Molecular Genetics & Development Biology

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The Molecular Genetics and Developmental Biology (MGDB) graduate program provides an exceptionally exciting and vigorous academic environment for highly motivated and qualified students to prepare for a rewarding career in biomedical research. The members of the faculty have a wide diversity of interests and are pursuing research projects that address fundamental, contemporary issues in biology and medicine. We are also committed to postgraduate education and share as a major objective the integration of students into the most important aspects of our investigative work. The MGDB program brings together faculty in both basic and applied sciences, including researchers from the School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Magee-Womens Research Institute and Biological Sciences. MGDB research is at the cutting edge of many emerging fields, including developmental and reproductive biology, stem cell biology, proteomics, computational biology and genomics. Our work has direct relevance to acute injury, congenital disorders, cancer, diabetes, muscular dystrophy and other genetic diseases.


The faculty members in the MGDB program have diverse research interests that address fundamental and critical biomedical questions ranging from fundamental mechanisms to translational solutions. Faculty research interests can be broadly divided into three major areas:

Developmental and Reproductive Biology
Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology
Molecular Genetics


Karen M. Arndt
regulation of eukaryotic transcription, chromatin modification, epigenetics
Ivet Bahar
Modeling and simulation of protein complexes
Nathan Bahary
Assistant Professor
to combine the power and insight of vertebrate development to elucidate basic molecular processes
Yaacov Barak
Associate Professor
Placental development; fat cell dynamics (differentiation, death and regeneration), lipodystrophy and type II diabetes; transcriptional regulation; gene targeting methodologies
Carlton M. Bates
Associate Professor
Kara Anne Bernstein
Assistant Professor
Cancer Research; DNA repair and recombination; Homologous recombination
Jeffrey L Brodsky
understanding how proteins in the secretory pathway are subject to protein quality control and how molecular chaperones and components of the ubiquitination machinery mediate this event
Nathaniel L Clark
Assistant Professor
Paula R. Clemens
(1) Pathophysiology and treatments for muscular dystrophy; (2) Understanding NF-KB signaling in diseased muscle
Lance Davidson
To integrate the biomechanics of morphogenesis across a number of size scales from subcellular generation of forces to the macroscopic forces and bulk tissue properties that guide development of the developing embryo
Neal A. DeLuca
molecular genetics of herpes simplex firus; regulation of productive cycle transcription; epigenetic regulation of quiscent or latent HSV infections
James L. Funderburgh
Regenerative medicine, Stem cell biology, stem cell therapy, extracellular matrix wound healing
Sarah L. Gaffen
defining signal transduction mechanisms and biological function of IL-2 and IL-17 family cytokines, using in vitro and in vivo models
Ferruccio Galbiati
Associate Professor
Role of cellular senescence in aging and cancer
Arjumand Ghazi
Assistant Professor
genetic regulation of aging in C. elegans
Joseph C. Glorioso
Herpes simplex virus, latency, glycoprotein, pathogenesis and use in human gene therapy
Jeffrey Gross
Jacqueline Ho
Fred L Homa
Associate Professor
understanding the mechanism of herpesvirus capsid assembly and DNA packaging
Rebecca P. Hughey
Apical targeting and membrane trafficking in polarized epithelial cells: focus on the transmembrane human mucin MUC1 and the ectoenzyme gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase
Neil A Hukriede
Associate Professor
Embryonic patterning, kidney organogenesis, xenopus laevis, zebrafish
Erin Elizabeth Kershaw
Assistant Professor
Saleem A. Khan
Role of microRNAs in human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cancers and in aging; DNA helicases
Bernhard Kuhn
Seema Lakdawala
Li Lan
Assistant Professor
Adrian Vincent Lee
targeting the insulin-like growth factor pathway in breast cancer; studies on tumor heterogeneity and molecular changes during progression, with a particular focus on DNA and RNA structural rearrangements
Nara Lee
Cecilia Wen Ya Lo
elucidating the genetic causes and developmental mechanisms of human congenital heart disease (CHD)
Mark E Lowe
biochemistry and physiology of pancreatic lipases and colipase; pathophysiology of acute pancreatitis
Christine A. Milcarek
plasma cell development, gne expression and alternative RNA processing
Patrick S. Moore
Distinguished Professor
Cancer virology
Satoshi Nakajima
Assistant Professor
Robert M. O'Doherty
Associate Professor
Mechanisms of insulin resistance in obesity/NIDDM
Patricia Opresko
Kyle E. Orwig
Associate Professor
Research focuses on spermtogonial stem cells (SSCs) and male germ linage development. SSCs are essential for male fertility and may have application for treating some cases of male infertility.
Edward V. Prochownik
Molecular Oncology; Myc genes; cancer stem cells; tumor metabolism
Aleksander Rajkovic
Associate Professor
Whole genome sequencing in reproductive pathology, genome editing to model human variants, transcriptional control of oocyte differentiation.
Yoel Sadovsky
Feto-placental development, microRNA pathways and trafficking, and lipotoxicity
Martin C. Schmidt
Associate Professor
AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a central regulator of cellular metabolism and an important drug target for treatment of type 2 diabetes. We use yeast as a model system to study glucose signaling and the regulation of AMPK
Donghun Shin
Assistant Professor
Liver development and regeneration using zebrafish as a model organism
Masahiro Shuda
Research Assistant Professor
Sunder Sims-Lucas
Thomas E. Smithgall
Cytoplasmic protein-tyrosine kinases as drug targets in cancer and infectious disease
Gary Thomas
Visiting Professor
Michael Wai Kok Tsang
Associate Professor
Fibroblast growth factor signaling; chemical screens;zebrafish heart regeneration and development
Rocky Sung Chi Tuan
Skeletal development, cell signaling, matrix biology, and reprogrammed stem cells
Zsolt Urban
inherited diseases of the extracellular matrix, elastic fiber formation, transforming growth factor beta signaling; human genetic, cellular and zebrafish model studies
Bennett Van Houten
mitochondrial dysfunction in cancer and neurodegenerative diseases; structure-function studies of DNA repair proteins
Gerard Vockley
focus on molecular biology, enzymology and structural aspects of mitochondrial energy metabolism; inborn errors of metabolishm in mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation and oxidative phosphorylation and their affect on normal structur and function
William H. Walker
Associate Professor
Male fertility, Reproductive Biology, intracellular signaling, gene expression, endocrinology
Yong Wan
Associate Professor
The role of ubiquitin-proteasome system in genomic integrity and carcinogenesis
Xiangyun Wei
Associate Professor
Study how retinal epithelial polarity contributes to the formation of the layered cellular structure of the mature retina; investigate how cell-cell adhesion molecules play a role in retinal pattern formation
Gutian Xiao
Associate Professor
Signal transduction in immunity and oncogenesis; viral oncogenesis
Lei Yang
Assistant Professor
Embryonic stem cells, human iPS cells and mouse models to address early stage vertebrate heart development and human inherited cardiovascular diseases; novel regulators during early stage of human heart development
Judith L Yanowitz
Assistant Professor
how meiosis is regulated using the nematode C. elegans as a model system; how aging impacts meiosis and crossover formation and the role of chromatin in these processes
Mei Zhang
Assistant Professor
cancer stem cells