The MBSB program is one of the graduate programs participating in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), which is the MD/PhD program of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). The MSTP was established in 1983 to offer exceptionally talented individuals the opportunity to undertake a physician-scientist training program tailored to their specific research interests. It is funded partly by the Medical Scientist Training Program of the National Institutes of Health. MBSB/MSTP students meet the degree requirements of both the MBSB graduate program and the medical school, thus acquiring the knowledge, skills, and experience in one of the most exciting areas of medical research. The MSTP program offers a range of special services and opportunities that facilitate the completion of a dual degree. The close integration of clinical and basic science training provides a unique preparation for a future career that integrates both medicine and fundamental research in molecular biophysics and structural biology. Most MBSB faculty members are eligible to act as MSTP mentors, whether at CMU or the University of Pittsburgh. 

MSTP students first take two years of medical school training, interspersed with research rotations in MBSB research labs. This is followed by graduate training and PhD research in the MBSB program, after which the students return to the medical school training program. Additional information about the MSTP, the MSTP curriculum, and application process can be found on the MSTP website. For more specifics about the MBSB requirements, please consult the MBSB handbook.

Applicants with an interest in MBSB/MSTP training are encouraged to contact the MBSB program, as well as any MBSB faculty that are engaged in research of potential interest. The annual admissions deadline is in mid October (see MSTP website), but applicants are strongly encouraged to apply early.

 

For further information on the participation of MBSB and its faculty at both CMU and the University of Pittsburgh in the MSTP program, please feel encouraged to contact the MBSB-MSTP liaison, listed below.

MSTP-MBSB Liaison: Patrick van der Wel, e-mail: vanderwel@pitt.edu

 


 


Welcome to the Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology Graduate Program!

  

Molecular biophysics is an exciting interdisciplinary research field at the intersection of physics, chemistry, biology and medicine. The Molecular Biophysics & Structural Biology (MBSB) PhD Graduate Program is an adventure that brings together faculty across the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences and the School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh as well as faculty of various departments at Carnegie Mellon University. It aims to provide a fertile and collaborative research and learning experience to its students, and has allowed current and previous students to explore a range of fascinating research topics. This website is meant as a resource to provide a useful source of information about the Program, for both current participants and anyone interested in joining us.

 

Please the program directors (below) with any questions or suggestions concerning the program you may have. Please contact the webmaster for any suggestions regarding the website.

 

Dr. James Conway
MBSB Program Director

Department of Structural Biology
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Biomedical Science Tower 3
3501 Fifth Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Telephone: 412-383-9847
Fax: 412-648-9008
Email: jxc100@pitt.edu
Dr. Gordon Rule
MBSB Program Director

Department of Biological Sciences
Carnegie Mellon University
246 Mellon Institute
4400 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Telephone: 412-268-1839
Fax: 412-268-7129
Email: rule@andrew.cmu.edu

 

 

 Program Overview


The Molecular Biophysics & Structural Biology (MBSB) Graduate Program at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University is an interdisciplinary program for PhD studies that crosses the boundaries of Biology, Chemistry, Physics and

other traditional disciplines. MBSB aims to unravel and explain biological phenomena and processes in atomic and molecular detail.

Research: 

Research conducted by faculty of the graduate program covers a diverse range of topics in Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology. Areas of study are focused on understanding fundamental principles involved in reactions and interactions in biological systems. Research projects attempt to address and elucidate answers to questions such as:

  • How do proteins fold and can we prevent misfolding?
  • Can we design proteins with novel functions?
  • How does the coordinated interaction between proteins and nucleic acids lead to cellular differentiation and the formation of an organism?
  • How do macromolecules assemble into molecular machines or viruses and how do they operate?
  • How do signals traverse membranes?

 


Curriculum:

The curriculum stresses an interdisciplinary approach to learning and research in modern Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology. In addition to traditional lectures, the curriculum includes multiple novel components from laboratory and hands-on demos to student-taught lectures and review of actual grant proposals. Students with strong backgrounds in physics, chemistry and mathematics as well as cellular and molecular biology are encouraged to apply. As a member of the MBSB program, all students will be advised by a mentor, exploring research options through laboratory rotations before choosing a thesis advisor in their first year.

Facilities and Environment: 

 

Students in the program will be trained through specifically designed courses and extensive laboratory research, set in a collaborative and collegial atmosphere. Unique to this program is the opportunity to train across traditional boundaries, and possibly be co-mentored by two thesis advisors. Students benefit from active participation and mentoring by prominent, internationally renowned faculty and receive training in state-of-the-art methodologies such as high field solution and solid-state NMR spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, cryo electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy and computational molecular biology.

The University of Pittsburgh has over 200 graduate degree programs and is one of the best (ranked 4th in 2009) supported research facilities in the nation, with over $400 million dollars from the NIH in 2009 alone. Carnegie Mellon University attracts students from all 50 US states and 93 nations, and is affiliated with 17 Nobel Laureates and ten Turing Award recipients, among other prestigious award recipients. An open and collaborative atmosphere between faculty at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University allows students to explore all aspects of Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology in an integrated research community.


