Universtiy of Miami Miller School of Medicine Graduate Studies

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: May 28, 2020

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.

Explore University of Miami’s Research Profiles

Review the Mentoring and Training Agreement

Last NameFirst NameAffAreas of Research
AbreuMaria TeresaMICRole of TLR4 and the microbiome in colitis associated neoplasia; Translational Research Training in Gastroenterology and Hepatology
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; Warmth enhancement of itch via TRPV4; The neuronal circuits of affective itch
AroraHimanshuCAB HGGOur lab is focused on (1) understanding the link between development, malignant conversion and progression of Prostate cancer; (2) identify the molecular mechanisms that lead to the loss of normal differentiation and affect the prostate tumor microenvironment, and (3) work in an interdisciplinary manner to apply this knowledge in order to revolutionize the way prostate cancer is treated. In these projects, our lab uses wet lab (Lab techniques, in-vivo and in-vitro models) and dry lab (Regular Bioinformatics pipelines, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning etc.) techniques to understand the genetic and immunological processes underlying the questions we are interested in addressing. Additionally, we are actively involved in Active Surveillance Clinical Trials in Prostate Cancer Patients, being conducted by Department of Urology and Department of Radiation Oncology.  Moreover, our lab focuses on translational research projects on Leydig stem cells and their ability to produce Androgens (Testosterone). Currently we are trying to understand the significance of Testicular microenvironment in modulating androgen production and how it is affected differently with respect to patient’s BMI.
AtkinsColeenNEUThe overall research objective of our laboratory is to determine how the cellular signaling mechanisms that underlie learning and memory become dysfunctional after TBI and develop new treatment strategies to reverse these chronic learning impairments.  Currently, we are exploring the potential of selective PDE4B and 4D inhibitors to elevate cAMP signaling and improve chronic learning and memory deficits after TBI. We are also testing pharmacological strategies targeting the cholinergic system to restore theta rhythm in the chronic recovery period of TBI. Rehabilitation Strategies for Memory Dysfunction after Traumatic Brain Injury
AyadNagiHGG MCP NEUEpigenetic and Kinase Pathway Interactions in Medulloblastoma
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; Functional Significance of CD133 in Pancreatic Cancer
BarberGlenCAB MDB MICHost defense, cancer, immunology, Viruses, interferon, STING. The Role of STING in Innate Immunity; Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) Replication in Malignant Cells
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; Mitochondrial Biogenesis in Health and Disease.
BarroRenePHSI study physical principles underlying ion channel function within both physiological and pathophysiological contexts. My research focuses on understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which ion channel defects in excitable cells cause disorders such as epilepsy and neuropathic pain as well as designing small molecules for treating these diseases. I use single molecule fluorescence approaches, functional imaging, electrophysiology and optogenetics. Molecular Mechanisms of Epilepsy-Causing Mutations in IKM channels.
BedogniBarbara Targeting the developmental pathways Notch and ERBB for melanoma therapy; Selective inhibition of Notch1 and ERBB3 by novel neutralizing antibodies to treat melanoma
Bernal-MizrachiErnesto AKT/mTOR signaling and regulation of cell cycle in B-cells; Nutrient signals and programming of pancreas development
BeurelEleonoreBMB, NEUInflammation, depression, T cells, cytokines, glycogen synthase kinase-3, nanoparticles. Th17 cells as a new therapeutic target for depression. The microbiota; a possible link between Th17 cells and depression.
BhattacharyaSanjoyBMB NEUNeuroproteomics, posttranslational modification of diminution, local protein synthesis in neuronal dendrites. Neuroproteomics, 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.
BrambillaRobertaNEUNeuroinflammation, multiple sclerosis, remyelination, neuroimmune disease, cytokines, neurodegenerative disorders. Molecular mechanisms of the protective function of oligodendroglial TNFR2: a new therapeutic target in neuro-immune disease.
BriegelKarolineBMB CABStem Cells, Developmental Biology, Breast Cancer,Transcription Factors, WNT Signaling
BrothersShaunHGG MCPDevelopment of Nociceptin Receptor Agonists for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Upregulation of Iduronidase Enzyme in MPSI Disease.
BuchwaldPeterMCPdrug discovery, small molecules, costimulatory blockade, TNF superfamily, Smad7 modulation, pancreatic islets
BurnsteinKerryCAB MCPprostate cancer, novel therapeutics, androgen receptor, microRNAs, vitamin D
Caicedo-ViekantAlejandroMDB NEUCellular mechanisms that lead to highly orchestrated secretion of insulin and glucagon by human pancreatic islets.
