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Focus Areas

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FOCUS AREAS

In their second semester of study, TBMH students begin to specialize in two focus areas. Learn more about each of our six focus areas, related faculty and research and coursework below. 

     

Cancer

This is a promising time for cancer researchers as recent advances in molecular biology and genomics, such as decoding of diverse cancer genomes and identification of key molecular processes and signaling pathways, have enhanced our understanding of cancer cells, and opened the door for the development of new therapies and diagnostic tools.

Students in the cancer focus area will be interested in combating cancer through research. Coursework will take an integrative, translational approach to all aspects of neoplastic disease, from its basis in molecular cell biology (including genetics, stem cells, invasion and metastasis, and immune surveillance) to an integrative view of the tumor environment and novel cancer diagnosis and treatment tools (biomarkers, drug design, screening, and personalized medicine), as well as its social, psychological, and economic consequences.

The TBMH cancer faculty study a range of topics, including:

  • Cancer genomics, transcriptomics, epigenomics, and proteomics
  • Molecular and computational cell biology
  • Cancer metabolism
  • Cell cycle control and apoptosis
  • Bioorganic and natural products chemistry
  • Chemotherapy and radiotherapy
  • Mechanisms of therapy-resistance
  • Novel biomarkers and therapeutic approaches to cancer

In addition to the core coursework taken by all TBMH students, each student will take two intensive 4 credit TBMH courses specific to their focus areas, and at least 3 credits of free elective coursework to further develop their expertise in this area.

Required focus area-specific coursework
  • TBMH 5024 - Fundamentals of Cancer (4 cr)
Sample free elective courses
Plan of study

Tissue Engineering and Reparative Medicine

In order to prevent and repair dysfunction due to developmental disorders, aging, and injury, it is critical to understand the fundamental processes of healthy development and how they change across the lifespan. This focus area is thus multidisciplinary, ranging from cellular and molecular processes involved in human development and aging to the social and behavioral aspects of developmental disorders and age-related conditions, such as autism spectrum disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, and atherosclerosis.

Students will have an interest in understanding and addressing the diseases and disabilities associated with development, injury, and aging. They will develop a strong understanding of critical genetic, cellular, molecular, physiological, environmental and psychological aspects of human development, and how these processes go awry with aging – in order to best address how to repair them. Students will learn about multiple systems and techniques, including reparative medicine, to prepare them to carry out innovative, interdisciplinary research to address critical challenges facing our developing and aging populations.

Clinical approaches to overcome these hurdles will be considered in the context of (i) existing and emerging health care options, (ii) broader economic impacts, and (iii) society at large including issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and historic injustices in healthcare development and implementation.

The TBMH faculty in Tissue Engineering and Reparative Medicine study a range of topics, including:

  • Cognitive development and aging
  • Age-related conditions, including Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Development and aging of the brain, nerves, and muscles
  • Cardiac arrthymias and skin wound healing
  • Functional neuroimaging in developing and aged clinical populations
  • Genetic models of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as X-linked mental retardation
  • Development of therapeutics based on small molecules and stem cells

In addition to the core coursework taken by all TBMH students, each student will take two intensive 4 credit TBMH courses specific to their focus areas, and at least 3 credits of free elective coursework to further develop their expertise in this area.

Required focus area-specific coursework
  • TBMH 5064 - Fundamentals of Tissue Engineering and Reparative Medicine (4 cr)
Sample free elective courses
Plan of study

Public Health and Implementation Science

Health Implementation Science is an emerging field located at the far end of the clinical translational continuum -- focused on scientific inquiry about the “uptake” of major medical and health discoveries by practitioners and policymakers, and their impact on the well-being of individuals and communities. This field, which is strongly endorsed by the National Institutes of Health, The Institute of Medicine, and The National Research Council, has emerged to help ensure that the investments and progress made in basic science and clinical research yield their full impact. Other federal agencies also fund work on this end of the translational continuum as they focus on dissemination of evidence-based public health programs and models. These include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Students in this focus area will learn the basic terminology and explore approaches from a range of specialty fields -- including public health, health literacy, information dissemination, health systems research, community-engaged and community-based participatory research, health economics, and health disparities research –- and explicitly connect them to conduct implementation science. Students will understand the pathway from discovery of efficacious treatments or preventive interventions to their extension to clinical and community-based practice and the measurement of patient-oriented outcomes.

The TBMH faculty in Public Health Implementation Science study a range of topics, including:

  • Community-based type 2 diabetes self-management education
  • Policy, systems and environmental strategies for prevention of obesity
  • Partnering with faith-based organizations to address health inequities
  • Prevention of substance misuse and addiction
  • Community-based strategies to support people in recovery from substance use disorder
  • Interventions and early education programs to improve teacher and child caregiver effectiveness in promoting student success
  • Strategies to reduce maternal, paternal, and child health disparities
  • Development, implementation, and evaluation of pediatric neuromotor interventions for children with cerebral palsy
  • Adolescent health and risk behaviors
  • Development, implementation and evaluation of prevention health programs in schools and communities, and linking theory to practice in problem-based community health efforts

In addition to the core coursework taken by all TBMH students, each student will take two intensive 4 credit TBMH courses specific to their focus areas, and at least 3 credits of free elective coursework to further develop their expertise in this area.

