MBSB graduate students have the opportunity to pursue research in a broad range of research areas, under the supervision of one or more MBSB faculty members. Below you will find a rough grouping of participating faculty into topic areas. You can also see the published results of MBSB student research in PubMed.
While all participating faculty apply biophysical methods to biological questions, some of the faculty also work on development of such methods.
Cellular-level research is carried out in many departments throughout the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon. Physical aspects are investigated by the following participating faculty of the MBSB program.
Chemical Structure and Dynamics
The ever-increasing body of protein and nucleic acid structural information has brought to the fore the importance of a chemical perspective in biology. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University pursue this viewpoint in a variety of exciting ways. Novel small molecules are synthesized in the critical endeavor of designing new drugs – and the modes by which these potential drugs bind to protein "targets" are investigated using biochemical and computational approaches. Synthetic protein-like molecules are custom designed and synthesized. Light scattering techniques are used to probe biological fluid systems.
Gene Regulation and Signaling
Gene regulation and signaling are fundamental biological processes of interest to many participating faculty.
Research in this area is focused on elucidating the mechanisms of interactions between molecules – enzyme-substrate, protein-DNA, and protein-ligand. These studies focus on detailed characterization of the exquisite specificity between molecules and how this is achieved, from the point of recognition to attaining high affinity. Additional studies focus on mechanisms by which reactions proceed, from a structural perspective.
Principles of Protein Structure and Dynamics
Structural biology is undergoing a quiet revolution. Despite the thousands of high resolution – but static – protein structures now available in the Protein Data Bank, scientists have broadly recognized that many biochemical questions about these proteins remain open. The reason is simple. By and large, proteins are machines that perform their jobs by moving – rendering a static view incomplete. Using both experimental and computational approaches, a number of the training faculty have turned their attention to the study of fluctuations and dynamics in biomolecules. Techniques include NMR, Raman spectroscopy, coarse-grained computational modeling and other advanced molecular simulation approaches.
Structure and Dynamics of Membrane Proteins
Research in this area involves structural, biochemical, and pharmacological characterization of integral membrane proteins. The major objectives of these studies are to determine the mechanism by which these critical proteins function in the context of the lipid membrane, which serves both as a barrier and a unique environment. These studies address questions pertinent to fundamental biology: how is a signal transduced across the membrane; how is selectivity and high permeation maintained by a membrane channel; what are the mechanisms that regulate the activity of the membrane protein? To address these questions, advanced modern approaches of X-ray crystallography, NMR, electron microscopy, and computational analysis are used.
Virus Structure and Nano-Machinery
Virus structure, assembly, function and evolution is investigated by a growing group of researchers within the MBSB program.