University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Vermont Medicine Magazine

DEPARTMENT OF Molecular Physiology & Biophysics ~ 2015 Annual Report

David Warshaw, Ph.D.’79, Chair

The Department of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics continues to garner international recognition and success in the areas of cardiovascular research, cell division, and protein structure and function.

A common research focus is directed at understanding the molecular basis of cellular movement, whether associated with cell division or muscle contraction. By studying genetic alterations in cellular movement, special emphasis is directed at defining normal and diseased contractile function of the heart, blood vessels, and processes associated with cell division, e.g. chromosome segregation during mitosis. The department is considered the premier center of muscle and non-muscle cell motility research in the United States. An additional research focus is on protein molecular structure, with expertise in high resolution three-dimensional electron microscopy.

The department faculty is involved with two highly prestigious NIH Program Project Grants to study genetic forms of heart failure and aortic aneurysms. These multi-investigator grants serve as the foundation for collaborative efforts within the department and across institutions (Johns Hopkins, UMass, Univ. Cincinnati, UTSouthwestern, and UPenn). Kathleen Trybus, Ph.D., was awarded a new NIH R21 award to study the molecular basis of malaria parasite movement and cell invasion, while Michael Previs, Ph.D., received a much sought after NIH K99/R00 award for junior investigators to investigate the molecular basis of genetic forms of cardiomyopathies. During this fiscally challenging time, the department continues to compete effectively for limited extramural funds, with all tenure-track faculty being funded. The faculty published numerous articles in prestigious journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Molecular Biology of the Cell, and the Journal of Biological Chemistry, as well as serving on editorial boards for several journals.

Faculty have been honored as organizers and invited speakers at prestigious international meetings such as Dr. Trybus, who co-chaired the Gordon Research Conference at Mt. Snow, Vermont, on Muscle and Molecular Motors, at which Jason Stumpff, Ph.D., and David Warshaw, Ph.D., were invited speakers. Matthew Lord, Ph.D., presented at the Gordon Research Conference on “Plant and Microbial Cytoskeleton” in Amherst, N.H. Aoife Heaslip, Ph.D., was a speaker at the Wellcome Trust Center Symposium of Molecular Parasitology in Glasgow, Scotland. Christopher Berger, Ph.D., spoke at the World Congress of Biomechanics in Boston. Michael Radermacher, Ph.D., and Teresa Ruiz, Ph.D., organized a symposium at the Microscopy & Microanalysis Meeting in Hartford, Conn. Dr. Stumpff spoke at the International Dynamic Kinetochore Workshop in Copenhagen, Denmark. Faculty play key service roles on review panels for the NIH and National Science Foundation. Dr. Berger was honored as a Whitman Research Fellow of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass.

In education, faculty contribute substantially to both medical and graduate programs, and have been nominated for teaching awards in the medical school curriculum. Dr. Berger serves as Director of Graduate Education for the College of Medicine and was instrumental in the successful launch of the new Master of Medical Science Degree Program. Drs. Radermacher and Ruiz continue to offer a “Practical Course on Three-dimensional Cryo Electron Microscopy of Single Particles” that attracts over 20 international scientists.

Last modified January 29 2016 11:07 AM