Message from the Chair

Recent decades have witnessed breathtaking advances in the biological sciences. It has become clear that the expression and function of genes depends not only on the genomic blueprint, but also on transient and inherited chemical modifications of the genome. The complete sequencing of the human genome as part of the human genome project has made it possible to conduct a comprehensive analysis of these epigenetic modifications and understand their role in biological systems, a goal of the human epigenome project. Also ongoing is the human proteome project that seeks to identify and study the properties of all proteins produced by the human genome. Together, information from these projects will enhance understanding of human biology at the molecular level and provide information on the molecular underpinnings of diseases long considered intractable. Therapies and cures for these complex diseases will then be possible. Research on embryonic, adult, and induced pluripotent stem cells holds the potential for pioneering approaches to tissue regeneration and treatment of disease. The recently commenced “BRAIN” initiative will enable researchers to produce dynamic pictures of the brain that show real time interactions between individual brain cells and complex neural circuits. Much needed information on the complex links between brain function and behavior, and dysfunction in these links in psychological and psychiatric disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, and depression, will become available. The troubling development of antibiotic resistant strains of pathogens is driving the development of novel approaches to the treatment of bacterial infections. Powerful computational and bioinformatics approaches are permitting the analysis of data on a scale once thought impossible, and are playing an increasingly important role in all facets of biological research. Indeed, it is an exciting time to pursue a career in the biological and biomedical sciences.

A central mission of our department is to train students to develop the skills necessary to drive the current revolution in the biomedical sciences. We strive to fulfill this mission in a nurturing, supportive, and intellectually stimulating environment. The department is under expansion, with plans to recruit a mix of five junior and senior faculty in the next five years. Current faculty conduct research in the areas of genetics and developmental biology, aging and metabolism, biochemical structures and functions, epigenetics, infectious diseases, neurodegeneration, and brain development. Graduate students have the opportunity take courses in a variety of specialty areas reflecting the research interests of our faculty. Graduate degrees (M.A., M.S. and Ph.D.) are awarded in Molecular and Cell Biology. An important priority for the department is undergraduate education. The undergraduate curriculum provides rigorous didactic and laboratory-based training for students seeking admission to professional or graduate schools as well as those who seek jobs upon obtaining their B.S. or B.A. degree. Exceptional opportunities are available for undergraduate students to participate in faculty research alongside graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Like their graduate peers, undergraduates are encouraged to present their research results at national and regional conferences and publish their work in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Please enjoy our new website and please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or to schedule a visit to our department.

William C. Orr

Professor and Chair
Department of Biological Sciences
Southern Methodist University
6501 Airline Court, 113-DLS
Dallas, TX 75275