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Department of Pharmacology

Department of Pharmacology

Department of Pharmacology PhD Program

Graduate Program in Pharmacology and Systems Biology:

2003 retreat photoThe excellence of our Graduate Program in Pharmacology and Systems Biology is best illustrated by the fact that our NIH-sponsored pre-doctoral Training Grant has been continuously funded since 1978, making it one of the longest standing pharmacology training program of this type.

The philosophy of our graduate program is to emphasize state-of-the-art research approaches at all stages; and we begin with the recruitment phase. We identify candidates with excellent undergraduate academic credentials, with a strong preference for those who have participated in independent research. If you are a member of that select group and would like us to contact you, please let us know.

During the first year in the program, students must complete three formal laboratory-based research rotations. Each research rotation is intended to examine testable hypotheses, as well as to provide exposure to new laboratory techniques. At the conclusion of each rotation, a post-rotational seminar is presented to the Department. To enhance research exposure further, the Department offers a special course on Frontiers in Pharmacology to our first-year students. 

During the first two years in the program, students are required to take a number of courses to prepare them for research careers in pharmacology. These include a core course in molecular and cellular biology and a graduate-school-based pharmacology course. In the first and second years, a number of electives are also available. The electives emphasize topics such as signal transduction, drug metabolism, neuropharmacology, neurobiology and cancer biology. All students must take the Ethics in Research course designed to introduce graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to issues surrounding the ethics of research, publication and the review of manuscripts and gran

2003 retreat photoThe most important recent development has been the move to the new state-of-the-art facility in Research Complex One at the new Anschutz Medical Campus. The Department now occupies the best, most modern space in which it has ever resided: the sixth floor of both the North and South towers of the facility. Along with the new, modern laboratory facilities, the faculty have worked jointly to create new “centers” of research excellence, the most impressive of which is the new ultra high field NMR system, operating at 900 MHz. UCD now hosts one of the few nuclear magnetic resonance imaging machines of this caliber in the country. In addition, the faculty have set up a Gene Array/Affymetrix Center, a Molecular Structure computational center called “The Model Room,” an X-Ray Crystallography Center, a large Mass Spectrometry Center, the Computational Bioscience Program’s Center for Computation Pharmacology, the Center for Computational Biosimulation which includes a ninety-six node Beowulf cluster of Apple dual-G5 processor servers, and the Fluorescence Microscopy Imaging Center, as well as newly modernized facilities for Metabolomics, Genomics, Lipid Mapping and Proteomics.

Also within the last year, the Program has also garnered several outstanding additions to the faculty, many of whom have assisted in creating the new technological centers mentioned previously. In keeping with Deparment Chairman, Dr. Thorburn’s persistent vision to “place the Department at the forefront of the technological advances which are changing the face of the science of pharmacology,” a number of faculty members have added their unique expertise to the Program. Robert C. Murphy, Ph.D. has joined the Pharmacology faculty once again. Professor Murphy has focused his research activities over the past several decades on the use of mass spectrometry and advanced analytical techniques to address challenging problems in lipid biochemistry. Of particular interest has been the biosynthesis of leukotrienes, which are a family of arachidonate metabolites formed by the action of 5-lipoxygenase.Kelli Kline receiving 2006 Academic Excellence Award Andrew M. Thorburn, D. Phil., Professor and Chairman, studies “the regulation of apoptosis and other forms of cell death as they relate to two important issues in cancer biology: the development of cancer and the response of cancer cells to therapy.” Tatiana Kutateladze, Ph.D., assumed a position as Associate Professor during the past year, as did K. Ulrich Bayer, Ph.D. Dr. Kutateladze brings an expertise in molecular structure, especially of the FYVE domain, while Dr. Bayer specializes in molecular memory in signal transduction. These added members of the faculty not only have enhanced the already established components of our Program, but have helped the Program to realize Dr. Thorburn’s vision of a future-oriented Department of Pharmacology. Moreover, the expertise of these individuals helps us to train students in a more broadly-based manner; and to introduce all of our students to the use of novel and modern techniques to answer questions of pharmacologic interest.

These new, cutting-edge technological facilities and the integration of molecular structure and genomic research coupled with the molecular biological, cellular, organ, whole animal research and human protocols makes our Program unique. The interactive components of our Program (i.e., schizophrenia, aging, cancer, and alcohol research centers and program projects) allow the students to see clearly the value of multi-disciplinary approaches to pharmacologic research, while at the same time providing them with state-of-the-art tools with which to explore their hypotheses. The inter-disciplinary interests of our Program faculty continue to encourage students to be broad-based in their career training. The summaries of the current trainee research efforts provide ample evidence of the melding of several technical skills by our trainees used to address their thesis research.

The Pharmacology External Advisory Committee, the Chairman of the Department, the Graduate Training Committee, and the training faculty strive to enhance training excellence for all of our graduate students at every level. Our primary intent is to produce well-trained, independent, successful pharmacologists -- the mission of our training grant. We are always pursuing ways to improve the training environment and to keep our training, our students, and our Department at the forefront of contemporary pharmacology.