Universtiy of Miami Miller School of Medicine Graduate and Postdoctoral Programs

Mentor Selection


Selection of a mentor to supervise dissertation research is a major function during the first year of graduate study. Mentor selection is intended to be an experience in decision-making in a supportive environment that begins a very important developmental relationship.

The process of choosing a mentor will be discussed at the beginning of the first semester, formal discussions of research interests with faculty and informal meetings between students and faculty. Program choice is made simultaneously with mentor choice. Students may choose to enter any PhD program with which their mentors are affiliated.

Students are expected to choose a dissertation mentor by the end of the third rotation period, but may defer this decision to the end of the fourth rotation period (if necessary). Rotations beyond a fourth are limited to special cases and requires prior approval. Faculty and students may not commit to a permanent mentorship agreement until after the third rotation.

In the interim between mentor selection and the appointment of the dissertation committee, your advisor will work closely with the faculty mentor to ensure progress in academic and research matters. Following each laboratory rotation, students are evaluated by the rotation mentor until the dissertation committee assumes these responsibilities.

Should you need guidance or advise, please arrange an appointment with the PIBS Director.


Highlighted Faculty Research Interests

Updated: 30 NOVEMBER 2017

These are examples of possible faculty mentors, but please note that this is not a comprehensive list. Click on their names to access their faculty profile and CVs. We recommend thoroughly researching potential mentors and reaching out to them about their research. Should you need assistance finding appropriate rotation mentors, arrange an appointment with the PIBS Director for advising.

