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MUSC Bulletin | College of Graduate Studies

Department of Cell and Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

Section Contents
Programs of Study | Admissions | Research Facilities | Faculty Research Interests | Course Descriptions

Programs of Study
The Department of Cell and Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics offers a program leading to the Ph.D. degree; students may also be accepted into the combined MSTP or DSTP programs. The goal of the program is to train new investigators in cellular and molecular pharmacology. In addition, the faculty provide postdoctoral training in basic and clinical investigation.  The graduate program in Pharmacology has four principal areas of research focus:  Cell Signaling/Cancer Biology, Cardiovascular Pharmacology, Functional Genomics, and Drug Disposition/Toxicology.

In the first year of study, students are enrolled in the common core curriculum of the College of Graduate Studies, providing them a background in cell and molecular biology, as well as all aspects of general biomedical research. During this period students rotate through multiple laboratories to identify a research area, a faculty mentor and a program. Students can join the Pharmacology graduate program at any time during the first year. In the second year, students receive training in the principles of pharmacology, focusing on the molecular and cellular aspects of drug action, and an overview of the breadth of the field of pharmacology. During this period, students also begin working on a potential dissertation project and begin advanced training in an area related to one of the research foci of the department. At the end of the second year students take written and oral qualifying exams, the successful completion of which admits the student to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. In the third year, a plan for the dissertation work is written in the form of a National Institute of Health research proposal. Upon approval by the student’s advisory committee, the student continues research for the dissertation which culminates in the writing of manuscripts and the dissertation and defense of the latter before the student’s advisory committee and the graduate faculty of the University. The student also attends seminars and presents a seminar at least once per year. Over the last two-to-three years of training, the student is encouraged to attend national meetings and present his/her research findings at these meetings. In addition to the desired scientific interaction, this allows recognition of the student as a developing investigator at a national level and facilitates the attainment of high-quality postdoctoral positions and career placement.

The postdoctoral training program is designed to train promising young scientists with backgrounds in the physical, chemical or biological sciences or in the biomedical sciences (including medicine). The training experience at the postdoctoral level emphasizes basic laboratory investigation, but also has a component of clinical investigation for interested and qualified trainees. After an initial orientation to the program as a whole, the postdoctoral trainee works for two to three years on research projects in one or two laboratories. In addition, these trainees may take selected graduate courses and attend and present their research at departmental seminars and national meetings.

Applicants to the program should have a strong academic record with emphasis in biological or physical sciences or pharmacy. Undergraduate training in organic chemistry, calculus, biology, and physics is advantageous. Stipends are available. Further information regarding the program may be obtained by writing to the Director of the Graduate Training Program in the Department of Cell and Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

Research Facilities
The Department of Cell and Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics has well-equipped laboratories for research. Equipment available for research training includes state-of-the-art mass spectrometry facilities, including:  matrix-assisted laser description TOF-MS electrospray mass spectrometers and triple quadrupole mass spectrometers for use in protein structure and proteomics assays; a 400 MHz NMR spectrometer; FT-IR, UV, infrared, and circular dichroism spectrometers; high-pressure liquid chromatographs; scanning spectrophotofluorometers; computers; high-voltage electrophoresis equipment; ultracentrifuges. Cell culture facilities and a confocal microscope are also located in the department.

Faculty Research Interests
Faculty research interests can be found on the web at or by using the myGrants search tool at

Cell and Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Course Descriptions
The number of semester hours is designated by s.h.

CGS-701 Basic Biomedical Sciences.  Students are familiarized with departmental doctoral training programs.  Elements of this course include: foundations of biomedical sciences; essential scientific practices; laboratory rotations; technology updates; important unanswered questions in the biomedical sciences; three-week elective; journal club and seminars. 15 s.h.  Fall and Spring. 

GENBS-650G/676G Pharmacy Pharmacology.  Presents important concepts and principles regarding the proper therapeutic application of all major drug categories. Familiarizes the student with the history, source, physical, and chemical properties of drugs; their biochemical, physiological, and toxicological effects; and their mechanisms of absorption, distribution, action, biotransformation, and excretion. Emphasis is placed on mechanisms of drug action and pharmacokinetics.  8 s.h.  Fall/Spring.

PCOL-601G. Pharmacology Core. Presents important concepts and principles regarding the proper therapeutic application of all major drug categories. Familiarizes the student with the history, source, physical, and chemical properties of drugs; their biochemical, physiological, and toxicological effects; and their mechanisms of absorption, distribution, action, biotransformation, and excretion. Emphasis is placed on problem-solving through a critical evidence-oriented approach. 9 s.h. Spring.

