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:February 28, 2019

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.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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-ViekantAlejandroMDB NEUCellular mechanisms that lead to highly orchestrated secretion of insulin and glucagon by human pancreatic islets.
CapobiancoAnthonyCABdrug discovery, cancer, Notch, WNT, stem cells
ChatzistergosKonstantinosMDBMy research is based on developmental biology guided approaches to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms of cardiac myogenesis and their potential role in adult heart disease and regeneration. More specifically, we focus on the roles of canonical BMP and Wnt signaling pathways on mesoderm and neuroectoderm-derived cardiac precursor cells, and their derivatives in the embryonic and postnatal heart. Our experimental approaches primarily include mouse genetics and human pluripotent stem cell models of neural crest and myocardial lineage development. We are also interested in, and have extensive experience with, translational studies in large and small-animal models of cardiac cell therapy.
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
DykxhoornDerekHGGDr. Dykxhoorn is a molecular biologist interested in the mechanisms that regulate pathogenesis. His current research focuses on the impact that genetic and epigenetic variations have on the transmission, infection and replication of HIV-1. In particular, his research has focused on the application of functional genomic approaches (RNA interference) to understand disease processes, including the use of large-scale, full genome screening platforms for the identification of host factors, HIV-dependency factors (HDFs), required for HIV infection and replication and the development of novel siRNA delivery approaches that can be used for therapeutic intervention for HIV infected individuals or formulated into a microbicide to prevent viral transmission across mucosal surfaces.
FaghihiMohammadNEU Involvement on non-protein-coding RNAs in neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and Fragile X Syndrome.
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
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.
GuestJamesNEUSpinal cord injury, neuroprotection, neuromodulation and cell-mediated repair.
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.
HudsonBarryBMB CAB MDBCancer, 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
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
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
LiWeiMCP NEUVision research, eye diseases, disease mechanism, therapy, retinal degeneration, vascular diseases
LieblDanielNEUOur research program examines the mechanism that contribute to CNS dysfunction, including traumatic brain and spinal cord injury, neurodegenerative diseases, and other CNS disorders. We employ numerous methods to examine these disorders within the complex CNS environment, including anatomical, genetic, biochemical, electrophysiological and behavioral techniques. To complement our mechanistic questions, we also employ high-throughput and epigenetic analysis to identify novel regulators to translate toward the clinic. Some of the research questions we are currently investigating, include: (1) The role of glial cells in regulating synaptic stability, plasticity, and regeneration after CNS injury; (2) The role of a novel class of death receptor in CNS disorders; (3) Intracellular cholesterol regulation in CNS injury and repair; (4) Biomaterials and vascular regeneration; and (5) How brain injury alters Alzheimer’s Disease pathogenesis using human inducible pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). I have found that a successful Mentor has the ability to provide an individualize approach to advance a student’s strengths, enhancing their weaknesses, and ensure there is a good training environment for success.
LiuZhao-JunCABAngiogenesis, Vasculogenesis, Athetosclerosis, Notch, Bone Marrow Stem Cells, Melanoma, Wound Healing.
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
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
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.
MunsonGeorgeMICPerforin-2, innate immunity, multidrug resistant Klebsiella and Acinetobacter, enterotoxigenic E. coli
NorenbergMichaelNEUWe study the normal function and properties of glia; neurotransmitter transport in glia; role of glia and steroids in neuroprotection; mechanisms and significance of reactive gliosis; role of glia in various neurological conditions (trauma, aging/Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, brain edema, liver failure); the role of oxidative stress and the mitochondrial permeability transition in CNS trauma and liver failure.
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.
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.
RodriguesClaudia De OliveiraMCP, MDBVascular Biology, vascular homeostasis and endothelial dysfunction.
RosenblattJosephCAB MICImmune Therapy, Antibody Engineering, Vasculogenesis, B Regulatory Cells
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
SagenJacquelineNEUpreclinical pain models, neural stem cells, viral vectors, analgesic peptides
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.
SchatzJonathanCAB MIClymphoma, ALK, cap-dependent translation, preclinical therapeutics, kinase inhibitors, oncogene overdose
SchesserKurtMICHost-pathogen interactions in the liver and placenta; characterizing cellular host factors and processes that limit pathogen activities
SchulmanIvonneMCPDr. Schulman’s research focuses on identifying the mechanisms underlying the cardiovascular regenerative capacity of stem cells.
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.
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
ShembadeNoulaMICOncogenesis, NF-κB, infection, inflammation, signal transduction, EBV, KSHV, HTLV-I
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.
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.
WalzKatherinaHGGDr. Walz will co-mentor with Dr. Xue Zhong Liu, and the project will be in the context of: Implementing Genomic Medicine in Clinical Care of Deaf Patients. We would like to understand the basic pathology of hearing loss and to translate those research findings into clinical tools in diagnosis and treatment in patients with genetic hearing loss using state-of-the-art approaches.
WangGaofengHGG NEURegulation of the epigenome by GPCRs; Epigenetic regulation of vitamin C in cancer and other diseases; Cancer drug optimization using nutrigenomic approaches.
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.
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.
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.
ZaikaAlexanderCancer, cancer inducing bacteria, tumorigenesis, p53, cancer therapy
ZeierZaneMCP, NEUMy laboratory investigates neurological disorders caused by repeat expansion mutations, primarily Fragile X syndrome (FXS) and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). To identify mechanistic features of disease , I use various molecular approaches and tools including epigenetic profiling, genome editing and viral vectors. As a model system, I use cellular reprogramming technology to create induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) which are then differentiated into 2D neuronal cultures or 3D cerebral brain “organoids”. In addition to my basic science research program, I seek to identify novel therapeutics through early stage drug discovery. An ongoing screening campaign utilizes a cell-based high-content imaging assay to screen various small molecule libraries.
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
ZhaiGraceHGG MCPResearch 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.
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.