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Doctorate - Biochemistry & Molecular Biology


The Program

The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), offers a challenging and broad-based graduate program of research and course studies leading to the M.S. or Ph.D. in biochemistry. The aim of the graduate program is to train scientists for critical analysis and solution of biochemical problems at the molecular level.


The diverse research areas represented by the faculty have the common theme of understanding the structures and roles of macromolecules in complex biological systems. Students benefit from exposure to faculty members appointed in both the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources (CABNR) and the School of Medicine. They have an opportunity for multidisciplinary interactions with graduate students and faculty members in related departments, including the Departments of Physiology and Anatomy, Microbiology and Immunology, Pharmacology and Cell Biology, Chemistry, Biology, and Animal Biotechnology. The academic environment is lively and highly interactive, as represented by a diverse, interdisciplinary seminar program sponsored in conjunction with other related departments.


The program of study includes lecture courses, laboratory rotations, journal club presentations and discussion groups, a qualifying written and oral examination, dissertation research, and one or more semesters of teaching experience. First-year students take a core curriculum and gain research experience by rotating through student-selected research laboratories. Laboratory rotations facilitate the choice of a dissertation adviser. Doctoral and master’s research projects are selected by the student in consultation with a major dissertation adviser and an advisory committee. The requirements for the Ph.D. can generally be completed in four or five years. The program, which is designed to prepare students for careers in research and/or teaching, emphasizes a cooperative, personal working environment between students and members of the faculty. To learn more about how students will be assessed in their academic performance CLICK HERE.


Faculty interests cover a wide range of disciplines in the biomedical sciences and life sciences. Research interests include metagenomics analysis of extreme microbial ecosystems; environmental and biotic stress functional genomics, rubber, and vitamin biosynthesis, and biofuel feedstock production in plants and algae; functional genomics of insect peptide and lipid hormones and pheromones, and lipid metabolism; insect chromatin structure and remodeling; muscle protein enzymology, structure, and signaling; muscle contraction and excitation-contraction coupling; cell motility; insulin signaling pathways and glucose transport; receptor structure and transmembrane signal transduction mechanisms; membrane-cytoskeletal interactions; oxygen toxicity; mammalian lipid metabolism in cancer; receptor-mediated endocytosis; and computational methods in database mining and macromolecular structure.


Each faculty member directs an active research program and is dedicated to training postdoctoral associates and doctoral- and master’s-level graduate students as well as undergraduate students. Faculty members are funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, United States Department of Agriculture, and other extramural sources of about $4 million per year.




Research Facilities

Research in UNR’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is supported by state-of-the-art approaches to genomics, proteomics, gene transfer, recombinant techniques, bioinformatics, computational biology, electrophysiology, spectroscopy, single-molecule biophysics, protein analytical biochemistry, and mass spectrometry, and X-ray crystallography, among others. Facilities and technical staff members are available for analysis of samples by electron, confocal, two-photon confocal, single-molecule, and atomic force microscopy; flow cytometry; mass spectrometry; and high-throughput DNA sequence and mRNA and protein expression analysis. In addition, research centers for genomics, monoclonal antibody production, construction of viral vectors, calcium imaging, proteomics analysis, bioinformatics and molecular modeling including more than 1 TB of RAM for computational use through the University Research Grid. Transgenic mouse generation and housing are also available.


A new Knowledge Center that integrates a modern library with extensive digital retrieval of information serves as the primary center for information resources and services in support of teaching and research. The Savitt Medical Library is located in close proximity to the Biochemistry Department. The libraries’ Web-based information delivery system provides access to the libraries’ physical collections (more than 1 million books, 5,000 print journals, 12,000 videos and DVDs, and 3.3 million microforms); course reserves, most of which are available online; full-text articles from a growing number of electronic journals and magazines (currently around 15,000); approximately 13,000 electronic books; more than 200 general and specialized databases; and high-quality Internet resources selected and organized for the UNR community.