PCOL-621G. Dental Pharmacology. Demonstrates general principles of drug action, efficacy, and safety of pharmacologic agents and covers the application of these principles to the major drug classes. 4 s.h. Spring.

PCOL-625. Human Physiology.
 This course in human physiology is designed to utilize basic physiologic concepts towards understanding the integrative nature of organ and whole body function. The fall semester presents integrated concepts of 1) Cell membrane structure and function including transport processes, receptors/signaling and electrophysiology; 2) muscle types emphasizing excitation and contractile processes; 3) autonomic nervous system organization and function; 4) regulation and maintenance of cardiovascular and respiratory function; 5) laboratory exercises on the electrocardiogram (ECG) and pulmonary function testing (PFT)
4 s.h. Fall.

PCOL-720. Landmark Research in Pharmacology. This course develops the ability of the student to understand, interpret and integrate current and classical research studies in the pharmacological sciences through readings and discussions with a diverse group of faculty. 2 s.h. Fall.

PCOL-721. Advanced Principles of Pharmacology.  This course develops an understanding of the principles required for conducting research studies involving the use of pharmacological agents as tools for understanding basic biological processes. The course covers basic principles of receptor theory, analysis of dose-response relationships, data interpretation,  and the relationship between the chemistry of biological molecules and their cellular actions. These principles are developed in relation to departmental research tracks in signal transduction/cancer biology, functional genomics, cardiovascular biology and drug metabolism/toxicology.  The course will impart an essential understanding of how pharmacological agents interact with living systems and how such actions are examined from an experimental point of view.  4 s.h.  Spring. 

PCOL-722. Introduction to Spectroscopic Methods. This is an introductory course in spectroscopy and exposes the student to the theory, instrumentation and applications of various spectroscopic methods. Techniques to be examined include absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy, mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Demonstrations of each technique will be presented. Particular emphasis will be placed on the application of these techniques to biomolecular analysis. This course is directed toward students who will need to use spectroscopic methods in their dissertation research. 3 s.h.

PCOL-725. Advanced Topics in Cell Signaling. The vast majority of human diseases involve defects in cellular communication and therapeutic intervention often targets molecules involved in cell signaling. This course will dissect signaling cascades and their alterations in disease states addressing cutting edge issues. The course will be offered each Fall with the theme rotating among three broad topics: Cell Signaling in the Cardiovascular System, Cell Signaling in Cancer, Cell Signaling in the Nervous System.  Specific diseases under these broader categories will be selected by faculty or students and then each disease will be dissected by one of the course participants (oral/written) to understand how signaling events are affected, how signaling dysfunction contributes to the onset or progression of the disease and how signaling events might be targeted in a therapeutic attack on the disease. The course is intended for advanced graduate and postgraduate students and will be coordinated with the Cell-Signaling Seminar Series (organized through the Department of Pharmacology) held each Fall, thus allowing seminar speakers to participate in the course. 3 s.h. Fall.

PCOL-726. Mass Spectrometry & Proteomics. This course will examine basic principles of mass spectrometry as well as instrumentation and applications with an emphasis on the analysis of biomolecules. In addition, the course will provide detailed coverage of proteomics analysis including techniques, quantitative strategies, applications and bioinformatics analysis approaches. 3 s.h. Spring.

PCOL-729. Chemical and Environmental Toxicology. This course will provide an understanding of the sources and occurrence of the major classes of environmental toxicants and their mechanism of action. Properties of environmental chemicals which influence their distribution and transformations; action of environmental forces which affect toxicant breakdown, movement, and accumulation will also be discussed. Current practices of health risk assessment of environmental chemicals using toxicological principles and their application to regulatory control of these chemicals will conclude the course. Prerequisite: PCOL-736 or with permission of course director.
3 s.h. Spring.

PCOL-731. Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics Journal Club. This will be a journal club counting for 1 credit hour. Each student will be required to lead a discussion (approx. 45 min.) on at least one journal article published within the last calendar year covering one or more of the following topics: 1) protein mass spectrometry or large-scale proteomic studies; 2) advances in instrumentation, methodology, or software employed for protein characterization and analysis; 3) quantitative "-omic" strategies; 4) computational proteomics; 5) bioinformatic analysis. The presentation will be followed by a 15 min. question and answer session, and all journal club members will be encouraged to ask questions during the presentation as well. It is expected that, through this format, the sudent will gain an understanding of traditional proteomics methodology and recent technological advances which are driving the field of proteomics-based biology. This will be assessed by evaluating the student's written critique (through provided journal article worksheets) of the proteomics methodology applied in the relevant studies reviewed weekly. 1 s.h. Fall/Spring

PCOL-732. Electronics and Laboratory Instrumentation. Covers general electronics (AC and DC electronics, semiconductors, and electronic circuits) as well as the electronics of selected instruments used in pharmacology research. The major portion of the course is self-paced, self-study including electronics laboratory work. The course gives the student a basic understanding of electronics especially as it applies to laboratory instruments. 2 s.h. Summer.

