Welcome to the Department of Physiology and Biophysics
The research mission of the department is to conduct high quality basic and translational research on topics that are relevant to human health; specific research areas are described in individual faculty profiles. Our educational mission is to train graduate and medical students in the mechanisms of normal and abnormal functions of cells, tissues, organs, and the whole organism.
Research: Early in the 20th century the great physiologist Walter B. Cannon wrote that regulation is the central problem in physiology, and this remains true today. The difference between Walter Cannon’s time and the present is that we now know the identities of most of the molecular players (genes, mRNA’s, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, other metabolites) that are present in various cells under given sets of conditions. The challenge now, and probably for the next several decades, is to understand how all these components interact to produce and regulate the living state.
Our faculty and students study physiological regulation at many different levels, including gene transcription, protein targeting, post-translational protein processing, subcellular signaling, cell-cell communication, and control of differentiation and growth, including tumorigenesis. The experimental systems used in the department include model organisms such as yeast; cultured mammalian cells; mouse models of human disease; and collaborative clinical trials in humans. The physiological systems of interest to departmental faculty include skeletal, vascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, endocrine, and nervous systems (see individual faculty profiles).
Faculty research is supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, United States Department of Agriculture, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Thyroid Association, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. One of the largest federally funded programs at UAMS, the NIH IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), is directed by departmental faculty member Lawrence E. Cornett.
Education: Our Graduate Program offers the Ph.D. in Cellular Physiology and Molecular Biophysics; the name of the graduate program emphasizes the cellular and molecular nature of much of the research in the department. In addition to students in the departmental graduate program, several students in the Interdisciplinary Biomedical Sciences (IBS) Program, as well as the UALR/UAMS joint Graduate Program in Bioinformatics, are pursuing their degrees in the laboratories of departmental faculty.
Courses offered by departmental faculty for graduate students include core courses for first year graduate students in all programs (Gene Expression, Cell Biology, General Physiology), and graduate electives that are usually offered in alternate years (Cellular Endocrinology, Molecular Cell Biology, Molecular Biophysics).
Faculty in the department have major involvement in the College of Medicine curriculum for medical students. The curriculum is in the process of being redesigned into organ system modules rather than discipline-based courses; Medical Physiology was given as a separate course for the last time in 2012-2013. Starting in 2013, the first two years of the medical curriculum have been taught in modules, each of which has a basic science co-director. Faculty in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics are basic science co-directors of 5 of the organ system modules, covering much of the second year of the medical curriculum.
Facilities: The department is housed on the second floor of the Biomedical Research Center, which consists of two modern buildings built in 1992 and 2003. Within this space, individual laboratories and departmental shared facilities contain a wide variety of equipment needed for research in modern cellular and molecular biology. K.I. Varughese, an established protein crystallographer, was recruited to the department in June, 2006, and has established a facility in the department for X-ray diffraction and protein crystallization. An integrated fluorescence and electron microscopy core facility was completed in December, 2010, and is located on the first floor of the Biomedical Research Center. The facility houses a 200 KEV transmission electron microscope (FEI Technai G2 TF20) and sample preparation equipment, all of which were purchased from a $1.48M NSF shared instrumentation grant (Brian Storrie, PI). The most recent development for the microscopy facility is a $2M NIH grant for construction of a super-resolution holographic microscope; Brian Storrie and Vladimir Lupashin are Co-PI’s of the grant with collaborators from Johns Hopkins University and Ben-Gurion University in Israel.
The physical facilities and collegial atmosphere within the department and across campus make the UAMS Department of Physiology and Biophysics an excellent place to pursue an academic career in biomedical science. We invite you to meet our faculty and students by following the links on this page.
Michael L. Jennings, PhD