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Membrane Biology Training Program


Matthew Trudeau, Ph.D.
Co-Program Director

Andrea Meredith, Ph.D.
Co-Program Director

Marty Lind

The Training Program in Integrative Membrane Biology is an elite program designed to train doctoral students in the physiology, biophysics, biochemistry, structure, and cell and molecular biology of biological membranes. Support for this training program has been provided from a training grant, now starting its 25th year, from the Systems and Integrative Biology program within the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIH). The central idea motivating the program is that biological membranes, and especially plasma membranes, are the arbiters and integrators of a cell's response to its environment. Trainees select from a menu of basic courses in biochemistry, molecular and cell biology, physiology and neuroscience, and, in addition take specialized courses in membrane biochemistry, biophysics and integrative biology. These foundation courses place special emphasis on the structure and function of membrane macromolecules and the ways in which they control membrane permeability and cellular function.

The program is an interdepartmental program but does not grant a degree. Instead, students receive degrees from the programs in which they are enrolled. The Graduate Program in Life Sciences' programs that participate in our training program include : Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Molecular Medicine, Neuroscience and Molecular Microbiology & Immunology.

Our Campus  

Student Research Series

November - July
Fridays at noon in Rm 450 Howard Hall
(lunch provided)

The Program in Membrane Biology organizes an interdepartmental and interdisciplinary series of talks, "by and for" students. This seminar series is for students in ALL programs, not just those affiliated with the Membrane Biology program. The idea is to keep you all informed of the nature of the research you and your colleagues are doing, in all the "bench" sciences in the School of Medicine. Talks are presented by students who have made significant progress in their dissertation research. Faculty are welcome to attend at the invitation of the speaker, but only students in the audience may ask questions during the presentation. Many students have found this a useful venue to present their work in preparation for national meetings, departmental talks, or thesis proposals.

If you would like to present your research, there are still slots open for the summer sessions. Please email to sign up!

Financial Support for Our Trainees

  • Students admitted into the program can receive financial support in the form of nationally competitive stipends, waivers of tuition and fees, and full health insurance benefits. Support is provided as awards from an NIH Training Grant in Membrane Biology or through GPILS.
  • Funding by NIH training grants is highly competitive and is based on undergraduate records, Graduate Record Examination or Medical College Admission Test scores, and letters of recommendation.
  • An appointment to an NIH-sponsored training program is an honor worth noting on your CV. Only our most promising students are appointed to these grants. In addition to the support mentioned above, students on this grant receive funds to attend national conferences.

Financial support provided for all Graduate Program in Life Sciences' Students  

Course Work

Foundation Courses

To allow maximum flexibility and meshing of departmental and programmatic requirements, graduate students in the program are required to take only 4 core courses (12 credits, total). This includes Mechanisms in Biomedical Sciences: From Genes to Disease, (8 cr), the core course,  which is required of nearly all students in GPILS. Additional courses, specific to the training program in Membrane Biology are either Ion Channels or Transporters and Topics in Molecular Medicine. Students may then choose to take additional courses that are more specifically geared to their interests and goals. Students are also required to present every year in the  Student Research Seminar Series and to complete the course in Responsible Conduct of Research (CIPP 907). 

Core Course

GPILS 601 Mechanisms in Biomedical Sciences: From Genes to Disease (8 credits) This course offers a comprehensive overview of current knowledge in cellular, molecular, and structural biology and provides the background necessary for subsequent specialized studies in biomedical research for students in the programs in Neuroscience, Molecular Medicine, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

The format of this course is highly interactive, and includes:

  • Lectures presenting creative, cutting-edge approaches to investigating fundamental, current biomedical questions, together with review of fundamental principles of molecular and cellular biology
  • Vertically-integrated topics that tie together the study of individual genes, proteins, cellular function and associated clinical disorders
  • Emphasis on development and critical evaluation of scientific hypotheses
  • Introduction to state-of-the-art techniques
  • Mentored discussions of primary papers
  • Topic-specific seminars, including cancer, neuroscience, membrane biology and gene therapy
  • Optional, supplemental review sessions prior to each topic to strengthen background knowledge
    Course Director: Dr. Rick Matteson

