Cell Biology Graduate ProgramFaculty

Nicola Abate, MD

  • Professor, Internal Medicine
  • Research Interest: Pathogenesis of insulin resistance; obesity; dyslipidemia; the metabolic syndrome.

Sherif A. Abdel-Rahman, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology and Preventive Medicine
  • Research Interest: Understanding how inherited genetic characteristics influence the susceptibility of individuals to environmental agents and affect their response to drug therapy.

Bill T. Ameredes, MS, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Internal Medicine
  • Research Interest: Mechanisms of functional resolution of allergic airway inflammation and asthma, through molecular and cell-signaling pathways involving IL-10, NO, and beta-receptors.

L. Maria Belalcazar, MD

  • Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine
  • Research Interest: Lifestyle interventions, including nutritional interventions, for the prevention of cardiovascular disease; weight loss, physical fitness, diabetes and obesity.

Shelly Buffington, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Neuroscience, Cell Biology, & Anatomy
  • Research Interests:  Host-microbe interactions regulating synaptic plasticity and behavior, with emphasis on environmentally- and genetically-induced mouse models of autism spectrum disorder.

Yan Chen, PhD
  • Assistant Professor, Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences
  • Research Interest: Molecular Pathways in the pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration; mTOR signaling..

Ashok K. Chopra, PhD, CSc

  • Professor, Microbiology & Immunology
  • Research Interest: Understanding cell signaling events in host cells after infection with various bacterial agents (e.g., Bacillus anthracis, Yersinia pestis, Salmonella enterica, Aeromonas hydrophila, etc.). Our studies also involve genomics and proteomics approaches as well as immunological parameters to develop new generation vaccines against these deadly pathogens.

Yingzi Cong, PhD

  • Professor, Microbiology & Immunology and Pathology
  • Research Interest: Mucosal Immunology; host-microbial interaction in intestines; pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease.

Jin Mo Chung, PhD

  • Professor and Chair, Neuroscience, Cell Biology, & Anatomy
  • Research Interest: Somatosensory system; Mechanisms of Neuropathic pain; Cell signaling and reactive oxygen species.

Larry Denner, PhD

  • Professor, Internal Medicine
  • Research Interest: Signal transduction pathways in growth regulation of stem cells; human and animal studies of diabetes; steroidogenesis/reproductive endocrinology; molecular mechanisms of learning and memory in Alzheimer's Disease; mass spectrometry approaches to signaling; systems biology in health and disease.

Douglas DeWitt, PhD

  • Professor, Anesthesiology
  • Research Interest: Experimental traumatic brain injury, cerebral vascular regulation.

William J. Durham, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine
  • Research Interest: Hormone replacement, muscle metabolism, muscle performance, fatigue, physiological correlates of cognitive impairment, ryanodine receptor.

Cornelis (Kees) Elferink, PhD

  • Professor, Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Research Interest: Molecular mechanisms involved in liver homeostasis.

Lisa A. Elferink, PhD

  • Professor, Neuroscience, Cell Biology, & Anatomy
  • Research Interest: Molecular regulation of receptor trafficking; pre-clinical studies of pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer; inflammation and carcinogenesis; receptor signaling in drug addiction.

Mark Emmett, PhD

  • Professor, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
  • Research Interest: Mass spectrometry; in vivo pharmacology animal experience including surgical procedures, drug delivery, microdialysis, in vivo and in vitro biochemical assays, receptor binding and robotic automation.

Perenlei Enkhbaatar, MD, PhD

  • Professor, Anesthesiology
  • Research Interest: Investigate mechanisms of cardiopulmonary and neural dysfunctions secondary to sepsis, toxic gas inhalation and thermal injury with special emphasis on development of novel treatment methods, i.e. cellular therapy.

Eliseo Eugenin, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Neuroscience, Cell Biology, & Anatomy
  • Research Interests: The role of cellular communication during the pathogenesis of NeuroHIV; Identification of brain biomarkers of dementia; Glioblastoma, a novel approach to cure this disease; heart disease and cell to cell communication.

