Research interests in the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology & Immunology are diverse.  This allows graduate students to choose from a broad spectrum of topics when picking a research lab. Regular interactions between students and faculty are facilitated with weekly departmental and student seminars, formal collaborations between research groups, and a cooperative work environment that promotes discussion of research projects between students of different labs. Areas of research performed in this department are described below.

Biochemistry, Molecular & Cellular Biology
Bioenergetics and Metabolism
Computational Biology
Microbial Pathogenesis
Proteins, structural biology, and drug design
Stem cell biology

Biochemistry, Molecular & Cellular Biology: Cells have evolved pathways to control (i) intracellular transport and export of diverse material, including toxic heavy metals, (ii) metal homeostasis as part of maintaining viability under normal and stressed conditions. Viruses can make use of and modify cellular machinery to suit their purposes.  Understanding the mechanisms that underlie these activities will enable control of dysfunctional processes in humans that lead to a variety of disorders.

Primary faculty: Sharon Ackerman, Brian Edwards, David Evans, Bharati Mitra, Philip Pellett, Ladislau Kovari, Jeffrey WitheyZhe Yang
Secondary faculty: Ashok Bhagwat, Russell Finley, Maik HuettemannKezhong Zhang


Bioenergetics and Metabolism: Nearly all of the metabolic activities that make up the life of the cell are carried out by proteins serving as enzymes and transport proteins.  Much of bioenergetics takes place in mitochondria, which are the source of metabolic energy for nearly all cellular events. Studies of mitochondrial assembly, mechanisms of energy transduction via electron transfer, and role in initiating apoptotic cell death have enormous implications for metabolic diseases, embryonic development, central nervous system architecture, and cancer.

Primary faculty: Brian Edwards, Bharati Mitra
Secondary faculty: Maik Huettemann


Computational Biology: Many aspects of modern bioscience connect to an analysis of very large datasets.  Such work involves specialized statistical methods and algorithms, as well as methods for visualization of complex datasets.

Primary faculty: Brian Edwards, Domenico Gatti, Ladislau Kovari, Philip Pellett, Zhe Yang
Secondary faculty: Jeffrey TsengQing-Sheng Mi


Immunology: The immune system provides protection that is based on discrimination of self from non-self.  It is important in autoimmune diseases, cancer immunology, infectious diseases, inflammatory mechanisms, lymphocyte biology, mucosal immunology, and immune regulation.

Primary faculty: Yuan He, Eric Sebzda
Secondary faculty: Kang Chen, Heather GibsonAshok Kumar, Qing-Sheng Mi, Susmit Suvas, Kezhong ZhangLi Zhou


Microbial Pathogenesis: Molecular mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis, regulation of bacterial gene expression during infection of eukaryotic hosts, ocular infections, structure-function properties of bacterial toxins, and mechanisms by which microbiomes affect animal behavior, human reproduction, and holobiont phenotypes.

Primary faculty: Robert Akins, Kevin Theis, Jeffrey Withey
Secondary faculty: Ashok Kumar, Susmit Suvas


Proteins, structural biology, and drug design: Structural biology provides the framework for understanding how biomolecules function.  Our Structural Biology and Drug Design Group (SBDDG) uses protein expression, high throughput assay development, mechanism of action studies, X-ray crystallography, and modeling and drug design for pre-clinical drug discovery and development.  Please see the SBDDG brochure for further information.

Primary faculty: Brian Edwards, David Evans, Domenico Gatti, Ladislau Kovari, JianJun Wang, Zhe Yang
Secondary faculty: Maik Huettemann, Jeffrey Tseng


Stem cell biology: Stem cell-based therapies hold promise for treatment of many diseases, including neurodegenerative disorders and heart disease.

Primary faculty: QianQian Li, JianJun Wang


Virology: Structure-based development of antivirals, mRNA transport, virus gene expression, virus-host cell interactions, virus replication, virus pathogenesis in the eye and CNS

Primary faculty: Ladislau Kovari, Philip Pellett, Raghavender Thipparthi
Secondary faculty: Ashok Kumar, Susmit Suvas

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