3D Tissue Models

Aziz Sancar

TypeWhite Paper Summary

Welcome to the Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics in the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The primary mission of any academic department is education. Here PhD students and post-doctoral fellows train in more than 40 different laboratories engaged in cutting-edge biomedical research. Training in research comes at a time of tremendous change, as new tools are uncovering the molecular causes of human disease, revealing new drug targets, and fostering the development of innovative new therapies. With a PhD degree in Biochemistry & Biophysics, the next generation of scientists will be well equipped to solve some the most vexing and complex health problems of the day.

However, these technological developments pose significant challenges. The quickening pace of research together with the growing emphasis on interdisciplinary

approaches to research, dictate that tomorrow's scientists be not only dedicated ex-approaches to research, dictate that tomorrow's scientists be not only dedicated experimentalists, but also highly versatile and capable of integrating information across a wide spectrum of fields. For example, efforts to elucidate the inner workings of the cell require the ability to integrate data on enzyme production, abundance, localization, modification, and activity. Such data may come from a wide range of genomics and proteomics technologies. Moreover, these efforts require an understanding of how signals from multiple, converging pathways are integrated and regulated within the cell. Elucidating and understanding these signaling networks requires skills in bioinformatics and computation analysis. Finally, successful scientists must be effective communicators. Writing and speaking skills are needed to secure funding and to effectively disseminate research results. All of these skills come not from a book but from close interactions with other successful scientists who can serve as mentors. Our faculty is committed to providing the highest quality training for Ph.D. candidates.

At UNC, entering graduate students have a wide selection of mentors and training laboratories to choose from. Reflecting the need for integration in scientific education, the Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics also has close ties to other UNC programs and departments, including the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Carolina Cardiovascular Biology Center, the Program in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, the Neurosciences Center, and the new Center for AIDS Research. In addition, students in our department can choose our excellent and flexible Biochemistry Track with possible association with one of seven NIH-funded training grants or our outstanding Biophysics Track with associated NIH training program. Both tracks are described in more detail with links below.


Faculty: Nearly 30 professors represent the primary faculty, with another dozen or so faculy who represent joint-appointments. Among the primary faculty there are two members of the National Academy of Sciences and a Howard Hughs Medical Institute investigator. Faculty members have also been recipients of prestigious awards from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Keck, Beckman, Sloan, Pew, and Searle foundations.

Research: The department has broad research strengths, but with particular emphasis in four areas: 1) chromatin biochemistry, DNA processes including replication, repair, recombination, remodeling and transcription; 2) cell signaling and cell cycle control, trafficking and retroviruses; 3) enzymology, protein biochemistry and biophysics and, 4) proteomic, structural and computational biology.

Core Facilities: UNC has an exceptionally strong research infrastructure with a wide range of core facilities, including outstanding resources in structural bioinformatics, microscopy, functional genomics, macromolecular interactions, as well as proteomics and mass spectrometry. Our department members specifically oversee the following cores: Michael Hooker Proteomics and Mass Spectrometry Facility, R.L. Juliano Structural Bioinformatics Core, Biomolecular NMR Lab, and the Macromolecular Interactions Facility.

Students: We have a large and vibrant PhD program with more than 70 students from all over the United States and around the world. After their first year in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program (BBSP), students can matriculate directly to the Biochemistry & Biophysics graduate program, as well as to one of several interdisciplinary training programs. Students interested in our Biochemistry Track can design a flexible program that potentially exposes them to current research in biochemical, molecular, cell biological and biophyscial concepts. They can also apply to one of many training grants appropriate to their area of interest. For the Biophysics Track, the Molecular & Cellular Biophysics Predoctoral Training Program affords participating students the opportunity to work with faculty in eleven UNC departments, including Physics, Chemistry, Computer Sciences, Applied Mathematics and Medicinal Chemistry. The aim of this program is to apply mechanistic and quantitative approaches to medically significant problems. Students who are specifically interested in biophysics may wish to apply to this program as well, particularly if they would like to take full advantage of the biophysics training curriculum or wish to have the option of working with biophysics faculty in departments other than Biochemistry & Biophysics.

Funding: Our department consistently ranks among the top ten in U.S. biochemistry departments with respect to total research funding awarded by the National Institutes of Health. All PhD students are admitted with full scholarships and generous stipends.

Community: Chapel Hill is a college town of approximately 60,000 residents, and boasts a pleasant climate as well as excellent cultural, athletic, and academic amenities.

We appreciate your interest, and we cordially invite you to explore the numerous research opportunities available in Biochemistry & Biophysics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Name:Aziz Sancar
Organization:University of North Carolina

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