Cell & Molecular Biology Graduate Group

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Developmental, Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology

Overview | Research, Communication & Outreach| Program Course Requirements

Program Overview
Faculty labs affiliated with DSRB are addressing key questions in developmental biology, stem cell/niche interactions, and regenerative biology.  The thread that unites these areas is the compelling drive to understand how tissues are formed, maintained and repaired.  The primary mission of the DSRB program is the training of students in hypothesis-driven research at the forefront of these areas.  Since it is so essential that we scientists communicate “what we do” and “why” to both our scientific peers and to the community at large, our program also emphasizes intellectual exchange and outreach, with activities geared to collective student participation. DSRB also benefits from the support of an NIH-funded Developmental Biology Training Grant . 

DSRB Executive Committee:
Jonathan Raper; Professor of Neuroscience
Michael Granato, Professor of Cell & Developmental Biology
Sarah Millar, Professor Dermatology
Montserrat Anguera, Assistant Professor of Animal Biology, the Vet School
Francesca Tuazon, Student Representative

DSRB Admissions Committee:
Greg Bashaw, Professor of Neuroscience
Paul Gadue, Associate Professor, Pathology & Lab Medicine

DSRB First year Advisors:
Steve DiNardo, Professor of Cell & Developmental Biology
Judith Grinspan, Research Associate Professor of Neurology
Wenqin Luo, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience

DSRB Second (Prelim) year advisors:
Greg Bashaw, Professor of Neuroscience
Patrick Seale, Associate Professor of Cell & Developmental Biology

DSRB Curriculum Committee:
Dan Kessler, Professor of Cell & Developmental Biology
Chris Lengner, Associate Professor of Animal Biology
Mary Mullins, Professor of Cell & Developmental Biology

DSRB Students will be exposed to interdisciplinary training in gametogenesis; embryonic and fetal development; nervous system development and its wiring; the genesis of tissues and organ systems as well as their homeostasis, metabolism and repair. Exciting work is unraveling the basic biology of these processes, as well as understanding the consequences of and working toward the amelioration of diseases affecting their function. Complementing these areas is work on Embryonic Stem Cells (ESCs) and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs; patient-derived iPSCs), using genome-scale approaches to understand disease processes in vitro in order to develop cell replacement strategies for therapy. The proximity of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, a world-renowned academic medical center, provides unparalleled opportunity for translational research.

DSRB Students have at their disposal all the tools of the modern genomic era. For example, some students have been developing high-throughput and genomic-scale screens, using deep sequencing, ChIP-SEQ, RNAi tools or small molecule libraries. That work is supported by courses in Biostatistics and in Genomics & Computational Biology (see Electives, below). Other students are capitalizing on classical genetic analyses and screens. Some have been utilizing high-resolution microscopy techniques, including liveimaging of cells, organs and tissues in vivo, while others have adapted novel biochemical, epigenetic and cell biological approaches to their questions. Some students are actively isolating and manipulating ESCs and iPSCs, as well as characterizing the nuclear reprogramming events required to coax these cells into distinct neuroepithelial, mesodermal or endodermal lineages, an essential step in taking these powerful, biomedically promising entities into the clinic. Facilitating this work, is access to world-class cores, including those for Next Generation Sequencing, Proteomics, the Zebrafish facility, Stem cell & Xenografting, and Microscopy, to name but a few (http://www.med.upenn.edu/cores/).

A wide variety of experimental model systems are accessible to the student within DSRB. This situation not only facilitates comparative and collaborative work, but can significantly speed that work. For example, progress might be begun in one system highly adapted to a particular approach, and then work might shift to another system more amenable for addressing the next part of the problem. The systems used in DSRB labs include plants, such as Arabidopsis; the yeasts; several invertebrate organisms, such as the nematode worm, fruitfly and ant; various vertebrate models, such as zebra fish, the frog, chick, rat and mouse.

Click on the links below to see a list of Faculty working in particular areas:

Embryo & Fetal development
Cell Migration, Polarity and Morphogenesis
Neurogenesis and Axonogenesis
Tissue & Organ Formation
Stem Cell/Niche Interactions
Regenerative Biology
Epigenetics, gene regulatory networks & signal integration

An important facet of each student’s training is the ability to communicate effectively and interact productively with scientific peers. For this reason, the DSRB program uses several mechanisms to guide students in communicating their research. This includes a popular biweekly student research lunch - - a very successful forum, fostering cohesion among the students in DSRB. Communication skills are also sharpened by opportunities to host student-invited seminar speakers; to give presentations at various symposia, such as the CAMB Graduate Symposium, and various Departmental or Institute symposia; and finally, opportunities to present at national and international meetings.

