currently focusing on understanding the detailed mechanism of the damage recognition and subsequent repair steps in NER involving XPC (Rad4 in yeast). The outcome of their research provides an atomic-level understanding of the repair mechanisms and sheds light on the underlying cause of the related diseases.
- Dr. Bryan F. Shaw's research laboratory is a mix of bio-inorganic chemistry, protein biophysics—with a focus on protein misfolding and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—and a dash of medicinal chemistry and proteomics. The Shaw research group is engaged in two different types of outreach activities for children and young adults who are visually impaired. The first project is utilizing rapid prototyping (3D printing) to generate atomically accurate models of proteins from the X-ray crystal structures that are deposited in the Protein Data Bank. A second outreach project is more technical and is developing tools to improve a parent's ability to detect retinoblastoma with consumer-based digital photography.
- Dr. Mary Lynn Trawick's biochemistry research interests lie in the field of enzymology. Research in her laboratory is directed toward the investigation of enzymes involved in the formation and degradation of e-(g-glutamyl)lysine and g-glutamylpolyamine crosslinks in proteins with emphasis on the mechanism of enzyme action, the purification and properties of individual enzymes, and the design and synthesis of enzyme inhibitors and substrates.