Department of Biomedical and Molecular Biology  
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Departmental Description

Letter from the Department Head
Research Strengths
Departmental Resources

Letter from the Department Head

The mission of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is threefold: research, teaching, and service. Teachings includes formal classroom courses, which include both lecture and discussion formats, practical training in the laboratory, and development of communication skills for both oral and written presentation of scientific findings. Formal classroom teaching occurs in both the School of Medicine and the School of Graduate Studies. In the School of Medicine, Departmental faculty have major teaching roles in Course 1 (Physiological Chemistry, Medical Genetics, and Developmental Biology) and Course 2 (Cellular Structure & Function-Physiological & Pharmacologic Processes), which are the first courses of the medical curriculum and form a critical underpinning for subsequent courses. In the School of Graduate Studies, Departmental faculty play a major role in IDSP 111 (Proteins, Enzymes, & Generation of Metabolic Energy), IDSP 112 (Metabolism & Genetics) and IDSP 113 (Molecular Biology), the first of five interdisciplinary core courses required for graduate students in all five basic science departments: Cellular Biology and Anatomy, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Molecular and Cellular Physiology, and Microbiology and Immunology. Other important components of the teaching program are the seminar series, in which scientists from both inside and outside LSUHSC-S present research seminars of interest to the entire biomedical community, and the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology journal club.

Research constitutes a second mission of the Department. Our strong emphasis on discovery of new knowledge in biomedical science is borne out by the high degree of extramural funding attained by the faculty. Research productivity is measured by publication of original articles in refereed journals and invited review articles in journals and books. Graduate student involvement in research publication is a major priority. Invitations to speak at national and international meetings and at other universities serve as an indication of national recognition of our faculty's research expertise. The Department purchases and maintains a large number of research instruments and facilities for common use by Departmental investigators.

Service is also a Departmental mission. Faculty members serve scientific societies and grant funding agencies at the national level by holding offices, participating on grant review panels, and reviewing manuscripts submitted to journals. Faculty members also serve on the committees and hold the offices that are essential for the mission of the Medical Center. Service at the Departmental level includes recruitment of faculty and graduate students, assessment of space utilization, and maintenance of a variety of research facilities for the benefit of both Departmental members and those of other departments. Finally, Departmental members render professional services to the state, parish and local communities by consultation and participation in teaching activities.

  Robert E. Rhoads, Ph.D.
Professor and Head

Research Strengths

Research in the Department is geared towards solving fundamental problems in cancer biology, development, eukaryotic protein synthesis, free radicals and disease, genetics, molecular biology, protein chemistry, regulation of gene expression, signal transduction, and viral pathogenesis. Several labs focus on determining the mechanisms of cancer progression in the blood, breast, prostate, and skin. Screens to identify small molecules that target rapidly dividing cells are underway. Genetic studies using nematodes (C. elegans) and yeast (S. cerevisiae) seek to uncover pathways that regulate the development of the nervous system and the cell cycle, respectively. The regulation of eukaryotic protein synthesis and translational control of cancer progression are major focuses of the Department. Kinetic, mechanistic, and structural studies of molecular chaperones and tRNA synthetases focus on the role these proteins play in neurological disorders and apoptosis, respectively. Research in eukaryotic signal transduction is geared towards uncovering how signals are transmitted from the cell surface to the nucleus and the roles receptors, kinases, phosphatases and the proteosome play in these events. Chromatin's role in regulating gene expression, glucose transport, and insulin biochemistry are also active areas of research.


Departmental Resources

The Department, located on the 7th floors of the medical school building and the Biomedical Research Institute, is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment. Researchers have ready access to incubators and freezers, microscopes, preparative and ultra centrifuges, PCR machines, scintillation counters, a phosphoimager, a steady-state and lifetime fluorometer, a stopped-flow instrument, and a surface plasmon r esonance instrument (Biacore 2000). We also have a cell culture facility, 2 cold rooms, and a computer room. In addition, the Research Core Facility, located on the 6th floor of the BRI, is equipped with numerous technologies that may be used by all researchers at our institution. These technologies include Affymetrix DNA analysis, a MALDI-TOF mass spectrometer, a digital microscope, real-time PCR, flow cytometry, a confocal microscope, laser capture microdissection, an automated cellular imaging system, and a computer lab.

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