Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Graduate teaching and research are primary commitments of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. We offer formal training in Advanced Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Advanced Eukaryotic Genetics, Cancer Biology, Molecular Toxicology, and in a number of special topics and electives designed to focus on current problems in biochemistry and molecular biology.

Students in their first year also receive laboratory training through methods courses in protein chemistry and molecular biology and rotations which provide opportunities to work on research projects with individual faculty. Through these interactions students become acquainted with theoretical and practical aspects of biochemistry and molecular biology, and with the research interests of the faculty. After completing the first year, students select a mentor to supervise their research training.

Students have the opportunity to select from a variety of research projects in different areas for their dissertation research. Opportunities for collaborative arrangements with clinical departments are also available, as several clinical faculty have joint appointments in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

The Department joins with other basic science departments within the School of Medicine in the Integrated Programs in Biomedical Sciences (IPIBS). The goal of this program is to provide an interdisciplinary approach to the biomedical sciences. Students will chose to do their degree in one of the participating departments, but can receive formal training in other disciplines as well. This approach to graduate education gives students broad exposure to basic science disciplines and maximum flexibility in choosing a research area for their dissertation research.

Our philosophy is that a complete graduate education should include experience in teaching. However, the amount of teaching required should be small and not impede a student's research progress. Consequently, students assist in teaching for one semester, usually in the graduate Advanced Biochemistry course or Methods course, during their second year of study.

 

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The development of a Department of Biochemistry at the University of Louisville began in 1918 with the recruitment of Alfred W. Homberger as the Chairman of Physiological Chemistry. For many years, he served as Chair of both the Departments of Chemistry and Physiological Chemistry. In 1942, he moved his office to the Medical school to devote his full-time efforts to the dental and medical teaching program. Professor Homberger and his small staff maintained a strong teaching program in the School of Medicine until he retired in 1951. In 1952, the University of Louisville recruited a vigorous, young scientist, Dr. John F. Taylor, from Nobel Prize laureate Dr. Carl Cori's department at Washington University, St. Louis, to chair the department. Dr. Taylor received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University and pursued postgraduate training at Harvard with Professor A. Baird Hastings. During his career at the University of Louisville, Dr. Taylor published extensively in the area of hemoglobin structure and function. In addition, he is credited with the first successful crystallization of the enzyme, aldolase.

In 1972, Dr. Taylor stepped down as Chairman of the Department and Dr. Robert McGeachin was appointed as Acting Chairman. In 1976, Dr. James L. Wittliff from the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Rochester was named Chairman of Biochemistry and brought a large research group focused on biochemical endocrinology to the medical campus. Dr. Wittliff's research program involves studies on the characterization of the receptors for steroid hormones and their regulation during oncogenesis. A number of new faculty were recruited and several of these faculty continue to strengthen the Department.

In 1986, Dr. Russell A. Prough, from the Department of Biochemistry, Unversity of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas, accepted the chairmanship of the Department of Biochemistry. His research program centers on the mechanism of action and regulation of cytochrome P-450 and other drug metabolizing enzymes. In Academic Year 1987-88, Nancy C. Martin, Ph.D., was recruited from the Department of Biochemistry, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas to assume the Preston Pope Joyes Chair of Biochemical Research. Her research interests are in the area of yeast molecular biology and transport of nuclearly encoded proteins into the mitochondria of that organism. Six other faculty members were recruited to the Department between 1987 and 2003. All of these individuals have extramurally supported research programs and have provided the Department with additional research strength in molecular biology and in the graduate and professional teaching programs of the Department.

In February 2003, Dr. Kenneth S. Ramos was named Chairman. Dr. Ramos came to the Department from Texas A & M University where he had served as Professor in the Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology since 1995. His research interests center on gene-environment interactions in human health (chemical atherogenesis, glumerulo-nephropathies, and nethrogenesis) and redox-regulated gene expression (GSTA1, osteopontin, WT-1, L1Md, grp 78, and c-Ha-ras). Five tenure track and two term tack faculty were recruited to the Department since Dr.Ramos' arrival.

In September 2007, Dr. Ramos stepped down as Chair to pursue additional opportunities in the School of Medicine. Dr. Prough was appointed as Acting Chair until April 2009.

On May 1, 2009, Dr. Ronald Gregg, PhD was appointed as Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Dr. Gregg received his PhD from the Biochemistry Department at the University of Queensland, Australia. He pursued post-doctoral studies with Dr. Oliver Smithies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 1997 he joined the faculty of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Louisville, rising through the ranks to full professor in 2007.