Graduate Program in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Faculty research in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology covers topics ranging from structural biology and biophysics to development and cell biology. The department has particular interests in membrane proteins and transport, nucleic acid binding proteins, and oxidative stress, often using model systems in investigations.
These studies impact a number of human diseases, ranging from cancer to neurodegenerative disorders. Recent papers by faculty members and students have appeard in Science, Nature Cell Biology, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Journal of Cell Biology, Molecular Biology of the Cell, and Journal of Moleclar Biology. The department continues to have a strong record of extramural research funding, primarily from NIH.
A major effort to strengthen the program in structural biology was initiated in the lasts few years with a $1 million federal equipment grant that purchased mass spectrometers for proteomics and equipment for in-house X-ray crystallography. A powerful 200 kV cryo-electron microscope was subsequently added.
Department faculty have expertise in X-ray crystallography, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), electron microscopy, and computational/molecular modeling approaches for determining protein structure.
Several faculty members also share interests in modern genetics and genomic technologies. Robotics are available to screen large collections of mutants, generated as a result of genome sequencing, for novel phenotypes. Transgenic frogs used to study the visual system were first developed in this department.
This system has provided invaluable information about mechnisms underlying light transduction and the cellular defects that underlie certain inherited degenerative diseases of the eye.
Heba Diab and Sheena Claire Li, PhD students in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, use the yeast model system to study basic cell functions. Yeast enzymes are similar to human enzymes, which makes yeast a popular tool among researchers.
SUNY Upstate's Biochemistry and Molecular Biology students have a time-consuming advantage—the Virtek pinning robot that transfers individual yeast mutants from one plate to another to test their responses. "It's a nice way to get a lot of data quickly, so you can spend time addressing the major question behind the experiment," said Deb, who studies oxidative stress in cells.
Biochemistry students are at the front end of translational research, conducting the basic science that can lead to treatments for diseases such as osteoporosis and cancer.