Physiology is the study of how living systems function. Physiologists seek to describe biological processes in physical and chemical terms. Accordingly, physiologists can be trained in diverse, which enable them to bring unique insights and technical approaches to study living systems from the sub-cellular level to the whole organism. For example, faculty in our Department have been trained in chemistry, medicine, zoology, physics, biochemistry, mathematics, biophysics, cell and developmental biology, neurobiology, and, believe it or not, physiology. Physiologists may be interested in the molecular function of individual molecules such as enzymes, membrane transporters, or molecular motors, or in how these molecules interact within a network to generate higher-level biological activities.

Penn Physiology faculty have particular strengths in the molecular biophysics of membrane transport proteins and biological motors, as well as in the cell physiology and integrative biology of transport, motility, signaling and metabolism. We employ a wide range of experimental techniques in the fields of cell and molecular biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics. It may not be an overstatement to suggest that Physiology enables insights from biophysics, biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, genetics, and pharmacology to be described in an integrated manner that can be applied to human medicine. Much of clinical medicine relies on understanding molecular, cellular and organ-system physiology.

Adam Fenton (Holzbaur Lab)

Organizing organelles in a neuron: The image highlights the elaborate architecture of a dendritic arbor of a rat hippocampal neuron and depicts contacts between mitochondria (magenta), Rab7-positive late endosomes/lysosomes (cyan), and FMRP-positive RNA granules (yellow) that help determine the organization of this neuron. (Co-authors: Erika Holzbaur, Tom Jongens)

Jennifer Petrosino, PhD (Prosser Lab)

tRNA localization in an adult rat cardiomyocyte. orange stains the microtubules, blue stains tRNA-GlyGCC, and purple stains the nucleus.

Natasha Jaiswal, PhD (Titchenell Lab)

Neuromuscular Junction in Whole Skeletal Muscles: The neuromuscular junction (NMJ) is a complex structure that mediates the cross-talk between motor neurons and muscle fibers, serving as the master controller of many facets of skeletal muscle contractile function. The confocal image of the mature NMJs in EDL muscles shows the postsynaptic apparatus (red pretzel-like nicotinic acetylcholine receptor) and motor neuron (green).

Jose Angel Martinez Sarmiento (Lakadamyali Lab)

Kissing Nuclei: Two human fibroblast cells were experimentally fused into a binucleated cell and their nuclei were imaged using the super-resolution microscopy technique STORM. The picture here is a color-coded rendering of Voronoi density for Histone 2B

Emily Scarborough, PhD (Prosser Lab)

Isolated adult rat cardiomyocyte illustrating the stochasticity of transcriptional activation both among nuclei and among transcripts within the same cell. Hoechst is shown in gray, alpha-actinin protein immunofluorescence is shown in blue, and Actc1 and Actn2 mRNA transcripts are shown in yellow and magenta, respectively.

Our Research
The multi-disciplinary approaches employed by our faculty encourage scientific collaborations with scientists in other departments throughout the Perelman School of Medicine and beyond.
The Physiology Department is comprised of faculty whose research ranges from studies of single molecule behaviors to integrative physiology. In addition, many of our faculty have formal ties to other entities at Penn, including The Pennsylvania Muscle Institute, The Center for Orphan Disease Research and Therapy, The Institute for Environmental Medicine, the Abramson Cancer Center, the Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism and the Center for Nanotechnology, among others. Our faculty are also strongly committed to medical and graduate student education, with leadership roles in courses, seminars and journal clubs in Physiology, Biochemistry, Molecular Biophysics, Cell Biology, and many more.

Charlie Bond (Lakadamyali Lab)

This is a 3D super-resolution image of mitochondria in a cos7 cell. The color bar corresponds to z-position within the cell, with blue corresponding to the lowest point in the cell and red the highest.

Hannah Kim (Lakadamyali Lab)

Super Resolution Image

Kyle Barrie (Dominguez Lab)

This image depicts 4 cryo-EM 2D class averages for the cytoskeletal protein CARMIL. 2D class averages are used in cryo-EM to ensure that the target particle is homogenous and contains well-defined features necessary to determine the structure. These class averages of CARMIL not only depict the well-defined features of the molecule, but also show the unique figure-8 shape formed from antiparallel leucine-rich repeat folds.

Qing Tang, PhD (Lakadamyali Lab)

Super Resolution Image

From Our Chair
J. Kevin Foskett, Ph.D.
Welcome to the Department of Physiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Our Department is devoted to research, training, and education and strives to push the boundaries of scientific discovery and academic development. The Department’s internationally recognized faculty, in conjunction with post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, and staff, use innovative tools to uncover physical and chemical mechanisms of biological processes. Our frontiers span the molecular to organ level to determine how the human body functions in health and disease. We welcome your interest and invite you to spend time on our site.

The Lakadamyali Lab

Super-resolution image of microtubules and tau aggregates (α-tubulin in magenta P301L tau in cyan) (in cells that express GFP-P301L tau and contain tau aggregates) Credit: Melina Gyparaki

Carol Deutsch, PhD

The Deutsch laboratory is the only one studying the early stages of folding of Kv proteins and one of a few laboratories studying the functional biophysical properties of the exit tunnel.

Benjamin Prosser, PhD

Ben is an emerging leader in new, exciting aspects of the molecular physiology of cardiomyocyte function and signaling. The photo featured here is credited to his lab.

Zhe Lu, MD, PhD

Zhe Lu, MD, PhD is an internationally recognized leader in studies of potassium channel ion permeation.

Our Faculty

Get to know our multi-disciplinary Faculty members.