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Graduate Research Programs

MD/PhD students select a thesis mentor from a broad range of faculty and disciplines across eight research programs. Below, you can find links to each of the programs in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology

The Program in Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology offers graduate study and research focused in the areas of molecular, cellular and regulatory biochemistry; molecular biophysics; chemical biology; and structural biology. Students receive a rigorous foundation in modern biomedical science through an integrated program of laboratory research, advanced coursework, and attendance and participation in seminar programs. Students also organize and participate in a weekly informal seminar series in which they present recent research results. 
Specific areas addressed within program laboratories include: protein folding and design; regulation of gene expression and epigenetics; RNA processing and trafficking; protein synthesis and transport; membrane transport and ion channel function; drug action at cellular membranes and signal transduction; structural basis of protein and enzyme function; computational investigation of protein dynamics; cell cycle control; DNA replication and repair; neural development, differentiation and neurodegenerative disease.  

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Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

The Program in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology offers graduate study and research focused on the development and application of computational and mathematical models to biological problems, with an emphasis on the now-available, high-throughput genomic and proteomic data. Specific topics of research and study include systems biology; analysis of regulatory and metabolic networks; structure of the genome and comparative genomics; population genetics and molecular evolution; protein-protein and protein-DNA interactions; RNA; modeling of large-scale biological systems; structural biology; protein folding and modeling; and biological physics. Students receive a rigorous training in modern bioinformatics and computational biology through integration of guided research, coursework and participation in seminar programs. The program aims to bridge the gap between wet-lab biologists and computational scientists to their mutual benefit, and prepares students for careers in cutting-edge, highly quantitative biomedical research. 

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Cancer Biology

Cancer biology is an academic discipline with a tangible end point: improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human cancers. The Program in Cancer Biology provides students interested in pursuing a career in cancer biology with rigorous training in biochemistry, genetics, molecular and cell biology, as well as an understanding of the clinical aspects of cancer. The program is based in the Department of Cancer Biology, but it also includes faculty from most basic science departments and several clinical departments. The strength and diversity of the faculty enable students to explore different approaches to the study of cancer in their laboratory rotations and to develop inter-departmental and interdisciplinary collaborations during their thesis research. This program is also an integral component of the Cancer Center of Excellence and it affords students the opportunity to participate in disease-based programs of the Cancer Center that are designed to translate achievements from the basic sciences to the clinical management of human cancers. 

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Cell Biology

The Program in Cell Biology offers graduate study and research in molecular cell biology, leading to a PhD degree. Research interests of the graduate faculty and affiliates are focused on the use of cellular, genetic and molecular approaches to address structure-function relationships associated with cell growth and differentiation; development; stem cell biology; cell signaling; chromatin structure; transcriptional control of gene expression; DNA replication and repair; and cell motility. The Cell Biology faculty have expertise in many molecular and cellular techniques, including: 3-D image analysis; bioinformatics; immunofluorescense and confocal microscopy; electron microscopy; protein chemistry; recombinant DNA; tissue engineering; stem cell research; transgenic animal models; in situ hybridization; microarrays; gene mapping; and magnetic resonance imaging. 
The department offers graduate courses in advanced cell biology topics, development, tumor biology, and tissue and organ structure; maintains an active basic research program; and strongly supports graduate student participation in this research. Cellular, molecular and developmental biologists from the Medical School, UMass Memorial Health Care and the UMass Memorial Cancer Center participate in the graduate program, adding a further dimension to the expertise available. 

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Clinical & Population Health Research

The Clinical & Population Health Research (CPHR) doctoral program is one of the few in the country that was specifically designed to address the new challenges in biomedical research. These include speeding the translation of knowledge from the explosion in basic sciences to patient care interventions, and assuring that new evidence-based medicine reaches the populations that can benefit from it. The CPHR program promotes an interdisciplinary approach to conducting research, and provides a strong focus on addressing the needs of vulnerable populations.  The CPHR core courses provide cutting edge research training in all areas of NIH-defined clinical research: from initial translation from lab to clinic, and from clinical trials to population health. Our students will graduate with the advanced skills and knowledge in biostatistics, epidemiology, and the genetic, behavioral, social, and health service predictors of individual health status needed to be successful clinical researchers. In addition, CPHR students have excellent opportunities to experience working with renowned senior investigators and dedicated research teams in over a dozen clinical departments and research centers. 

