Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Dr. Kate Hyde (Chair), Dr. Shantaram Joshi (co-chair) Dr. Rebecca E. Deegan, Dr. Punita Dhawan, Dr. Maneesh Jain, Dr. Moorthy Ponnusamy, Dr. Jennifer Black
The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) oversees and manages the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology doctoral program of IGPBS. This PhD program
is designed to provide a comprehensive knowledge base along with the research and training experience necessary for the development of independent investigators in various areas of biochemistry and molecular biology. This broad area includes gene regulation, cellular signal transduction, cell-cell communications, structural biology, receptor endocytosis & protein trafficking, redox biology, carbohydrate biology, autophagy, apoptosis & other cell death pathways, biology of microRNAs, cell cycle regulation, enzymology, immunology, stem cell biology, neuronal differentiation and neurodevelopmental disorders, endocrinology, metabolism (protein, lipid, and carbohydrate), and biofilms and microbial communities.
Overview of the BMB Graduate Program
The Graduate Program of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is one of the largest and most successful on the UNMC campus. There are approximately 45 students enrolled in the program, with 4-8 students graduating each year with a PhD degree. We provide training for both research-based and education-oriented careers, with the average time to degree being five and a half years. Our primary goal is training future scientists and educators to apply critical reasoning skills to solve problems in modern experimental biology and in the classroom. In this program, students will learn how to perform novel and fundamental research in biochemistry and molecular biology in a laboratory under the mentorship of an advisor, which is a major requirement of this PhD program. During the course of the PhD training, the student is expected to develop the ability to think critically, communicate effectively and perform research in an independent manner. This training is crucial for the success of students in their future professional work places, including academia and industry. Graduates from our program are highly successful in acquiring post-doctoral employment, with several excelling in jobs in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Some go directly into faculty positions at area colleges, but most do post-doctoral work at highly-regarded institutions around the country, including Harvard Medical School, National Institutes of Health, University of California, Stanford University, Stowers Institute for Medical Research, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Entering graduate students enroll in general biochemistry and cell biology under the IGPBS basic curriculum. Students will take courses common to most IGPBS students in the fall semester followed by courses specific for the BMB doctoral program in subsequent semesters. Advanced BMB courses in the areas of metabolism, proteins and nucleic acids, critical thinking and specialized electives are offered in the 1st
year Spring and 2nd
year Fall semesters. In addition, students participate in the weekly BMB Journal Club throughout their graduate career. The detailed course curriculum of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Program can be viewed here
At the start of their first year of the PhD program, students select 3 laboratories among the faculty members enrolled in the IGPBS-BMB program for 6 week rotation experiences in each lab. At the end of the first semester, students select an advisor and a general area for their dissertation research. The selection of a laboratory is a process of mutual acceptance by both the student and the mentor. Once the commitment is finalized, each student is expected to form a PhD supervisory committee, which oversees the progress of the student through his/her PhD training. The committee can be composed of 3-4 members of the UNMC graduate faculty, at least one of which has a primary appointment in the BMB department, as well as external faculty with specific expertise as designated by the student and agreed to by the IGPBS-BMB Graduate Committee. The student’s advisor will serve as the chair of the supervisory committee. Students will update their research progress by holding meetings of the committee on a regular 6-month interval.
As part of the PhD curriculum, students will start their comprehensive exam during the 2nd
year Spring semester and finish the exam by the end of the 3rd
year Fall semester. Successful completion of the comprehensive examination enters the student into candidacy for PhD degree. Details about the comprehensive exam can be obtained by here
In addition to carrying out research and didactic course work, graduate students participate in seminars organized by the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Experts in different fields of research present their recent work in this forum, providing students with exposure to cutting edge research from experts in a variety of biological fields. Fourth-year graduate students present their dissertation work to the full department in this seminar series. Students in the IGPBS-BMB program also present their research at the Annual Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Symposium.
The Dissertation: Students usually defend their dissertation within five and half years from the date of initial registration as a PhD student. However, it should be emphasized that neither course completion nor time spent in the program qualify for granting of the degree. The degree is awarded primarily for high attainment in the field of scholarship and for demonstrated power of independent research in some area(s) of biochemistry and molecular biology. The criteria for determining whether a research project is ready for defense is established by a student’s advisor and the supervisory committee.
Major Research Areas in the BMB Graduate Program
Molecular Biology of Cancers: This research focused to investigate the tumor-associated genes; cancer diagnostics, cancer vaccines; monoclonal antibodies, genetic engineering of antibodies.
- Different cancers including pancreas, prostate, breast, lung, liver, colon, pediatric and hematological malignancies.
- Molecular mechanisms of cancer progression and metastasis
- Altered glycans as biomarkers and therapeutic targets of aggressive cancers
- Regulation of gene expression in leukemia and normal hematopoiesis
- Development of diagnostics and therapeutics against cancer and allied diseases
- Combinatorial (Genomic, Proteomic, Exosomal, and Metabolic) diagnostic and prognostic marker(s) for cancer and associated pathologies
- Epigenomics – Influence of DNA methylation and histone modification on gene expression and the association with cancer development.
- Role of tumor microenvironment (TME) in the progression of pancreatic cancer
- MicroRNA expression and function different cancers
- Mechanism of golgi alteration in advanced prostate cancer: focus on aberrant glycosylation
- Functional implication of cancer stem cells (CSC) in progression of pancreatic and ovarian cancers
- Role of oxidative tumor microenvironment in regulating the reciprocal tumor-stroma interactions
- Molecular mechanisms of inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer; and renal pathobiology
- Metabolomics alterations in cancer progression and metastasis
Cellular Signaling, Endocytosis and Trafficking: This research is focused on understanding the basic mechanisms, and pathways that control the movement of receptors, proteins and lipids from point to point within the cell.
- Membrane trafficking
- Vesicular transport
- Receptor localization and its functions
- Oncogenic signaling alteration in different cancers
- Role of free radical signaling in prostate cancer
Cellular Communications/Gap- and Tight-Junctions: This topic of research is focused on analyzing the role and mechanism of tight junctions in different cancers.
- The role of Tight-Junctions in colorectal cancer progression and metastasis
- Role of Connexins in prostate cancer
- Multi-disciplinary approach to identify the key intrinsic regulatory mechanisms that are responsible for Cx43 and Cx45 function
Microbial Metabolomics: This research is focused on understanding the functional implications of microbiomes.
- Determination of the organization of biofilm microbial communities
- Role of microbiome in cancer progression
- Microbiota and intestinal diseases
About the University of Nebraska Medical Center
The University of Nebraska was founded in 1869, and the Graduate College was established in 1896. The University of Nebraska Medical Center, one of four campuses of the University, houses the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which instituted its doctoral program in 1958.
The University of Nebraska Medical Center campus is organized into different administrative units, each responsible for a different segment of the UNMC mission. Major units include: College of Medicine, College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy, College of Dentistry, College of Public Health, College of Allied Health Professions, Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases, Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, Munroe-Meyer Institute, Stanley M. Truhlsen Eye Institute, and a graduate studies program..
The UNMC campus spans 50 acres with and includes both clinical and research building, with more than two million square feet of internal space. UNMC researchers bring in well over $100 million in grant funding each year.
The goal of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology faculty, postdocs, graduate students and staff is to complete research that can impact cancer, genetic diseases, human health or basic knowledge of biochemical and biophysical function.