Pharmacology & Toxicology Graduate Program

Program Director Welcome

Dr. Fernanda LaezzaWelcome to the Pharmacology & Toxicology Graduate Program!

The University of Texas Medical Branch offers unprecedented opportunities for training and career development in the area of Pharmacology & Toxicology. With the growing need for new therapeutics against human diseases, the discipline of Pharmacology & Toxicology is taking center stage among biomedical sciences. A PhD in Pharmacology & Toxicology offers an opportunity for advanced studies in the field of drug discovery ranging from identification of new targets for therapeutic development to clinical trials that precede new drug marketing. Because of its interdisciplinary nature and intimate connection with the industrial sector, training in Pharmacology & Toxicology will equip graduates with the most diverse technical skills and instill a rigorous approach to science while promoting independent thinking and an entrepreneurial spirit in students. 

Our graduate program is largely housed in the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, which includes and/or works closely with specialized Centers including 1) the Center for Addiction Research (CAR, Dr. Kathryn Cunningham, director) 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 (Dr. Lawrence Sowers, director) that focuses on applying advanced “omics” approaches to unravel the epigenome of tumors and solve outstanding problems in the cancer field, 3) the Center for Environmental Health Sciences and Medicine which is engaged in basic and translational research linking environmental toxin exposure to human health (Dr. Cornelis Elferink, director) and with 4) the Chemical Biology Program (led by Dr. Jia Zhou) which includes medicinal chemistry  as an approach to create new probes, leads, and drugs to treat addiction, cancer, and mental health disorders. A number of our Faculty are members of and work closely with the Sealy Center for Structural Biology (Dr. Montgomery Pettitt, director) and the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development (Dr. Alan Barrett, director) which offer additional unprecedented opportunities for training in the areas of biophysics, computational chemistry, and vaccine development. We have two NIH funded T32 training grants: one in the area of addiction (Dr. Cunningham, director) and another in the area of Environmental Toxicology (Dr. Ameredes, director) that are available to our students as specialized platforms for training and infrastructure for career development. In addition, UTMB is part of the Gulf Coast Consortia that offer additional intra-institutional T32 training grants in areas of research that span from computational biology to neuroscience and pharmacology. 

The research strengths in our program are based on the disciplines of genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, and experimental psychology with a focus on diseases such as cancer and drug addiction, and special interests in the role of epigenetics and the discovery of potential therapeutic approaches to combat these conditions. Our research involves methodologies such as neuro- and behavioral pharmacology, molecular pharmacology and toxicology, electrophysiology and advanced cell imaging, signal transduction, structural analysis of receptor and enzyme proteins, vaccine development, and drug design and synthesis.  


Fernanda Laezza, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor & Graduate Program Director
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology


                  News & Events                 

PhD and MS Application Portal for Fall 2021 - Summer 2022 admissions NOW OPEN


Congratulations to our PhD student, Nolan Dvorak, for being selected for the Paul Green Memorial Award for Mental Health Research, from the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Congratulations to our PhD student, Christina Merritt, for being selected for a Predoctoral Trainee position in the Center for Addiction Research NIDA T32 Neural and Pharmacological Mechanisms of Abused Drugs Training Program, supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH, starting fall 2020.

Congratulations to our MD/PhD student, Jonathan Lin, and our PhD student, Madison Tanner, for being selected for a Predoctoral Trainee position in the UTMB T32 Environmental Toxicology Training Program, supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, starting fall 2020.

Congratulations to our student winners of the The Kenneth M. Johnson Pharmacology/Toxicology Graduate Program Endowment Fund Award for the Fourth Annual Pharmacology & Toxicology Summer Symposium! 

Best Pre-Candidacy Student Oral Presentation: Madison Tanner

Best Candidacy Student Oral Presentation: Amy Cooper