ChaudhariNirupaNEU PHSSingle-cell transcriptomics and neuronal identities, sensory neuron-peripheral target interactions, in vivo Calcium imaging. Integrating molecular and functional approaches to understand chemosensory pathways.
ChenZhibinCAB MICautoimmunity, diabetes, cancer, inflammation, tolerance, regeneration
CollinsKevinNEUOur lab uses the nematode worm, C. elegans, to understand how neuromodulators like serotonin drive changes in neural circuit activity that underlie distinct behavior states. We use a combination of molecular and optogenetic techniques along with calcium imaging in behaving animals to understand the mechanisms regulating synaptic transmission.
DaunertSylviaBMBBioluminescent Proteins, Targeted Imaging, Targeted Delivery, Biosensors, Nanocarriers, Microbiome and Quorum Sensing, Breath Sensors
DeoSapnaBMBbionanotechnology, biochemistry, drug delivery
Dominguez-BendalaJuanMDBPancreatic islet stem cells
DongChunming MicroRNAs as Determinants of Endothelial Progenitor Cell Senescence. The Role of Exosomes and Exosomal RNAs as Biomarkers and Mediators for HIV-Associated Atherosclerosis.
El-RifaiWaelCABTargets of Gene Overexpression at 17q in Gastric Tumorigenesis: Darpp32. The Role of Aurora Kinase in Upper Gastrointestinal Adenocarcinomas. The Molecular Functions of APE1 in Barrett’s Tumorigenesis.
FrakerChristopher Optimizing encapsulation to treat Type 1 diabetes mellitus: the role of oxygenation; antigen shedding and innate immune response in graft success.
FontanesiFlaviaBMBMitochondrial function and biogenesis
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
GilboaEliCAB MICEnhancing Immunological Memory Using Aptamertargeted siRNA Delivery to T Cells. Enhancing Immunological Memory Using Aptamertargeted siRNA Delivery to T Cells. Reversing HIV T cell dysfunction by aptamer targeting of therapeutic siRNAs.
HackamAbigailNEUCellular mechanism of photoreceptor degeneration, the role of inflammation in photoreceptor survival, signaling and neuronal-glial interactions and ocular tumor stem cells.
HaoShuanglinNEUNeuropathic mechanisms and gene therapy on opioid dependence. A new pathway of spinal neurons in neuropathic pain induced by HIV with opioid.
HarbourJ. WilliamBMB, CABCancer genetics, epigenetics and genomics, cancer stem cells, and metastasis, with a special focus on melanoma, retinoblastoma, and personalized genomic medicine.
HareJoshuaMCPCardioprotective Effect of Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone. Cell Based Therapy for Non-Ischemic Dilated Cardiomyopathy. Nitric Oxide and sex differences in cardiac repair.
IsomDanielMCPstructural informatics, cancer informatics, pH sensors, drug design, high throughput screening
IvanovDmitry Mechanisms of toll-like receptor-mediated neurotoxicity in the ischemic retina.
JainChaitanyaBMBRNA regulation, Prokaryotes, DEAD-box proteins, Ribonucleases, Ribosome Assembly
JurecicRolandCAB MDB MICResponses 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
LeeJaeNEUTargeting lipid clearance pathways to promote repair after SCI.
LeeRichardMDB NEUMy lab focuses on the molecular, cellular, proteomic, and neurophysiologic basis of glaucoma in experimental and human models. Using cutting edge experimental techniques and technologies, my lab is identifying pathways important for the development of glaucoma and retinal nerve cell death. These molecular pathways represent important new targets for the development of neuroprotective strategies to prevent blindness associated with glaucoma.
LeeStephenBMB CABTumor microenvironment adaptation, cancer cell dormancy, long noncoding RNA, protein mobility, hypoxic translation, drug discovery
LossosIzidoreCAB MCPDr. Lossos is a national and international expert in lymphoma. His laboratory is investigating pathogenesis of several subtypes of lymphoma. The studies include pathogenesis of lymphoma, intracellular signaling, micro and long non coding RNAs, DNA repair as a new mechanisms of targeting lymphoma, lymphoma immunology, studies of specific genes (LMO2 and HGAL) and development of new therapeutic approaches. With more than 250 publications in very prestigious journals and majority of previous students doing postdoc fellowships in top US universities (Harvard, Stanford, and others) – the students may consider rotation in the laboratory.