Last NameFirst NameAffAreas of Research
AkiyamaTasukuNEUOur research focuses on the molecular and cellular mechanisms of itch and pain. Our laboratory develops and uses multiple mouse models of chronic itch, including atopic dermatitis, psoriatic itch, and post-burn itch.
BanerjeeSantanuMDBMicrobiome, HIV, opportunistic infections, drugs of abuse, metabolism, inflammation, humanized mice, cholesterol, bile acids, toll-like receptors, mu-opioid receptor, morphine, heroin, cocaine, lung mucosa, ocular mucosa, gut mucosa.
BanerjeeSulagnaCABPancreatic cancer, tumor initiating cells, metabolism, chemoresistance and therapy
BarberGlenCAB MDB MICHost defense, cancer, immunology, Viruses, interferon, STING
BarrientosAntonioBMB MCP NEUMechanisms governing biogenesis of mitochondrial protein complexes in health, disease and aging.  Specifically, we are interested in the mitochondrial translation machinery, respiratory chain and oxidative phosphorylation system components.
BeurelEleonoreBMB, NEUInflammation, depression, T cells, cytokines, glycogen synthase kinase-3, nanoparticles
BhattacharyaSanjoyBMB NEUNeuroproteomics, posttranslational modification of diminution, local protein synthesis in neuronal dendrites.
BianchiLauraNEU, PHSThe role of glial ion channels and transporters in mediating the functional interaction between glia and neurons. The role of ion channels of the DEG/ENaC family in synaptic remodeling during development. Molecular mechanisms of neuronal death in ischemic models.
BishopricNanetteCAB MCPEpigenetics, histone deacetylase, breast cancer, heart failure, non-coding RNA, microRNA, Stem cell, genetics, apoptosis, RNASeq, gene targeting
BrambillaRobertaNEUNeuroinflammation, multiple sclerosis, remyelination, neuroimmune disease, cytokines, neurodegenerative disorders
BriegelKarolineBMB CABStem Cells, Developmental Biology, Breast Cancer,Transcription Factors, WNT Signaling
BuchwaldPeterMCPdrug discovery, small molecules, costimulatory blockade, TNF superfamily, Smad7 modulation, pancreatic islets
BurnsteinKerryCAB MCPprostate cancer, novel therapeutics, androgen receptor, microRNAs, vitamin D
Caicedo-ViekantAlejandroNEUCellular mechanisms that lead to highly orchestrated secretion of insulin and glucagon by human pancreatic islets.
CapobiancoAnthonyCABdrug discovery, cancer, Notch, WNT, stem cells
ChenZhibinCAB MICautoimmunity, diabetes, cancer, inflammation, tolerance, regeneration
DaunertSilviaBMBBioluminescent Proteins, Targeted Imaging, Targeted Delivery, Biosensors, Nanocarriers, Microbiome and Quorum Sensing, Breath Sensors
DeoSapnaBMBbionanotechnology, biochemistry, drug delivery
DharShantaBMB, CABNanomedicine, Mitochondrial Medicine, Cisplatin, Combination therapy, Drug Delivery, Biodegradable Nanoparticles
DeutscherMurrayBMBribonucleases-function, mechanism and regulation, RNA processing, RNA degradation, post-transcriptional regulation
FaghihiMohammadNEU Involvement on non-protein-coding RNAs in neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and Fragile X Syndrome.
FigueroaMariaCAB, HGGThe Figueroa lab studies the role of epigenetic modifications in transcriptional regulation during normal and malignant hemopoiesis. Our focus is mainly on how changes in normal epigenetic patterns occur during malignant transformation and how these changes may contribute to the leukemogenic process. We use a combination of computational approaches based on genome-wide next generation sequencing data as well as in vitro and in vivo modeling to determine the consequences of the epigenetic lesions that we have identified.
FornoniAlessiaBMB MCPkidney disease and transplantation, diabetes and cell metabolism, molecular and translational medicine, proteinuria and podocytes, reverse cholesterol transport, renal pathology and in vivo imaging, insulin signaling
GeorgeSophiaCABMy laboratory studies the biological determinants of high-grade serous ovarian cancer tumorigenesis in women at high-risk and the effects of inherited genetic mutations on the fallopian tube and their involvement in high-grade serous and cancer development. Specifically, in we study fallopian tube epithelia from women at a high-risk for developing breast and/or ovarian cancer – BRCA mutation carriers and their ability in vitro and ex vivo to use different DNA damage response mechanisms when exposed to cytotoxic stressors like sex hormones and inflammation.
HackamAbigailNEUCellular mechanism of photoreceptor degeneration, the role of inflammation in photoreceptor survival, signaling and neuronal-glial interactions and ocular tumor stem cells.
HarbourJ. WilliamBMB, CABCancer genetics, epigenetics and genomics, cancer stem cells, and metastasis, with a special focus on melanoma, retinoblastoma, and personalized genomic medicine.
HareJoshuaMCP
HuJenniferCAB HGGDNA damage/repair, genomics, metabolomics, cancer risk, precision medicine
HudsonBarryMDBCancer, diabetes, inflammation, cell signaling, RAGE
IsomDanielMCPstructural informatics, cancer informatics, pH sensors, drug design, high throughput screening
