MOLECULAR AND CELLULAR PHARMACOLOGY
Dept. Code:  MCP

www.biomed.miami.edu/pharm

Scientists in the Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology Program make use of the knowledge and techniques of biology, chemistry and physics to study the action of drugs, hormones and neurotransmitters on living systems and, more generally, the mechanisms through which signals are recognized and transduced by cells. The goals of the research in this department are: 1) to identify new targets and pathways for development of pharmaceuticals; 2) to use drugs as tools in the study of basic biological processes; and 3) to develop and study agents that may be beneficial in the treatment of disease.

A variety of technical approaches is used, including genetics, molecular biology, protein biochemistry and biophysics, fluorescence microscopy, immunology, computer modeling, cell culture, imaging, gene expression profiling, proteomics and whole animal studies including transgenic and genetically engineered mouse models. The faculty are a mixture of senior scientists who are recognized leaders in their respective fields and more junior faculty with recent training in state-of-the-art approaches to important biomedical problems.

The Department’s more than 40 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows contribute to the creative and stimulating scientific atmosphere.

Research interests of the faculty include:

Cardiovascular Pharmacology/Signaling/Muscle Contraction:

Investigators in this area study transcriptional regulation of gene expression and intracellular signals associated with the growth and function of the heart. They study ion channels, membrane events, blood vessels, etc. Studies of cardiac muscle contraction and the effect of disease causing mutations in the contractile apparatus of the heart on heart performance and morphology are also being pursued. 

Current research areas include structure/function relationships in the proteins of the thin (troponin complex) and thick (myosin) filaments in health and disease, the role of specific ion channels in ventricular hypertrophy and its alleviation, excitation-contraction coupling in skeletal and cardiac muscle, proto-oncogene regulation of cardiac-specific genes, signaling in cardiac myocytes including the characterization of multimolecular enzyme complexes, apoptosis during myocardial ischemia, and the potential of stem cell based therapy for cardiac disease. A new study has been launched to investigate the effect of bone marrow stem cells in cardiac repair. Research in this area is in part supported by a National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Cardiovascular Pharmacology Training Grant. The students will have the opportunity to receive training in specific cardiovascular techniques utilized in the Program as well as attend cardiovascular journal club to learn about new findings in the cardiovascular field.

Neuropharmacology/Neuroscience:

Investigators in this area study the development, function, pharmacology, and diseases of the nervous system.

Current research interests include neuronal signaling through G-proteins, Ca2+, and cyclic nucleotides, growth and guidance of axons during development and regeneration after injury, molecular control of dendrite development, control of physiological functions by the nervous system; molecular mechanisms and cell biology of olfaction and phototransduction; the genetic and cellular basis of neural development and degeneration using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model system.

Cell Biology/Cancer:

Investigators in this area study cell cycle control and cancer, gene expression, mechanisms of hormone action, signal transduction, cytoskeleton, membrane transport, stem cells, and novel therapeutics.

Current research interests include steroid hormone regulation of gene expression and cell proliferation; cell cycle checkpoints during DNA replication; protein trafficking including endocytosis and exocytosis; control of cell polarity and morphogenesis; cilia in pulmonary function; molecular basis of human lymphoma; endocrine-related cancers including prostate and breast; stem cell maintenance and therapy; stem cell differentiation in hematopoesis and physiochemical and metabolic aspects of drug design.

Model Systems:

Many investigators are using model organisms for their studies.  These include transgenic and knock-out/knock-in mouse models Xenopus, Drosophila and yeast models.  Yeast and Drosophila are important models because of the powerful molecular and genetic approaches and tools available.  Xenopus provides a unique system for studying development and for protein expression and analysis.  These systems are being used to study fundamental processes such as apoptosis, cell cycle, signal transduction, membrane dynamics, cytoskeleton, cell polarity, olfaction, development of the cardiovascular system, neurogenesis and neuronal degeneration.  All of these processes are conserved in humans, so these systems serve as important models of human diseases.  Investigators are also using these systems to screen for therapeutic agents and to identify targets of toxins and other natural, synthetic or pharmacologically relevant compounds.

Training Program:

In the first year, students receive a solid foundation in biomedical science. The core coursework ranges from molecules to cells to systems of human physiology. Lectures are balanced by breakout sessions, in which faculty members discuss the primary literature with students in small groups. The core curriculum also offers critical learning opportunities in biostatistics and in using genomic and other databases, as well as education in ethics. Students also meet several times in small groups with experienced faculty mentors to discuss important issues of student development. In subsequent semesters, students take core courses encompassing mechanisms of drug action, neuropharmacology, cardiovascular pharmacology and intracellular signal transduction. A variety of elective courses are offered by this department and others.

Students begin their dissertation research at the end of the first year and complete their course requirements in the second year. In subsequent years, students devote their efforts to original thesis research. The department sponsors the visits of internationally-known scientists, who discuss their research in formal seminars and meet with students and faculty. Weekly intradepartmental seminars keep students abreast of new developments within the School of Medicine.

ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS

All students are admitted through the Program in Biomedical Sciences (PIBS) for the PhD programs in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Cancer Biology, Human Genetics & Genomics, Microbiology & Immunology, Molecular Cell & Developmental Biology, Molecular & Cellular Pharmacology, Neuroscience, and Physiology & Biophysics. The PIBS Admissions Committee will review and make decisions on applications after December 15th.

Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree in a biological or related discipline (e.g., psychology, chemistry, engineering, physics). Although there are no absolute prerequisites, courses in general biology, cell/molecular biology, calculus, general physics, organic chemistry, physical chemistry, and biochemistry are encouraged.

Strong candidates will have research experience in a laboratory setting (including publications of abstracts and/or papers), an excellent academic record and GRE scores, excellent letters of recommendation from scientists who know the candidate well, and the motivation to pursue state-of-the-art biomedical research.

The first year is also focused on choosing a program and a dissertation mentor. All students are initially mentored by a senior student and a faculty member to facilitate this process. In the 1st year, students rotate through at least 3 laboratories chosen from any of the biomedical sciences graduate faculty. At the end of the 1st year students choose mentors and formally enter individual graduate programs.

• Students should apply online at: www.biomed.miami.edu
For information concerning the Pharmacology Program, contact

Director of Graduate Studies
Department of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology
University of Miami School of Medicine
P.O. Box 016189 R-189
Miami, Florida 33101
Phone: (305) 243-3419
Fax: (305) 243-3420
E-mail: mcp@med.miami.edu
www.biomed.miami.edu/pharm

THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE PH.D. DEGREE IN MOLECULAR AND CELLULAR PHARMACOLOGY

These consist of 36 credit hours of graduate courses and seminars and 24 credits of Thesis Research. Students are required to pass a qualifying examination at the completion of their second year before undertaking Thesis Research at an intensive level.

The recruitment and training of applicants from underrepresented minority groups is an important goal of the Program.

Pharmacology Students supported by the National Institutes of Health training program must be United States citizens or permanent residents.
Other sources of support may be available on a limited basis for foreign applicants.