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Immunology & Microbiology

Immunology, virology, and bacterial pathogenesis are active interdisciplinary biomedical fields with studies ranging from molecular mechanisms to clinical trials. The Immunology & Virology Program (IVP) is administered by the Immunology and Virology Committee, an interdepartmental group that includes faculty with diverse research interests, including the molecular and cellular basis of immune responsiveness, molecular mechanisms of viral replication, host-pathogen interactions, and the control of viral, bacterial and parasitic infections. The program has NIH training grant support for both graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Graduate students in IVP acquire a broad base of knowledge in biochemistry, genetics, and cellular and molecular biology through the core curriculum. Specialized training in immunology, virology, and bacteriology is initiated in a first year course, which introduces students to the immune system, basic principles of bacteriology and virology, and the interaction of bacterial and viruses with the host. Emphasis is placed on experimental systems and analysis of primary research papers. Further training continues in the fall of the second year with three courses: Advanced Virology, Advanced Cell and Molecular Immunology, and Advanced Bacterial Pathogenesis. Also offered is an advanced course in flow and image cytometry. Advanced courses emphasize reading and critical analysis of recent research papers. Additional training in the second year includes with seminars, journal clubs, and tutorials all of which explore the most active areas of current research. Laboratory rotations help familiarize students with current research methods and facilitate the selection of an area of interest and a laboratory in which students can pursue their dissertation research. 

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Interdisciplinary Graduate Program

The Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP) was established to support interdisciplinary approaches to graduate training in biomedical research. The more than 130 laboratories that participate in the program are directed by a distinguished group of faculty affiliated with 13 basic science and clinical departments at the Medical School. Program investigators employ a wide range of instrumentation and experimental approaches to their research including: classical and molecular genetics; proteomics and genomics; X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance; and digital imaging and laser confocal microscopy of single cells and tissues. Specialized core facilities in gene chip analysis, mass spectroscopy, transgenics, DNA sequencing, analytical ultracentrifugation and biomedical imaging enhance the research capabilities of individual labs. Characterized by a streamlined and flexible graduate curriculum that is tailored to the specific needs of individual students, the IGP encourages rapid initiation of full-time thesis research. A weekly seminar series, sponsored by the Program in Molecular Medicine, features distinguished lecturers from around the world. IGP students also host one or two of these seminars each semester, and faculty, students and postdoctoral fellows participate in weekly journal clubs and research forums. 

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The Program in Neuroscience has grown significantly since 2001. Key events in the expansion of neuroscience investigation on campus have been the formation of the Department of Neurobiology and the opening of the Irving S. and Betty Brudnick Neuropsychiatric Research Institute (BNRI) within the Department of Psychiatry. Both facilities allowed recruitment of new faculty, allowing rapid expansion. A simultaneous increase in the number of graduate students admitted to the GSBS further fueled rapid expansion in the program. Faculty recruitment has continued at the BNRI and in the Department of Neurobiology, and through the recent recruitment of Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, as chair and professor of neurology. The Program in Neuroscience is interdepartmental, administered under the umbrella of the Department of Neurobiology. Participating faculty have primary appointments in several departments, with the largest concentration of faculty coming from the Departments of Neurobiology, Psychiatry, Cell Biology, Physiology and Neurology. The program maintains a schedule of seminars and intramural research presentations that ensures a cohesive program. This atmosphere is especially conducive to the scientific growth of graduate students obtaining their degrees in neuroscience. 

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Translational Science

A major goal of biological research is to acquire insight and tools to solve problems in medicine. The new program in Translational Sciences was developed to address this goal and train graduate students to bring the power of cutting-edge biological tools to bear upon clinical problems. Program faculty members possess broad expertise in both basic and clinical research and are drawn from 15 different academic departments and programs at UMMS. The program incorporates several unique features to provide focused training at the interface between basic and clinical sciences. Program students are co-mentored with both a basic scientist and a clinical scientist. Regular meetings with both mentors will ensure that the student gains a broad understanding of the application of basic biological methods to clinical problems. New courses have been developed to provide students with an understanding of the principles of translational science and tools for carrying out translational research. Additional program specific activities will include yearly retreats, a seminar program and opportunities to interact directly with clinicians. 

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