JainChaitanyaBMBRNA regulation, Prokaryotes, DEAD-box proteins, Ribonucleases, Ribosome Assembly
JopeRichardBMB NEUDepression, lithium cognition, Fragile X syndrome, multiple sclerosis
JurecicRolandBMB NEUResponses of the hematopoietic system and hematopoietic stem cells to infections, cancers and cancer therapy. Functional heterogeneity and clonal evolution of stem cells under stress and in diseases. Therapy for bone marrow failure syndromes and immune-mediated aplastic anemia
LandgrafRalfBMB, CABReceptor signaling, membrane gangliosides, protein quality control, fluorescent probes, aptamers, drug resistance
LarssonPeterNEU, PHSCardiac arrhythmias, ion channel physiology, voltage-gated ion channels, fluorescence, FRET, voltage clamp
LeeJaeNEUThe primary goal of our laboratory is to understand how glial cells respond to CNS injury in order to promote tissue repair and axon regeneration.
LeeStephenBMB CABTumor microenvironment adaptation, cancer cell dormancy, long noncoding RNA, protein mobility, hypoxic translation, drug discovery
LiWeiMCP NEUVision research, eye diseases, disease mechanism, therapy, retinal degeneration, vascular diseases
LippmanMarcCABBreast Cancer, Stromal Epithelial Interactions, Cancer Associated Fibroblasts, Depression, Myeloderived Suppressor Cells
LichtenheldMathiasMICCD8 and CD4 T-cells, nuclear programming for cytotoxicity, HIV, immune defense
LiuZhao-JunCABAngiogenesis, Vasculogenesis, Athetosclerosis, Notch, Bone Marrow Stem Cells, Melanoma, Wound Healing.
MalekThomasMICRegulatory T cells, T cell memory, interleukin-2, autoimmunity, type 1 diabetes, tumor immunotherapy
MashDeborahMCP NEUEpigenetics, gene expression, chemical neuroanatomy, toxicology, cocaine dependence, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, biospecimen science, postmortem human brain
MerchantNipunCABPancreatic cancer; tumor-stromal interactions; immune microenvironment; cell signaling; genetic mouse models; stem cells
Merscher-GomezSandraMCPKidney disease, mouse models, podocyte injury, cell signaling, cholesterol, lipids, sphingolipids, TNF alpha, ABCA1, SMPDL3b.
MesriEnriqueCAB, MIC Epigenetics, gene expression, chemical neuroanatomy, toxicology, cocaine dependence, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, biospecimen science, postmortem human brain
MoraesCarlosCAB, HGG, MDB, NEUMolecular basis of mitochondrial defects in metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases and in normal aging. We develop genetically-modified mouse models and develop models for gene therapy and for manipulating mitochondrial biogenesis.
MoreyLluisCAB, HGG“Stem cells, cancer, Polycomb, Epigenetics, histone modifications, ChIP-seq. The major aim Dr. Morey’s laboratory is to understand the molecular mechanisms leading to cancer. Cancer is a genetic disease, which develops as a consequence of mutations in our genome. Dr. Morey’s laboratory is particularly interested in the identification and characterization of epigenetic factors deregulated during cancer initiation and progression. Epigenetics is defined, as heritable changes in gene expression that does not involved changes in the underlying DNA sequence, resulting in phenotype changes. DNA-­methylation, histone modifications, and non-coding RNAs are the three main epigenetic mechanisms that initiate and sustain gene expression or repression. Therefore, Dr. Morey and his lab are also interested in elucidating the function of epigenetic genes mutated in cancer. Finally, Dr. Morey and his lab are using embryonic stem cells (ESC) as a tool to study early development programs and cellular differentiation. Interestingly, expression signatures that are specific to ESC are also found in many human cancers and in mouse cancer models, suggesting that these shared features might inform new approaches for cancer therapy.The main projects of Dr. Morey’s lab include: 1) Identification and characterization of cancer driving mutations in epigenetic regulators; 2) Identification and characterization of novel non-histone methyltransferases substrates; 3) Role of epigenetic factors associated with tumor initiation, cancer progression and metastasis; and 3) Cell fate modulation by Polycomb group proteins.
MunsonGeorgeMICPerforin-2, innate immunity, multidrug resistant Klebsiella and Acinetobacter, enterotoxigenic E. coli
PahwaSavitaPHSImmune dysfunction in HIV infected pediatric and adult patients
ParkKevinNEUMolecular mechanisms of axon regeneration in traumatic CNS injuries and neurodegenerative diseases. We use in vivo models, gene therapy and mouse genetics.
PeiXin-HaiCABCell Cycle Control, Breast Cancer, Tissue Stem Cells, Differentiation
PercivalJustinMCPObesity, diabetes, muscular dystrophy, nitric oxide signaling
Perez-PinzonMiguelNEUMechanisms of neuroprotection by ischemic preconditioning (IPC) against cerebral ischemia.  Specifically, we study pathways based on protein kinase C-epsilon or on NAD+-dependent class III histone deacetylase SIRT1. Synaptic plasticity, mitochondrial function and epigenetics in ischemic tolerance.