Celeste Finnerty, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Surgery
  • Research Interest: Proteomic and genomic response to burn injury; attenuation of post burn hypertrophic scarring; adipose derived stem cells for wound healing; insulin resistance; inflammation; tissue regeneration following injury.

Christopher Fry, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Nutrition and Metabolism
  • Research Interests: Skeletal muscle physiology, muscle stem cell biology, skeletal muscle plasticity.

Gary D. Hankins, MD

  • Professor & Chair, Obstetrics & Gynecology
  • Research Interest: Maternal and Fetal Physiology; Critical Care Obstetrics; Operative Obstetrics; Normal and Abnormal Labors; Hypertensive Disorders in pregnancy.

Hal K. Hawkins, MD, PhD

  • Professor, Pathology
  • Research Interest: Mechanisms of acute inflammation. Reaction to injury in the airways. Roles of neuropeptides and epithelium in inflammation. Wound healing.

Helen Hellmich, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Anesthesiology
  • Research Interest: Elucidation of the role of paracrine mediators in gastrointestinal inflammation, carcinogenesis, tumor progression and metastasis.

Mark R. Hellmich, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Surgery
  • Research Interest: Elucidation of the role of small peptide hormones and their cognate receptors in epithelial cell biology and carcinogenesis

Jonathan D. Hommel, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Research Interests: CNS circuits that regulate food addiction and motivation for energy-dense foods.

Amjad Hossain, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology
  • Research Interests: Gamete Biology; Andrology; Embryology

Rakez Kayed, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Neurology
  • Research Interest: Protein misfolding and aggregation, amyloid fibrils and various other aggregates characteristic of amyloid (misfolding) diseases. These include Alzheimer's disease, immunoglobulin-light-chain disease, type II diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, prion disease, serum amyloidoses, and familial amyloid polyneuropathies.

N. Muge Kuyumcu-Martinez, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
  • Research Interest: RNA splicing factors in cardiac development and disease.

Jere W. McBride, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Microbiology & Immunology
  • Research Interest: Obligately intracellular bacteria, molecular pathogen-host interactions, immunity and vaccines.

Ramkumar Menon, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology
  • Research Interest: Molecular mechanisms of term and preterm parturition, placental senescence, and feto-maternal signaling.

Andrew Murton, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Surgery
  • Research Interests:  Cellular mechanisms responsible for the loss of muscle mass in critical illness states; the impact of lifestyle and aging on muscle and whole-body metabolism.

John Papaconstantinou, PhD

  • Professor, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
  • Research Interest: Molecular and genetic mechanisms of aging and longevity determination. Role of oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction in development of aging phenotype.

Bi-Hung Peng, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Neuroscience, Cell Biology, & Anatomy
  • Research Interests: Pathogenesis of intracellular bacterial and viral infection in the central nervous system.

Iryna Pinchuk, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine
  • Research Interest: Mucosal immune responses in the gut; mesenchymal cells in chronic and acute GI inflammation; effect of vitamin A on colon biology; inflammatory bowel disesase; GI cancer.

Donald S. Prough, MD

  • Professor and Chair, Anesthesiology
  • Research Interest: Physiologic responses to traumatic brain injury; changes in gene and protein expression in response to traumatic brain injury; treatment of acute and chronic traumatic brain injury with stem cells or drugs; clinical management of acute traumatic brain injury.

Blake B. Rasmussen, PhD

  • Professor & Chair, Department of Nutrition & Metablism
  • Research Interest: Nutritional and metabolic biology; human skeletal muscle; sarcopenia.

George R. Saade, MD

  • Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology
  • Research Interest: Maternal and fetal physiology, particularly relating to cardiovascular adaptations to pregnancy, as well as fetal development and its relationship with long term consequences.

Partha S. Sarkar, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Neurology
  • Research Interests: Mechanisms of degenerative muscle phenotypes in myotonic dystrophy type 1.

Pomila Singh, PhD

  • Professor, Neuroscience, Cell Biology, & Anatomy
  • Research Interest: Growth factors, cell signaling, cell and molecular biology of colon cancer and colon carcinogenesis, dietary prevention and cancer stem cells.