MalekThomasMICRegulatory T cells, T cell memory, interleukin-2, autoimmunity, type 1 diabetes, tumor immunotherapy
MarplesBrianCAB(PQ 12) Targeting SMPDL3b to Prevent Radiation-Induced Nephrotoxicity.
McCauleyJacobHGGDr. McCauley is a genetic epidemiologist whose primary interest is to improve the understanding of human disease through disease gene discovery, genomics, and in-depth examination of environmental factors that influence disease outcome. His research focuses on the use of molecular techniques, bioinformatics, and statistical methods to identify genetic variation and to characterize its role in disease susceptibility and outcomes within a variety of human diseases.
MerchantNipunCABPancreatic cancer; tumor-stromal interactions; immune microenvironment; cell signaling; genetic mouse models; stem cells
MesriEnriqueCAB, MIC Epigenetics, gene expression, chemical neuroanatomy, toxicology, cocaine dependence, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, biospecimen science, postmortem human brain
MunsonGeorgeMICPerforin-2, innate immunity, multidrug resistant Klebsiella and Acinetobacter, enterotoxigenic E. coli
NogaBrianNEUGait ignition after SCI
PahwaSavitaMICImmune 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.
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.
PlanoGregoryMICRole of Yersinia pestis Ail-host ligand interactions in plague
PuglieseAlberto Serum miRNA Biomarkers of Islet Autoimmunity. Low-dose IL-2 in Established T1D. Research Project 3 Galectin-1-glycan interactions: Novel regulatory checkpoints linking immunosuppression and angiogenesis in virally induced cancers.
RaiPriyamvadaCAB, MCPLung cancer, prostate cancer, oxidative stress, senescence, oncogenic RAS, DNA damage
RiegerSandraNEUThe research project is related to the identification of mechanisms of Paclitaxel-induced peripheral small fiber neuropathy using zebrafish as a model. We found that Paclitaxel treatment induces the expression of the matrix-degrading enzyme, MMP-13 in the basal epidermis and we are interested in the role of MMP-13 in axon degeneration. Our model predicts that MMP-13 increases matrix degradation in the epidermis, which in combination with mechanical stress promotes axon degeneration. The prospective student would use in vivo time-lapse imaging with biophysical methodologies to look at the mechanical properties of the skin in the presence and absence of paclitaxel. For example, we have designed a zebrafish stretching device to assess the mechanical properties of the skin due to stretch. Another approach would be to measure fluorocarbon oil droplet distortion in the Paclitaxel-damaged skin. The project would further involve the analysis of cell adhesion in the skin and how it is affected by paclitaxel treatment. We also have a MMP-13 mutant line that can be used to study the specific involvement of MMP-13.
RobbinsDavidCAB, MDBMy laboratory is focused on identifying novel therapeutic targets in the Sonic Hedgehog and Wnt signaling pathways.
RodriguesClaudia De OliveiraMCP, MDBVascular Biology, vascular homeostasis and endothelial dysfunction.
RoperStephenNEU PHSImaging Molecules and Circuits in Peripheral Taste Pathways. Orosensory pain following oxaliplatin chemotherapy.
RoySabitaCABOpioids, GUT-Immune Brain axis, Microbiome, Co-morbidities associated with substance abuse, HIV, opportunistic infection, other drugs of abuse including cocaine, methamphetamine, medicinal marijuana, IBD, Cancer, peripheral neuropathy
SalujaAshokCABRole of HSP70 in Pancreatic Diseases. Triptolide Augments Death Receptor Mediated Apoptosis in Pancreatic Cancer. Evaluation of Deleterious Effects of Opioids in Pancreatitis. Relative Contribution of Trypsin and Inflamation in Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis. The Role of Microbiome Modulation in Morphine-Induced Exacerbation of Pancreatitis.
SaportaMarioNEUThe Saporta lab focuses in the study of human genetic neurodegenerative disorders with special interest in inherited axonopathies. We use induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) and iPSC-derived motor neurons as our main model to study mechanisms involved in axonal degeneration and as a platform for therapy development. Axonal degeneration, induced pluripotent stem cells, motor neurons, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
SchesserKurtMICHost-pathogen interactions in the liver and placenta; characterizing cellular host factors and processes that limit pathogen activities
SchürerStephanHGG, MCPThe core research theme at the Schürer group is systems drug discovery.  We integrate and model small molecule-protein interaction, systems biology ‘omics’, and chemistry data to improve translation of disease models into novel functional small molecules.  Using distributed and parallelized big data analytics, bio- and chemoinformatics tools we build sophisticated modeling pipelines to understand and predict drug mechanism of action, promiscuity and polypharmacology with a particular focus on kinases and epigenetic bromodomain reader proteins with application to cancer and other diseases.  In several focused as well as larger-scale projects, we develop formal ontologies (e.g. BioAssay Ontology, Drug Target Ontology), data standards, and end-user multi-tier software applications. We have several drug discovery collaborations ranging from cancer to neurological disorders. To physically make and test the most promising small molecules, we are developing computationally-optimized synthetic routes and we use parallel synthesis technologies to make small compound libraries.  The combination of computational and chemistry methodologies accelerated lead optimization and the development towards clinical compounds.