PorciattiVittorioNEUInvestigating retinal ganglion cell functional plasticity in human and mouse models of optic nerve diseases
RaiPriyamvadaCAB, MCPLung cancer, prostate cancer, oxidative stress, senescence, oncogenic RAS, DNA damage
RajguruSuhrudBMBOptical neural stimulation, neuroprosthetics, neurophysiology, and neuroprotection
RobbinsDavidCAB, MDBMy laboratory is focused on identifying novel therapeutic targets in the Sonic Hedgehog and Wnt signaling pathways. Specifically, ones that i) identify and target novel downstream components of these pathways commonly found to drive resistance via non-canonical activation of the signaling pathways in cancer, or ii) extend the therapeutic index between the on-target toxicities resulting from targeting normal tissue homeostasis and the chronic versions of these signaling pathways found in cancer cells. To develop and validate these novel therapeutic targets we focus on Sonic Hedgehog driven medulloblastoma and Wnt driven colorectal cancer models, using a variety of in vitro approaches, ex vivo three-dimensional cultures, and mouse models (cell line based xenografts, PDXs and GEMs).
RodriguesClaudia De OliveiraMCP, MDBVascular Biology, vascular homeostasis and endothelial dysfunction.
RosenblattJosephCAB MICImmune Therapy, Antibody Engineering, Vasculogenesis, B Regulatory Cells
SalatheMatthiasMCPAirway biology as it relates to smoking and cystic fibrosis. Full spectrum of basic, translational and clinical research.
SchatzJonathanCAB MIClymphoma, ALK, cap-dependent translation, preclinical therapeutics, kinase inhibitors, oncogene overdose
SchesserKurtMICHost-pathogen interactions; bacterial pathogenesis; cell biology
SchulmanIvonneMCPDr. Schulman’s research focuses on identifying the mechanisms underlying the cardiovascular regenerative capacity of stem cells. In particular, her studies investigate the effect of circulating factors and aging on stem cell growth and differentiation, as it relates to cardiovascular health, using the tools of cell and molecular biology, biochemistry, microscopy, and small animal models.
SchürerStephenHGG, MCPdrug discovery, cheminformatics, systems chemical biology, network poly-pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, big data
ScottWilliamHGG
ShedadehLinaMCPMciroRNAs, long noncoding RNAs, and aptamers in Cardiovascular Disease and Stem cells
ShestopalovValeryMDBvision research, cell biology, lens, retina, ganglion cells, astrocytes, pannexin1, purinergic signaling, danger signaling, systems biology of disease, glaucoma, ischemia, intraocular pressure, ocular microbiome, ocular microbial ecology
ShembadeNoulaMICChronic inflammation mediated by oncogenic virus infection plays a decisive role in the development of leukemias and lymphomas. Oncogenic virus infection-mediated chronic inflammation also affects immune surveillance and responses to therapy. Inflammation is chronically activated in Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL or ATLL) caused by human T-cell lymphotropic virus-1 (HTLV-1), primary effusion lymphoma (PEL) and multicentric Castleman’s disease caused by Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), and Burkitt’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma caused by Epstein–Barr virus (EBV). In addition, immunodeficiency caused by HIV-1 infection dramatically increases susceptibility to viral-mediated cancers. The chronic inflammation caused by oncogenic viruses in HIV (+) individuals is responsible for the development of numerous cancers, including leukemias and lymphomas. The viral oncogenes of HTLV-1, KSHV, and EBV maintain chronic inflammation by aberrant activation of transcription factors NF-kappaB (NF-κB) and Signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT). However, the mechanisms underlying this dysregulation are poorly understood.  Moreover, current treatments used to alleviate or prevent chronic inflammatory-related diseases and oncogenic virus-mediated leukemias and lymphomas are largely ineffective, thus resulting in an acute demand for new and more effective therapies. The broad focus of my research program is to determine the mechanisms and the host factors that facilitate viral oncogene-mediated chronic inflammation in HTLV-1, KSHV, and EBV-infected cells as well as in HIV (+) individuals, and investigate potential therapeutics for leukemias and lymphomas caused by oncogenic viruses.
ShiekhattarRaminCAB HGG NEUTranscription, Chromatin, Long noncoding RNAs, Cancer Biology, Super-enhancers
SlepakVladlenMCP NEUNovel mechanisms in G protein signal transduction. We work on receptors in the eye, neuronal and pancreatic cells, with relevance for hormonal regulation of obesity, diabetes and ocular disorders.
SlingerlandJoyceBMB CABCell cycle, signal transduction, PI3K, SRC, stem cells, estrogen receptor
