Pharmacology and Toxicology Graduate Program

Program Director Welcome

Dr. JohnsonThank you for your interest in the Graduate Program in Pharmacology and Toxicology (PHTO) at UTMB. We are currently living in a time in which biologically oriented scientific research is uncovering new information at a remarkable pace. Pharmacology and toxicology are situated in the enviable position of being able to use this information to identify mechanisms and chemical intervention strategies that can be used to ameliorate, or perhaps reverse, the underlying biological basis of toxicity or disease. This program is one of nine distinct programs in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS). This program currently has 31 faculty and 17 students, with an additional 8 postdoctoral fellows, technical, managerial and secretarial staff. With the recent rapid growth of the department’s faculty and technical staff, we are especially interested in growing our graduate student program as we believe we have an outstanding department with excellent research and training opportunities. Our program is supported by three institutes for advanced study, a major medical library, a network of hospitals and clinics that provide a full range of primary and specialized medical care, and numerous specialized research facilities. UTMB is a part of The University of Texas System and is also a member of the Texas Medical Center in Houston. The research strengths in the pharmacology and toxicology program are based in the disciplines of genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, analytical and physical chemistry, and experimental psychology.  The research questions of most interest to our students and faculty are designed to probe the fundamental mechanisms of disease, as well as the action by which both potential therapeutic drugs and harmful toxins act at a mechanistic level. Among the areas of investigation are diseases such as cancer and drug addiction with special interests in the role of epigenetics and the discovery of potential therapeutic approaches to combat these conditions. Thus, our research involves cancer pharmacology, neuro- and behavioral pharmacology, molecular pharmacology and toxicology, electrophysiology, signal transduction, structural analysis of receptor and enzyme proteins, vaccine development, and drug design and synthesis.  A unique strength of this program lies in our outstanding mass spectrometry core and the presence of outstanding biochemical scientists with expertise in several “-omics” technologies.  A number of faculty are associated with 1) the Center for Addiction Research (CAR) where students are able to utilize specific core resources to conduct cutting edge behavioral and neuropharmacological research related to actions of abused drugs, 2) the Sealy Center for Cancer Cell Biology and with 3) the Center for Environmental Health Sciences and Medicine which is engaged in basic and translational research linking environmental toxin exposures to human health. 


Kenneth M. Johnson, Ph.D.

Professor and Graduate Program Director
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Eric Dr. Zhou

Program Introduction

The mechanisms by which chemicals interact with biological systems unify the diverse research themes within the Graduate Program in Pharmacology and Toxicology. We are particularly interested in advancing our basic understanding of cancer biology, environmental toxicology, and drug abuse. To pursue these questions, we capitalize on recent advances in chemistry, genomics and proteomics, molecular and cellular biology, neuroscience, structural biology and psychopharmacology. Complementing many of these areas of interest are strong cores in mass spectrometry, protein chemistry, chemical synthesis, bioinformatics and animal behavior, especially as related to drug abuse. Exciting opportunities for research and advanced education await students in these basic areas of investigation.