PCOL-734. Drug-Receptor Interactions. Directed toward students of the biomedical sciences who wish to develop a molecular approach to the basis of drug action. Introduces the physical and organic chemistry of drugs, receptors and their interactions, and the effects of drug-receptor interactions at the subcellular and cellular levels. Throughout the course, the student attends lectures and solves assigned problems that are oriented toward the elucidation of molecular mechanisms by which drugs elicit their response in living organisms. 4 s.h. Fall.

PCOL-736. Cellular Defense Against Foreign Chemicals. This course will provide an understanding of the role of intestinal and other epithelial cells as the body’s barriers against foreign chemicals.  This includes how transporters in the cell membranes are handling cytotoxins and carcinogens, but also drugs and dietary chemicals.  This also includes how xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes within the cells are capable of inactivating such chemicals.  These enzymes can, however, also result in bioactivation and binding to proteins and DNA, triggering cytotoxic and carcinogenic actions. The balance between all of these processes determines whether adverse reactions to chemicals will occur.  These processes, however, also limit the availability of novel therapeutic drugs, a challenge that can be overcome in various ways.  The course will cover the impact of these processes on cultured cells as well as the whole organism, including mammalian, particularly human, as well as marine organisms. Prerequisites: BMB-602G, PCOL-734. 4 s.h. Fall.

PCOL-740. Organ Systems Toxicology. The course will provide an overview of the toxic effects of drugs and xenobiotics on the function of individual organ systems.  The pathological changes for each organ system will be reviewed and the specific cellular targets of the chemicals and the overall mechanisms of action will be presented and discussed. Prerequisite: PCOL-736. 3 s.h. Spring.

PCOL-744. Topics in Cellular Signaling.
 Current and emerging topics in cellular signaling will be presented and discussed in a journal club-style format. Students will present topics related to cellular signaling using faculty-approved articles from peer-reviewed journals, and will be expected to actively participate in the discussion with other students, post-doctoral fellows and faculty members.
1 s.h. Fall/Spring.

PCOL-747. Topics in Cancer Research. Two presentation formats will be used for the course. Initially, a faculty member will introduce and direct students in the discussion of selected literature concerning a single topic. Subsequent topics will be presented by individual students in Journal Club style. Each student will have two opportunities to present selected during the course and will be active discussants when other students present. Prerequisites: Completion of 1st year core curriculum. 3 s.h. All. 

PCOL-753. Redox Regulation Oxidative Stress, and Selenoproteins. This is a specialized course in the field of redox biology. Organized by MUSC with the support of the SC COBRE program, the course also features faculty and students from the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Medical Center. 2 s.h. Summer.

PCOL-970. Research. Variable s.h. All

PCOL-980. Thesis. Variable s.h. All

PCOL-990. Dissertation. Variable s.h. All

MBIM 716 - Development of Molecular Cancer Therapies: From Bench to Bedside. This course is organized into 7 sections.

  1. Introduction to cancer causation, initiation, molecular basis, and genetics. This section will survey in detail the molecular basis of cancer causation and genetic origin.
  2. Cancer molecular pathology and diagnosis: The molecular and proteomic basis for cancer detection and diagnosis will be covered in theory and with practical demonstrations.
  3. Cancer imaging: Spectroscopy, Pet, CT and Optical Therapy and practice. The physics of cancer imaging will be explained and demonstrated with real time examples from both research and clinical environments.
  4. Immunology of cancer: Subject matter includes discussion of both innate and adaptive immunity to cancer, immunotherapy, and vaccine therapy.
  5. Drug therapy: Subject matter will range from use of radiation and chemotherapy, both singly and in combination with Gene Therapy approaches, to new small molecule drugs and mechanisms of action and of drug resistance.
  6. Cancer epidemiology, prevention and control: This section will present cancer incidence, mortality and survival statistics coupled with up-to-date information on lifestyle, diet and prevention studies for prevention and control of cancer.
  7. Translational research in which the students will be exposed, by surgical and medical practitioners, to actual patient care situations Students will observe therapy in the clinical setting with lectures on modern medical-surgical techniques and approaches for treatment of cancer.

Last Published with Edits:March 9, 2015 2:33 PM
Last Comprehensive Review: Fall 2011

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