 

The Molecular Biophysics & Structural Biology (MBSB) Graduate Program at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University is an interdisciplinary program for PhD studies that cross the boundaries of biology, chemistry, physics and other traditional disciplines. MBSB research groups aim to unravel and explain biological phenomena and processes in atomic and molecular detail.

Research: 

Research conducted by faculty of the graduate program covers a diverse range of topics in Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology. Areas of study are focused on understanding fundamental principles involved in reactions and interactions in biological systems. Research projects attempt to address and elucidate answers to questions such as:

  • How do proteins fold and can we prevent misfolding?
  • Can we design proteins with novel functions?
  • How does the coordinated interaction between proteins and nucleic acids lead to cellular differentiation and the formation of an organism?
  • How do macromolecules assemble into molecular machines or viruses and how do they operate?
  • How do signals traverse membranes?

 


 Curriculum:

The curriculum stresses an interdisciplinary approach to learning and research in modern Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology. In addition to traditional lectures, the curriculum includes multiple novel components from laboratory and hands-on demos to student-taught lectures and review of actual grant proposals. Students with a diversity of backgrounds in physics, chemistry and mathematics as well as cellular and molecular biology are encouraged to apply. As they join the program, all MBSB students will be advised by a mentor, exploring research options through laboratory rotations before choosing a thesis advisor in their first year.

 

Lab space photoFacilities and Environment: 

Students in the program are trained through specifically designed courses and extensive laboratory research, set in a collaborative and collegial atmosphere. Unique to this program is the opportunity to train across traditional boundaries, and possibly be co-mentored by two thesis advisors. Students benefit from active participation and mentoring by prominent, internationally renowned faculty and receive training in state-of-the-art methodologies such as high field solution and solid-state NMR spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, cryo electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy and computational molecular biology. Excellent state-of-the-art equipment and resources are available for both experimental and computational research (see also: Research Facilities).

BST3 building photo

The University of Pittsburgh ranked ninth overall in the National Science Foundation's most recent ranking of federally funded research. In a recent analysis of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, the Faculty of the University’s School of Medicine ranked sixth among U.S. medical schools. Carnegie Mellon University attracts students from all 50 US states and 93 nations, and is affiliated with 19 Nobel Laureates and 12 Turing Award recipients, among other prestigious award recipients. An open and collaborative atmosphere between faculty at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University allows students to explore all aspects of Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology in an integrated research community.

 


Participating faculty in the MBSB Graduate Program are from the University of Pittsburgh and from Carnegie Mellon University. However, all administration is through the graduate studies office at the University of Pittsburgh. The goal of the graduate studies office is to provide all possible help to potential and registered graduate students in the MBSB program.

The program directors (below) direct and oversee all activities related to the program, assisted by activities and recommendations made by a number of committees: the steering committee, oversight and evaluations committee, curriculum committee, admissions committee and recruitment committee.

 


Directorship of the Program

Description of Directorship

Program Directors serve a five-year term. The Director is nominated by a majority vote of the participating faculty. The appointment is made jointly by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and by the Dean of the School of Medicine, in consultation with the chairs of the relevant departments. The Program Director takes a leadership role in ensuring the quality of the Graduate Program; serves as a liaison with chairs of relevant departments and Deans of participating schools; facilitates communication among members of the various program committees; implements standard Graduate Program policies; and oversees the routine operation of the Graduate Program.

Current directors

Dr James Conway and Dr Gordon Rule are the current co-directors of the MBSB graduate program. Dr Conway is a member of the Department of Structural Biology at the University of Pittsburgh and Dr Rule is in the Department of Biological Sciences of Carnegie Mellon University.

Previous directors

2005-2012 Angela Gronenborn

Dr Angela Gronenborn joined the University of Pittsburgh in 2005 to found and direct the Department of Structural Biology. Prior to her appointment at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Gronenborn was Chief of Structural Biology at the National Institutes of Health. She was elected director to the MBSB program in July 2005.

2003-2005: John Rosenberg

John Rosenberg, Professor at the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine was the founding director, leading the development and inauguration of the program. The first class started in the Fall of 2004.


Committees

The directors are assisted by activities and recommendations made by six committees:

  • Steering Committee
  • Oversight and Evaluations Committee
  • Curriculum Committee
  • Admissions Committee
  • Funding Committee
  • Recruitment Committee

More information on the committees responsibilities, chairs, and members  are available in the MBSB handbook and on this website. Generally, the term of the committee members is 3 years.


Steering Committee

Mission: On a high level, the MBSB Steering Committee will ensure the interdisciplinary goals and focuses of the program are maintained. The committee will also make certain that the quality of graduate student training remains consistently high throughout the program. The Steering Committee will make individual decisions regarding requests for major shifts in a student's direction, including 1) requests to change dissertation advisors or membership of dissertation committees, and 2) recommendations by advisors or dissertation committees for student termination. The committee will vote to accept new members into the MBSB Training faculty, review program issues and develop proposals for policy revision when needed or suggested by other MBSB program committees.


MBSB Program Co-Directors
Dr. James Conway
Dr. Gordon Rule

MBSB Academic Director
Dr. Ron Wetzel

MBSB Committee Chairs
Dr. Andy Hinck
Dr. Rieko Ishima
Dr. Saleem Khan
Dr. Mathias Lösche
Dr. Bennett Van Houten