Cancer

Faculty in this concentration conduct research aimed at understanding the genetic and environmental causes of cancer. Research is focused on the underlying biology associated with tumor initiation and progression, and on the development and evaluation of chemopreventive regimens and therapeutic approaches for common cancers. Current lines of investigation include the study of noncoding RNAs in breast and prostate cancer, molecular alterations of the metabolism of cancer cells, breast cancer stem cells, and animal modeling approaches to tumorigenesis.

Drug Discovery & Therapeutics

Faculty in this concentration use a variety of computational and experimental approaches directed at advancing therapeutic interventions against various diseases. These approaches include virtual screening to identify potential inhibitors for specific enzyme targets, development of both traditional biochemical assays and high-throughput screening assays for inhibitor identification, synthetic drug design, identification of drug resistance mutations, design and discovery of novel antibodies, pathogen inhibition studies, and inhibitor toxicity studies. These efforts are typically pursued in close collaboration with leading external research groups in academia and industry. The areas targeted, which include cancer, neurological diseases, Zika virus, dengue virus, West Nile virus, tuberculosis, Lyme disease, and ricin toxin, are of major concern for public health or biodefense.

Genes & Genomes

Faculty in this concentration study the function, regulation, and evolution of genes, from single nucleotides to whole genomes. Researchers utilize prokaryotic and eukaryotic model organisms and viruses to analyze the flow and execution of information within genetic systems. Insights gained advance our understanding of development, infectious diseases, and environmental agents. This holistic approach to the study of gene and genome function is facilitated by the integration of next-generation sequencing technologies with classic biochemistry and genetic approaches to identify mutations and characterize their effects on gene expression.

Infection & Immunity

Faculty in this concentration study the molecular and cellular biology of infectious agents, as well as the immune response to infections in humans, rodents, bats, and avian species. Pathogenic agents of interest include toxins, viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites, as well as the arthropod vectors of mosquito- or tick-borne diseases, such as West Nile virus fever, Lyme disease, babesiosis and malaria. Active areas of research target emerging infectious diseases like tuberculosis and cholera, antibiotic-resistant pathogens such as MRSA and CRE, and biodefense studies are aimed at combatting agents such as anthrax and ricin. Technologies that include metabolomics, proteomics, and genomics are employed to investigate infectious agents, mucosal immunity, antibody-based immunotherapies, immunological memory, vaccines, and the impact of environmental factors on immunity and susceptibility to infection. Diagnostic tests are developed using the latest technologies to improve pathogen detection and characterization. The role of climate change in the distribution and intensity of infectious agents and their vectors is a unique developing theme within this concentration.

Neuroscience

Faculty in this concentration focus on interdisciplinary approaches to understanding how the nervous system develops and how and why things go wrong in disorders such as epilepsy, autism, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. They use a combination of in vitro and in vivo methodologies to uncover the underlying genetics, physiology, biochemistry, and neurocircuitry of these conditions. Research is aimed toward development of more effective therapeutic options to improve the quality of life for those with central nervous system dysfunction resulting from trauma and/or neurological disease.

Structural Biology

Faculty members in this concentration study the fundamental mechanisms of cellular machines in their functional and disease contexts, using a variety of modern structural biology approaches such as high-resolution cryo-electron microscopy, X-ray crystallography, NMR and dynamic simulations. In addition, they use a number of other biophysical, biochemical, molecular, and cellular approaches to address specific research problems. Structural biology research covers a wide scale of biological territories and medical disorders, including bacterial drug resistance, virus infection, vaccine development, structure-based drug design, and genetic disorders and birth defects.