The Faculty and Their Research
Baker, Josh
Associate Professor
Location: 163 Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 784-4103 Email: jebaker@unr.edu
Blomquist, Gary
Insect Biochemistry, Lipid Metabolism, Biosynthesis of Sex Pheromones, Comparative Biochemistry
Location: 162 Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 682-7335 Email: garyb@cabnr.unr.edu
Cramer, Grant
Cold, drought and salinity stress effects on grape and wine quality; fruit flavor; ion transport; metabolomics; plant hormones; proteomics; systems biology; transcriptomics.
Location: 205 Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 784-4204 Email: cramer@unr.edu
Personal Web: http://www.ag.unr.edu/cramer/
Cremo, Christine
The structure and function of motor proteins in smooth muscle.
Location: 153 Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 784-7033 Email: cremo@unr.edu
Cushman, John
Molecular genetics of Crassulacean acid metabolism; molecular mechanisms of signal transduction and adaptive responses to salinity and drought stress in plants; functional genomics of salinity and desiccation stress tolerance; biofuels production from halophytic alga.
Location: 210B Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 784-1918 Email: jcushman@unr.edu
Damke, Hanna
Assistant Professor
Our research aims at the biochemical characterization of recently identified mutations within dynamin that have been associated with neuromuscular diseases.
Location: 216 Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 784-1830 Email: damke@unr.edu
Ellison, Patricia
Associate Professor
Regulation of smooth muscle myosins by phosphorylation and dephosphorylation. I am also interested in the interaction between myosin and actin, myosin light chain kinase and phosphatase.
Location: 150B Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 784-4561 Email: ellison@unr.edu
Facemyer, Kevin
Research Assistant Professor
Computational biochemistry of motor proteins. Phosphorylation dependent downregulation of smooth muscle myosin. Protein interface dynamics, protein docking prediction and scoring, as well as energetics of intraprotein domain interactions.
Location: 154 A Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 327-2007 Email: facemyer@unr.edu
Ferreira dos Santos, Patricia
Research Assistant Professor
Molecular Plant Pathologist
Location: 216 Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 682-7319 Email: pferreiradossantos@unr.edu
Personal Web: http://www.cabnr.unr.edu/santos/
Harper, Jeff
Professor & Department Chair
Engineering plants to better tolerate abiotic and biotic stress.
Location: 222 Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 784-1349 Email: jfharper@unr.edu
Howard, Christie
Associate Professor
Location: 165B Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 784-6243 Email: cjhoward@cabnr.unr.edu
Iosef Husted, Cristiana
Assistant Professor
I am a veterinary doctor and a cell biologist by formation and I my area of expertise is: epigenetics, metabolic growth factors (insulin and insulin-like growth factors), cellular and molecular biology of developing organs (gut, lung and muscle), protein biochemistry (protein-protein and protein-nucleic acid interactions), molecular diagnostic, molecular responses to enteric and pulmonary pathogens, molecular therapeutics (including vaccines), mucosal immunology, passive immunity (food-borne), and food-borne pathogens, biotechnology. SIGNATURE AREA: Epigenetics, Food Security, Human/Animal Health
Location: 166 Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 682-7331 Email: ciosef@unr.edu
Kosma, Dylan
Assistant Professor
Location: 216 Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 682-7319 Email: dkosma@unr.edu
Personal Web: http://www.cabnr.unr.edu/kosma/
Liebman, Susan W.
Research Professor
Prions and other protein misfolding diseases are studied using the yeast model with genetics and molecular biology.
Location: 151 Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 682-7338 Email: sliebman@unr.edu
Mastick, Cynthia Corley
Associate Professor
molecular mechanisms of signal transduction and specificity; cellular basis of insulin action and peripheral insulin resistance; regulation of glucose and lipid uptake/metabolism; cell biology of adipocytes and muscle; regulation of GluT4 vesicle traffic: endocytosis and exocytosis; Maturity-Onset or Type II diabetes.
Location: 148 Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 784-1155 Email: cmastick@unr.edu
Schlauch, Karen
Associate Professor
The development and implementation of mathematical and statistical tools to analyze large sets of genomic data.
Location: 146A Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 784-6236 Email: schlauch@unr.edu
Personal Web: http://www.cabnr.unr.edu/Schlauch/
Schooley, David
Emeritus Professor
Structural and biosynthetic studies on physiologically active materials, chiefly insect juvenile hormones and peptide hormones; methods for titer determination of hormones; stereochemistry and its analysis; analytical biochemistry.
Location: 160 Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 784-4136 Email: schooley@unr.edu
Personal Web: http://www.ag.unr.edu/schooley/
Tittiger, Claus
Insect molecular biology and genomics; isoprenoid pheromone biosynthesis; juvenile hormone regulation; cytochrome P450s; hydrocarbon and lipid metabolism.
Location: 154 Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 784-6480 Email: crt@unr.edu
Valencik, Maria
Associate Professor
Cardiovascular research, integrins and natriuretic peptides in cardiac myocytes.
Location: 166 Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 784-1389 Email: mvalen@unr.edu
Wallace, Ian
Assistant Professor
A modern plant geneticist specializing in drought-tolerant plants.
Location: N/A Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 682-7311 Email: iwallace@unr.edu
Welch, William
Emeritus Professor
Role of cations in enzyme structure and function; structure-function relationships of biological molecules.
Location: 203 Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 784-4196 Email: welch@unr.edu
Personal Web: http://www.ag.unr.edu/welch/
Zepeda, Veronica
Location: 217 Howard Medical Science
Office: (775) 682-7336 Email: vzepeda@unr.edu


Financial Aid

Graduate fellowships, assistantships, and research awards are available to students admitted to the Graduate School on a competitive basis. Both fellowships and assistantships carry a stipend and a tuition waiver. Assistantship stipends currently start at $22,000 and vary upward depending upon year of study. Information is available from the Graduate School (http://www.unr.edu/grad/)


Cost of Study

Nevada residents pay registration fees only. The registration fee was $246 per credit. Nonresidents pay tuition in addition to registration fees. In 2011–2012, part-time tuition (1–6 credits) is $263 per credit, and full-time tuition (7 credits or more) is $6,645 per semester. Students awarded research fellowships or teaching assistantships are entitled to a partial fee waiver of nonresident tuition rates and pay only $63 per credit. Residents of neighboring Arizona and California counties are eligible for reduced “Good Neighbor” nonresident tuition fees of $482 per credit. Additional fees and student insurance costs also apply.


Living & Housing Cost

A room in the residence halls ranges from $4750 to $6610 per academic year, depending on location. Meal plans range from $3539 to $4768. A listing of off-campus housing—including rooms, apartments, and houses—is also available.



There is a $90 nonrefundable graduate program application fee. All GPA and test score information must be included on the application. Interested students should submit a copy of their official undergraduate (and graduate school) transcripts directly from the institutions attended previously to the University of Nevada, Reno. As part of the online application process, applicants must also submit three letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What does the curriculum look like for graduate students in the program?

A: Click here for complete answer.


Q: Who do I contact for more information about Biochemistry & Molecular Biology?

A: Dr. John Cushman, Ph.D., Professor, Graduate Director
Phone: (775) 784-1918
e-mail: jcushman@unr.edu
Office: 210 Howard Medical Sciences Bldg , UNR Campus
1664 North Virginia Street
Mail Stop 330
Reno, Nevada 89557-0014


For the complete list of FAQs please CLICK HERE.


Page last updated: 1/2/2014