SerafiniPaoloMICAptamer chimeras for the in vivo modulation of beta cell mass and immunogenicity.
ShehadehLinaMCPMciroRNAs, 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
StelekatiEriettaMICThe role of non-coding RNAs in T cell differentiation and function; microRNAs as novel therapeutics for immunotherapy; the molecular and epigenetic mechanisms of T cell reinvigoration upon immunotherapy
StevensonMarioMIC MDBResearch in the Stevenson lab is aimed at understanding how HIV-1 persists in the face of antiretroviral suppression.
Szczesna-CordaryDanutaMCPStriated Muscle Contraction, EC Coupling, Sarcomeric Proteins, Myosin, Genetic Cardiomyopathies, Transgenic Mice
TekinMustafaHGGA Collaborative Search for New Genes for Non-Syndromic Deafness. Genetic Studies of Inner Ear Anomalies.
ThomasEnmanuelCAB MDB MICvirology, cell biology, innate immunity, HIV, cancer, viral hepatitis, liver
ToborekMichalBMBHIV, blood-brain barrier, drug abuse, neuroinflammation, neuroscience, molecular biology
TomeiAlice Conformal islet encapsulation for transplantation at vascularized sites to allow physiological insulin secretion. Perforin-2: The role of a novel antimicrobial protein in diabetic foot ulcers.
UddinLucinaNEUI am interested broadly in the relationship between brain connectivity and cognition in typical and atypical development. My current projects focus on understanding dynamic network interactions underlying social information processing in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.
Vazquez-PadronRobertoMCPc-Kit, atherosclerosis, research/mechanistic, cardiovascular, animal models
VerdeFulviaMCP MDBControl of cell morphogenesis, Cdc42 and Rho-family GTPase dynamics, control of cell growth and chronological lifespan, assembly of RNA-associated Ribonucleoprotein (RNP) granules . How do cells control their shape? The focus of my lab are the molecular and genetic mechanisms controlling cell morphogenesis, from fission yeast to human cells. In particular, we discovered that the key morphology control factor,  Cdc42 GTPase, displays oscillatory dynamics, with important implications for the emergence of cell shape. Further, we uncovered a novel role for conserved NDR kinase in the control of polarized cell growth, ribonucleoprotein (RNP) granules assembly, chronological life-span and cell aging.
VerdunRamiroCABDNA repair, genomic instability, mechanisms of genotoxicity, telomeres, antibody class switching.
VillarinoAlejandroMICLeveraging wet and dry (computational) experimental systems to discover new principles of cytokine signaling that can be applied towards better understanding of infectious, autoimmune and metastatic disease, as well as rational design of cytokine-targeting therapeutics.  Cytokines; Jak-STAT; T cells; innate lymphocytes; autoimmune disease; infectious disease; transcriptomics; systems immunology; Jak inhibitors; biologics
WahlestedtClaesCAB HGG MCP NEUDrug discovery, epigenetics, gene expression, RNA, brain diseases, cancer.
WangLilyHGGThe research in our lab focuses on using data sciences approaches to understand genomic and epigenomic changes in Alzheimer’s Disease and cancers, by developing and applying innovative analytical strategies and computational tools. We also have a lab website at https://transbioinfolab.org/.
WelfordScottCABMy lab is interested in the tumor microenvironment and how it controls tumor biology and response to radiotherapy.
WenRong DHDDS and Retinal Degeneration
Xu“Mike” Xiang-XiCAB MDBEmbryonic stem cells, blastocyst, and early mammalian embryonic development with application in regenerative medicine Ovarian cancer, menopause, nuclear envelope, chhromosomal instability, and cancer therapy and drug resistance.
ZaikaAlexanderCancer, cancer inducing bacteria, tumorigenesis, p53, cancer therapy
ZhaiGraceHGG MCP NEUResearch in my lab focuses on the genetic and cellular basis of neural development, degeneration and protection using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model system. We identify and characterize conserved gene functions and phenotypes highly relevant to human neurological diseases.
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.