The Program in Molecular Biophysics (PMB) seeks to renew its training grant. Its goal is to train students thoroughly versed in the fundamental physical principles governing the structures, interactions, and functions of biological macromolecules and their complexes, and who are also cognizant of the current frontiers in biology and able to develop their research in biologically relevant terms. The Department of Biophysics (Arts &Sciences, Homewood campus) and the Department of Biophysics &Biophysical Chemistry (School of Medicine, East Baltimore campus) form the program core with respect to administration and curriculum;42 faculty from 14 departments participate in training activities. The participating laboratories form a coherent group with a strong sense of community engendered by activities such as an annual retreat and a monthly evening Biophysical Discussion. Faculty and students also have access to shared instrumentation facilities for X-ray, ultracentrifuge, high field NMR, and mass spectrometry. Students freely move between campuses and laboratories for course work, rotations, and thesis research. Students with strong backgrounds in quantitative and physical sciences are recruited;most are familiar with biochemistry and molecular biology. In the first year, students take four core courses specifically designed for PMB;they cover thermodynamic and structural principles of molecular biophysics as well as relevant computational and experimental methods. Readings from the literature and computer programming exercises are extensively incorporated into class assignments, and the courses emphasize quantitative analysis and fundamental physical principles. First year students also complete three 10 week lab rotations and a lecture series on Responsible Conduct of Research. Students choose a lab for thesis research at the end of the second semester, and also must demonstrate proficiency in biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology in an oral exam. Second year students take Organic Mechanisms in Biology and two electives;present a formal seminar on a current topic in biophysics and take an oral qualifying exam. 16 trainees are currently supported by this grant, out of a total of 50 program students.
Living cells and organisms ultimately depend on the complex interactions taking place between thousands of proteins, nucleic acids, and smaller molecules. In this training program, students learn to use the methods of physical sciences and computation to investigate this network of interactions, and how the molecular details of these interactions illuminate the underlying causes of specific diseases.
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