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School of Medicine

VCU School of Medicine

Welcome to VCU School of Medicine

Areas of Research

Welcome to Areas of Research

Basic Laboratory Research

Clinical and Translational Research

Basic Laboratory Research


Addiction and Abuse of Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco

Strengths are in behavioral and molecular studies of central nervous system agonists and antagonists of receptors for cannabinoids, opiates, nicotine and alcohol as well as the identification of genes involved in addiction.

Ph.D. and Master’s degrees are awarded in Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Human and Molecular Genetics. An Institutional Training Grant supports pre– and postdoctoral students doing research in this area. Basic research is conducted in the Center for Drug and Alcohol Studies, an NIH Center that is part of the Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies. Investigators are located primarily in the following Departments:


Allergy and Immunology

Strengths are in immediate hypersensitivity, mast cell biology, tumor immunology, T cell biology and cytokine signaling.

The Departments of Microbiology and Immunology, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology award advanced degrees to students doing research in this area. An Institutional Training Grant supports predoctoral students. Faculty are in the following Departments:


Cancer Biology

Strengths are in therapy of hematologic malignancies, cell signaling, cell response to radiation, epigenetic control of hematologic processes, cancer immunology and cancer genomics.

The faculty performing research in this area are members of the Massey Cancer Center and most have their laboratories in the new Goodwin Research Building. Two Institutional Training Grants support pre– and postdoctoral students doing research in this area. Students who work with these investigators can get degrees in the following Departments:

In addition to the Departments listed above that grant Ph.D. degrees, faculty have their primary appointments in the following Departments:


Cell and Molecular Signaling

Strengths are in cell signaling in cancer and bacterial cells and, in particular, in the role of lipids in cell signaling.

Students doing research in this area can get Ph.D. and Master’s degrees in:

An Institutional Training Grant supports postdoctoral students doing research in this area. In addition to the Departments above, faculty doing research in this area are also in the following Departments:


Gastrointestinal Physiology and Hepatology

Strengths include the entire nervous system, enteric ion channels, hepatic and gut cholesterol metabolism and hepatic steatosis. An Institutional Training Grant supports postdoctoral students. Advanced degrees are awarded in:

Faculty performing research in this area are also in the Department of:


Molecular Biology and Genetics

A formal interdisciplinary training program, called MBG, has been created for advanced degree students that merges coursework from various graduate programs and has its own seminars and journal clubs. The coordinator is Gail Christie, Ph.D. [E-mail]: christie@vcu.edu. Participating Departments include:

Students can pursue advanced degrees in any of these six disciplines.


Molecular Cardiology and Vascular Disease

Strengths include study of cardiac ion channels, vascular and tissue oxygen exchange, vascular signaling mechanisms in normal and diseased endothelium and mechanism and treatment of myocardial ischemia/reperfusion injury. Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in this area are awarded by the following Departments:

Faculty doing research in these areas are also in the Departments of:



Strengths in this area include glial cell biology, neural plasticity and circuits, traumatic brain injury, substances of abuse, cellular and genetic basis of behavior and neurological disease, and neurodegeneration.

A Ph.D. degree in neuroscience is awarded in this discipline. The Departments of Pharmacology and Toxicology and Anatomy and Neurobiology have Institutional Training Grants (T32) that supports pre-doctoral students. The integrated program is directed by John W. Bigbee, Ph.D., and involves faculty from the following departments:

In addition to getting a Ph.D. in neuroscience, students can get a master’s or Ph.D. degree in:


Pathogenic Microbiology and Vaccinology

Strengths are in the pathogenesis of infectious diseases, staphylococcal infections, vaccine development and evaluation, microbial genomics and the resistance of pathogens to antiinfective agents.

Students can obtain Ph.D. and Master’s degrees in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. An Institutional Training Grant (T32) supports both predoctoral and postdoctoral students. Faculty doing research in this area are in the following Departments:


Reproductive Biology

Strengths include the molecualar basis of preeclampsia, regulation of steroidgenesis, the genetic basis of polycystic ovary syndrome, mechanisms of fetal membrane rupture, the molecular basis of sperm motility and folliculogenesis. Advanced degrees are awarded in:

Faculty doing research in this area are also in the Departments of:

Clinical and Translational Research


Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR)

CCTR is an incubator for all clinical research to be performed in the five schools on the MCV Campus. VCU has received an NIH Planning Grant to develop the Center and formulate curricula for advanced degrees (both Master’s and Ph.D.) in Clinical and Translational Research. Many of these studies in the School of Medicine are coordinated by and run in the General Clinical Research Center.