StevensonMarioMIC MDBResearch in the Stevenson lab is aimed at understanding how HIV-1 persists in the face of antiretroviral suppression. While antivirals can control viral replication, they don’t eliminate the virus and identifying how the virus persists is key to developing strategies to cure the infection. The lab is also trying to harness the antiviral activity of cellular factors known as antiviral restrictions. Several host proteins have been identified that potently suppress HIV-1 replication. However, the virus has evolved counter defenses that neutralize these antiviral restrictions. We are developing small molecules that neutralize viral defenses so as to allow the antiviral restrictions to neutralize the virus.
StrboNatasaMICVaccine development,  gp96-Ig, HIV, malaria, Zika, skin and reproductive tract immunology, gamma delta T cells
SzczesnaDanutaMCPStriated Muscle Contraction, EC Coupling, Sarcomeric Proteins, Myosin, Genetic Cardiomyopathies, Transgenic Mice
ThomasEnmanuelCAB MDB MICvirology, cell biology, innate immunity, HIV, cancer, viral hepatitis, liver
ToborekMichalBMBHIV, blood-brain barrier, drug abuse, neuroinflammation, neuroscience, molecular biology
Vazquez-PadronRobertoMCPc-Kit, atherosclerosis, research/mechanistic, cardiovascular, animal models
VelazquezOmaidaBMB Angiogenesis, Vasculogenesis, Athetosclerosis, Notch, Bone Marrow Stem Cells, Melanoma, Wound Healing.
VerdunRamiroCABDNA repair, genomic instability, mechanisms of genotoxicity, telomeres, antibody class switching.
WahlestedtClaesCAB HGG MCP NEUDrug discovery, epigenetics, gene expression, RNA, brain diseases, cancer.
WangGaofengHGG NEUfunctional genomics of hereditary diseases, redox in epigenetic regulation, regulation of epigenome by vitamin C and the chromosome 10q26 locus in age-related macular degeneration
WatkinsDavidMDBVaccines, treatment, HIV, Dengue, CD8 T cells, neutralizing antibodies.
Widerström-NogaEvaNEUIdentifying clinical correlates to mechanisms underlying pain after neurological injury. We use in-depth assessments of pain, psychosocial impact, neurological dysfunction, and biomarkers.
XuMingjiangBMB CABepigenetic regulation, DNA demethylation, hematological malignancies, TET2, disease murine model, hematopoietic stem cells
YangFeng-ChunBMBEpigenetics, myeloid malignancies, translational research, ASXL1, murine model, histone modification.
ZeierZaneMCP, NEUMy primary area of expertise and training pertains to a group of neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders that result from repeat expansion mutations including Fragile X syndrome (FXS) and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The associated genetic lesions disrupt chromatin dynamics and produce toxic RNAs and proteins. To investigate the pathogenic mechanisms of disease, I use genetic, epigenetic and proteomic techniques to profile clinical samples including post-mortem brain tissues. One of my research projects will use fluorescent biosensors to investigate defects in nucleocytoplasmic transport and to screen small molecule compound libraries in a cell-based high-content-imaging assay. I use various pre-clinical model systems including induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and artificial human brains derived from stem cells to investigate neurodegeneration and human brain development. Using these “brain organoids” I am investigating the role of an epigenetic enzyme in the disruption of neural fate specification during Zika viral infections. I use a number of techniques and experimental tools including cellular reprogramming, genomic editing, pharmacological inhibition, epigenetic profiling and automated fluorescent microscopy to pursue my various basic science and drug discovery interests.
ZelentArthurCABRetinoic acid receptor gamma, Retinoic acid receptor isoforms, Variant t(11;17) translocation in APL and PLZF-RARalpha fusion protein, Role of nuclear receptor co-repressors and histone deacetylases in APL, Histone deacetylase 9, LSD1 as a therapeutic target in AML
ZhangFangliangMCPPosttranslational Modification, Arginylation, Stress Response, Cell-Cell Adhesions, Talin, Caherin
ZhangYanbinBMBDr. Yanbin Zhang’s group is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms of DNA repair and mutagenesis in human cells. His lab is currently working on defining roles of DNA repair proteins in genome stability and cancer development.
ZüchnerStephanHGGDr. Züchner’s research interests are focused on identifying genetic variation associated with disease. His lab has identified dozens of genes for Mendelian disorders, especially rare neurodegenerative diseases, such as peripheral neuropathies, spastic paraplegias, ataxias, etc. His lab is amongst the pioneering groups that have promoted genome sequencing methods for disease gene identification in humans, mice, and drosophila. He is currently pursuing large - scale exome and genome analysis in multiple Mendelian neurodegenerative disorders to map their complex genetic architecture. We are interested in the interface of molecular genetics and applied computational methods to achieve these goals. Students with an interest and skills in bioinformatics, programming, but also molecular genetic details are the best fit for the current lab projects.