Melinda Sheffield-Moore, PhD

  • Professor, Internal Medicine
  • Research Interests: Metabolic and molecular mechanisms behind the cachexia of cancer and the sarcopenia of aging.

Linda Sousse, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Surgery
  • Research Interests: Vitamin E and D supplementation in pediatric and adult burned patients; roles of oxidants and biomarkers of the inflammatory response after burn.

Lawrence Sowers, PhD

  • Professor and Chair, Pharmacology & Toxicology
  • Research Interest: DNA damage and repair, epigenetics, chemotherapy development and structural biology.

Giulio Taglialatela, PhD

  • Professor, Neurology
  • Director, Mitchell Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases
  • Research Interest: Mechanisms of neurodysfunction and neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's disease and related amyloid diseases.

Shao-Jun Tang, PhD

  • Professor, Neuroscience, Cell Biology, & Anatomy
  • Research Interest: The pathogenic mechanism of HIV-associated neurological disorders (NeuroAIDS).

Alfredo Torres, PhD

  • Professor, Microbiology & Immunology and Pathology
  • Research Interest: The pathogenic mechanism of HIV-associated neurological disorders.

Demidmaa Tuvdendorj, MD, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine
  • Research Interests: To understand the relationship between substrate kinetics and insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and diabetes related diseases.

Randall J. Urban, MD

  • Professor & Chair, Internal Medicine
  • Research Interest: Ovarian steroidogenesis; aging and hormonal effects on muscle function; traumatic brain injury and pituitary dysfunction; umbilical cord blood stem cells: isolation and transdifferentiation into islets.

Gracie Vargas, PhD

  • Professor, Neuroscience, Cell Biology, & Anatomy
  • Research Interest: Advanced intravital microscopy (nonlinear optical microscopy, endomicroscopy) in injury or disease; noninvasive optical diagnostics in cancer; use of contrast agents and molecular specific probes for enhanced image contrast; applications of advanced imaging in infectious diseases.

Elena Volpi, MD, PhD

  • Professor, Internal Medicine
  • Research Interest: Muscle aging and sarcopenia; protein metabolism; diabetes; nutrition; exercise.

Ping Wu, MD, PhD

  • Professor, Neuroscience, Cell Biology, & Anatomy
  • Research Interest: Stem cell biology and therapy for neurological disorders such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, alcohol addiction.

Qing Yang, MD

  • Assistant Professor, Neuroscience, Cell Biology & Anatomy
  • Research Interests: To identify potential therapeutic targets that can be used to effectively treat chemotherapy- and neurotrauma-induced complications.

Kangling Zhang, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Pharmacology & Toxicology
  • Research Interest: Epigenetics; analytical biochemistry; mass spectrometry; proteomics; metabolomics.

Wenbo Zhang, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences
  • Research Interest: Mechanisms for retinal injury in ischemic retinopathy; retinal neuronal injury, retinal vascular leakage and degeneration, and in retinal pathological angiogenesis.

Emeritus & Off-Campus Faculty


Tetsuo Ashizawa, MD

  • Professor and Chairman, Neurology
  • Research Interest: Clinical neurogenetics and neurodegenerative disorders with genome instability.

B. Mark Evers, MD

  • Professor, Department of Surgery; Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology;
  • Director, Sealy Center for Cancer Cell Biology
  • Research Interest: Signal transduction pathways regulating intestinal cell growth, secretion and inflammation.

Kathleen L. O'Connor, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Department of Surgery
  • Research Interest: Role of integrin extracellular matrix receptors, cAMP/PKA and the Rho family of small GTPases in the migration of invasive carcinoma cells from breast, colon and pancreatic cancers.
Cell Biology Graduate Program Contacts
Program Director:
Pomila Singh, PhD
Program Co-Assistant Director: Blake Rasmussen, PhD
Program Coordinator:
Debra Moncrief
120-E BSB, Route: 0625
Phone: (409) 772-2124