Clinical Research Programs in the School of Medicine include:


Investigators in the Department of Biostatistics collaborate with clinical researchers in other departments on clinical trial design, statistical analysis of trial data and bioinformatics.



Investigators in the Massey Cancer Center study new treatments for cancer as well as conduct outcomes and behavioral research in cancer patients. Therapeutic trials include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, vaccine therapy or gene therapy alone or combined with other treatment modalities including bone marrow transplantation, surgery, or radiation therapy. In addition, investigators study new ways to deliver radiation therapy and minimize damage to normal tissue.


Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolic Disease

Departments of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, Divisions of Endocrinology and Gastroenterology. Investigators study patients with interlinked conditions: Type II diabetes, the metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, polycystic ovary disease and hepatic steatosis.


Hepatitis C and HIV– Hepatitis C Coinfection

Department of Internal Medicine, Divisions of Gastroenterology and Infectious Disease. NIH–funded clinical trials are directed at therapy for these infections.



HIV–infected patients participate in clinical trials for new therapy or therapeutic regimes. This is coordinated by the HIV/AIDS Center through clinical trial grants from industry and the NIH [PDF].


Liver Transplantation

Living donor and hepatocyte transplantation studies are conducted by investigators in the Departments of Surgery and Internal Medicine.


Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Investigators in the Department of Psychiatry and the Mood Disorders Institute (MDI) perform clinical trials that help patients cope with mood and anxiety disorders and also deal with women’s mental health issues.


Parkinson’s Disease

Combining research, education and outreach, the VCU Parkinson’s Disease Center provides a coordinated approach for developing strategies that combat neurodegenerative diseases and movement disorders. The highly integrated, multidisciplinary center brings together neurologists, neuropsychologists and physical therapists to move groundbreaking research from novel approaches in the laboratory to clinical trials, translating discoveries into real-world treatments. The center’s diagnostic and therapeutic program also provides clinical diagnosis and care for Parkinson’s and related movement disorder patients, while offering training opportunities for physician and patient communities.


Public Health

The departments that constitute the Public Health Disciplines include Social and Behavioral Health, Epidemiology and Community Health, Healthcare Policy and Research and Biostatistics. Epidemiology and Community Health is within the Department of Family Practice and sponsors both a Masters of Public Health (M.P.H.) and Ph.D. degree. Social and Behavioral Health, Healthcare Policy and Research and Biostatistics each awards a Ph.D. degree.



Investigators in the Virginia Center for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics (VIPBG) study the epidemiology and genetic basis of schizophrenia using databases collected from large population groups and the MATR.


Status Epilepticus

Investigators in the Department of Neurology coordinate multicenter epilepsy trials and data collection.


Substance Abuse

Investigators in the Departments of Psychiatry, Pharmacology and Toxicology, the Virginia Center for Psychiatris and Behavioral Genetics (VIPBG), and the Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies study the epidemiology, prevention and treatment of addiction to drugs and alcohol.


Twin Studies

The Mid–Atlantic Twin Registry (MATR) is a unique resource coordinated by investigators in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics that collects and maintains an extensive twin database.


VCU Reanimation Engineering and Shock (VCURES)

Investigators in the Departments of Emergency Medicine, Anesthesiology, Surgery and Physiology conduct studies on the treatment of shock and the use of blood substitutes.


Virginia Ambulatory Care Outcomes Research Network (ACORN)

The Department of Family Practice operates a statewide, practice–based research network with the mission of collecting longitudinal data on the health status of primary care patients and on the effectiveness and quality of the care they receive.


Center for Rehabilitation Science and Engineering (CERSE)

The VCU Center for Rehabilitation Science and Engineering (VCU-CERSE) brings together researchers, clinicians, rehabilitation specialists and academicians from the VCU Schools of Medicine, Allied Health, Education and Engineering, as well as the Hunter Holmes Veterans Administration Medical Center and the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services to promote research, education, physical medicine and rehabilitation services and clinical care for America’s veterans, children and adults with disabilities.


Institute for Women’s Health

The Institute sponsors multidisciplinary research into women’s health and sex/gender issues and has received federal funding to support these studies. The following are examples of the research supported by these grants:

  • A Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH)grant provides funds to junior faculty to perform research on sex and gender-related factors.
  • The Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities has three full and two pilot projects that focus on research topics in African-American women including the genetics of premature rupture of the membranes and the relationship of premature birth to periodontal disease.
  • A U54 grant on Association and Linkage Studies in Polycystic Ovary Disease.