The students we train have an important responsibility to enhance scientific and technological understanding within our communities. We want our students to convey to diverse audiences the general excitement about DSRB research as well as of their own specific accomplishments. For these reasons, DSRB supports and encourages the participation of interested students in any one of several proven outreach activities. Opportunities range from a semester as a teaching assistant to participation in a nationally renowned outreach program, or mentoring an intern in a research project for a summer. Encouraging outreach aligns the DSRB program track with the Penn Compact, "Engaging Locally" (http://www.upenn.edu/president/penn-compact/engage-locally-nationally-and-globally. An appropriate time for our graduate students to participate in outreach would be in the middle-to-out years of their work, when coursework is complete and a thesis project is solidly underway.

Example opportunities
-- Participate in the renowned outreach programs, “BioEYES”: with over 12 years in area public schools, this program is managed by Dr. Jamie Shuda, an experienced educator who develops university-community partnerships in science. She will provide training, help establish relationships with students and teachers, and serve as a mentor to help assess impact and effectiveness. Students are encouraged to adapt the existing programs to best communicate their research focus to the most appropriate audience. http://bioeyes.org/index.html.

-- The “Summer Undergraduate Internship Program (SUIP)”: http://www.med.upenn.edu/bgs/applicants_suip.shtml
Run successfully by Biomedical Graduate Studies for over 15 years, the program serves some 30 college interns each summer, and particularly so, those from underrepresented minority groups or disadvantaged backgrounds, those with disabilities, or who attend small colleges. In this program you will directly oversee the intern’s research in collaboration with your PI, and coach them in their summer’s end presentation to the Leadership Alliance National Symposium.

DSRB gratefully acknowledges the essential support of:
The CAMB graduate group; The Penn Institute for Regenerative Medicine; The Penn Cardiovascular Institute; The Center for Research on Reproduction and Women's Health; The Departments of "Cell and Developmental Biology", "Dermatology", "Medicine", and "Animal Biology".

Overview | Research, Communication & Outreach| Program Course Requirements

Program course requirements

A list of all CAMB courses and their descriptions can be found here.

Typical course & research schedule for DSRB students:

First year --
Fall - BIOM 600 Cell Biology & Biochemistry
      - CAMB 605 First year seminar (literature readings + discussions)
      - Lab Rotation

Spring - BIOM 555 Regulation of the Genome
          - BIOM 611 Biological Data Analysis
          - CAMB 511 Principles of Development (required for DSRB)
          - Lab Rotations #2 & #3, each lasting 11 weeks

Summer - Research in prospective thesis lab

Second year --
Fall of second year: DSRB students must choose one of these concept-based, seminar-style offerings

CAMB 597 Neurodevelopment, Regeneration & Repair Seminar (Bashaw & Luo)
The course integrates neural specification & development, with essential functions of neurons in guidance, synapse formation and function, along with neural Regeneration & Repair.

CAMB 697 Stem Cells (Gadue & Lengner)
The course covers the challenges in stem cell & regeneration biology including reprogramming, embryonic and tissue-specific stem cells, tissue regeneration, and tissue engineering.

One Elective, chosen based on research interest; can be one of the above (not chosen to satisfy the requirement), or any graduate-level course integral to your research

- Thesis lab Research

Spring of second year:

- Two Electives
- CAMB 695 Scientific Writing (strongly recommended)

- Thesis lab Research

-  Oral defense of the Prelim Proposal

See the"CAMB Academics" section for more detailed information about courses, rotations and the Prelim Proposal and exam.

Elective choices:

Students have tremendous flexibility, and in consultation with faculty advisors will select electives that fit their research interests and prospective directions.

Suggested electives follow:

CAMB 534: Seminar on Current Genetic Research
CAMB 541: Genetic Systems
CAMB 542: Topics in Molecular Medicine
CAMB 550: Genetic Principles
CAMB 597: Neural Development, Regeneration and Repair
CAMB 608: Regulation of Eukaryotic Gene Expression
CAMB 630: Topics in Human Genetics
CAMB 632: Cell Control by Signal Transduction Pathways
CAMB 691/ CAMB 692: Advanced Topics in Cell Biology and Physiology
CAMB 697: The Biology of Stem Cells
GCB 535: Introduction to BioInformatics
GCB 536: Computational Biology
BIOL 446: Statistics for Biologists

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