Required focus area-specific coursework
  • TBMH 5034 - Fundamentals of Public Health Implementation Science  (4 cr)
Sample free elective courses
Plan of study
Kathy Hosig

Public Health & Implementation Science Focus Area Director

Kathy Hosig, Ph.D.

khosig@vt.edu

Immunity and Infectious Disease

The world is now becoming a smaller place for microbes, as emerging and re-emerging diseases continue to catch the world off guard, and many medicines are losing their effectiveness. Thus it is critical to train a new generation of scientists to address today’s challenges of fighting infectious diseases around the globe, as well as to advance our understanding of how the immune system fights infections. The immune system is also critical for fighting tumors, and its dysfunction can lead to problems such as automimmune disease, the second highest cause of chronic illness in the U.S.

Students in this focus area will learn to integrate our current understanding of immune mechanisms and microorganisms that contribute to healthy function, the causes and mechanisms leading to dysfunction, and current evolving approaches to therapy and therapeutic development. This includes contemporary and emerging pathogens (viral, bacterial, parasitic, and other), the human immune response, current techniques for the development and delivery of novel therapeutic and prophylactic drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines, as well as the social, psychological, and economic consequences of infectious and immune diseases.

The TBMH faculty in Immunity and Infections Disease study a range of topics relating to the immune system and host-pathogen interactions, including:

  • Bioinformatics, computational modeling, and epidemiology
  • In vitro and in vivo models, from cell culture, to insects, mice, and clinical populations
  • Human inflammatory diseases, including cancer, tissue damage, atherosclerosis, obesity and diabetes.
  • Vector-borne disease
  • Viral replication, transmission, and evolution
  • Host defenses against infectious disease
  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • Vaccination and other preventative measures

In addition to the core coursework taken by all TBMH students, each student will take two intensive 4 credit TBMH courses specific to their focus areas, and at least 3 credits of free elective coursework to further develop their expertise in this area.

Required focus area-specific coursework
  • TBMH 5064 - Fundamentals of Tissue Engineering and Reparative Medicine (4 cr)
Sample free elective courses
Plan of study

Metabolic and Cardiovascular Science

Cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, including sudden cardiac death, heart failure, and diabetes, are among the leading, costliest, and often preventable causes of death worldwide. Research aimed at understanding mechanisms of arrhythmia in heart disease and the relationship between cardiovascular disease, obesity, and metabolic risk factors, will be important for developing candidate therapeutic, reparative, and prevention strategies.

Students will develop a comprehensive understanding of cardiovascular physiology from the molecular to the whole organism level, and the interrelationship between metabolism and the cardiovascular system. This will include topics such as cardiovascular function and regulation, principle energy systems, appetite and energy expenditure, and including the epidemiology, pathophysiology, and socioeconomic impact of cardiometabolic diseases, with an emphasis on the translation of basic scientific discoveries into practical applications.

The TBMH faculty in Metabolic and Cardiovascular Science study a range of topics, including:

  • Effects of obesity and aging on cardiometabolic function
  • Obesity prevention and treatment
  • Cardiac arrthymias and sudden cardiac death
  • Regenerative medicine, including development of therapeutics based on small molecules and stem cells
  • Electrical activity transfer between cardiac myocytes
  • Cardiac inflammation and edema
  • Cellular and molecular mechanisms of inflammatory vascular disease

In addition to the core coursework taken by all TBMH students, each student will take two intensive 4 credit TBMH courses specific to their focus areas, and at least 3 credits of free elective coursework to further develop their expertise in this area.

Required focus area-specific coursework

  • TBMH 5044 - Fundamentals of Metabolic and Cardiovascular Science (4 cr)
Sample elective courses
Plan of study

Molecular and Cognitive Neurosciences

The human brain remains one of the most complex and mysterious structures in existence. It allows us to think, remember, feel, and execute coordinated movements, and interfaces with many other systems in the body to regulate processes such as  heart rate, growth, and appetite. Unfortunately, there are over 1,000 disorders of the brain and nervous system, which result in more hospitalizations and lost productivity than any other disease group, including heart disease and cancer. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that neurological disorders affect up to one billion people worldwide.

Students entering this focus area will have an interest in reducing this neurological burden and promoting healthier nervous system function, through basic, applied, and clinical research. They will develop an understanding of the biological processes that undergird a healthy nervous system and cognitive function, the causes and mechanisms of dysregulation that lead to dysfunction, and current and evolving approaches to therapy and novel therapeutic development.

The TBMH neuroscience faculty study a range of topics, including:

  • Cellular, molecular, and cognitive development
  • Aging of the brain, nerve, and muscle
  • Plasticity, learning and memory
  • Addiction and recovery
  • Neuroimaging and neuromodulation
  • Computational neuroscience
  • Neuropsychiatric, neurodegenerative, and neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Neuroeconomics, decision-making, and social cognition
  • Injury and regeneration

In addition to the core coursework taken by all TBMH students, each student will take two intensive 4 credit TBMH courses specific to their focus areas, and at least 3 credits of free elective coursework to further develop their expertise in this area.

Required focus area-specific coursework
  • TBMH 5014 Fundamentals of Neuroscience (4 cr)
Sample free elective courses
Plan of study
Anthony LaMantia

Molecular Neuroscience Focus Area Director

Anthony LaMantia, Ph.D.

anthonysl@vtc.vt.edu

Cognitive Neuroscience Focus Area Director

To Be Determined