GPLS 625 Ion Channels (2 credits) This 2-credit course will prepare students for advanced study and laboratory research on the structure and function of ion channels.  In this primary literature-based readings course, topics include the biophysical mechanisms by which ion channels open and close to regulate ion conduction, structural basis for ion channel function based on high resolution x-ray crystallography, and specialized mechanisms that tune ion channels for their physiological roles.  Major channel families and synthetic channels (channelrhodopsin) will be covered.  The course will include a discussion of the diverse roles played by ion channels in human diseases (channelopathies).  Prerequisites: GPLS core course or consent of the course directors. Offered yearly in the spring semester. Course Directors:  Dr. Andrea Meredith and Dr. Matt Trudeau 

GPLS 626 Transporters (2 credits) A 2-credit course to prepare students for advanced study and laboratory research on the mechanisms by which ions and small molecules are actively transported across biological membranes. This course deals with the structure and function of membrane proteins that actively transport ions and organic molecules. The coverage will include primary and secondary active mechanisms. The course will also include a discussion of the roles played by selected transporters in human diseases. Prerequisites: GPLS core course and GPLS 644 or equivalent or consent of the course directors. Offered yearly in the spring semester. Course Director: Dr. John Hamlyn 

GPLS 750 Topics in Molecular Medicine (2 credits) This course is aimed at developing skills necessary for understanding and discovering how changes in gene function cause human disease. The course focuses on inherited disease processes that illustrate the physiological consequences of molecular, cellular, genetic phenomena. Recent breakthroughs in the identification of disease-related genes are presented and extended to a discussion about their impact on cell and organ function. Critical reading and discussion of landmark and/or timely papers are stressed. In this way, students learn interesting state-of-the-art material while developing skills and expertise in integrative biology and molecular medicine. Topics change yearly, but have included: paralysis, malignant hyperthermia, cardiac arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, glomerulitis-Alport's, cystic fibrosis, Liddle's syndrome, hyperinsulinemia of infancy, type II diabetes mellitus, influenza, migraine headache and neurogenic inflammation, and Duchenne dystrophy. Two or three one-hour classes per topic consist of interactive discussions following assigned readings and brief lectures. Offered yearly in the fall semester.

Specialized programs of course work are drawn from the menus of classes offered by the participating graduate programs within the Graduate Program in Life Sciences at UMB:  

Popular advanced courses include:

GPLS 606 Cardiac Cellular Physiology (2 credits) Covers cardiac cellular physiology, electrophysiology, and molecular biology through lectures, readings, and discussions. Topics change yearly; recent topics have included: channels in the sarcolemma and sarcoplasmic reticulum; ion exchangers and pumps; signal transduction mechanisms; excitation-contraction coupling in heart muscle; novel aspects of cardiac muscle mechanics; and review of new molecular, optical, and electrical methods. Students present and discuss assigned papers and write a mock grant application.

GPLS 608 Seminar (1-2 credits) (Section 1, Biochemistry; section 2, Molecular Medicine; section 3, Microbiology; section 4, Neuroscience) A weekly critical review and discussion of original works and recent advances on a variety of research subjects by graduate students, faculty, staff members, and guests. Students take this course for credit at least twice, once when they present their Dissertation Proposal seminar, and once after presenting their Dissertation Defense public seminar. Molecular Medicine students take it for one additional seminar.

GPLS 616 Molecular Mechanisms of Signal Transduction (3 credits) This twice-weekly literature, discussion, and lecture course covers mechanisms of hormone action upon target cells, with emphasis on the molecular mechanisms by which hormones mediate their cellular effects. Prerequisite: completion of GPILS core curriculum, GPLS 601, 602 and 603.

GPLS 620 Cellular Basis of Synaptic Physiology and Pharmacology (3 credits) Emphasis is on electrophysiological analysis of synaptic transmission. Topics include ionic basis of excitatory and inhibitory postsynaptic potentials, equivalent circuits of transmitter action, mechanisms and regulation of transmitter release, fast and slow synaptic responses, and functional structural plasticity at synapses.

GPLS 627 Developmental Neurobiology (3 credits) This course introduces students to fundamental processes of neuronal development, including cell proliferation, differentiation of neurons and glia/cell lineage, neuronal migration, development cell death, regional differentiation, the formation of neuronal connections, plastic reorganization of the nervous system during development and developmental diseases and malformations. The underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms of these processes are also explored. Each topic is covered by a lecture and a discussion of selected current papers in the literature.

GPLS 628 Seminar in Membrane Studies (1 credit) This weekly one-hour seminar will expose students to the latest advances in the field of biological membranes through an examination of the original literature. The format involves presentations of recent papers by faculty, research fellows and students. A wide range of topics will be covered, including membrane structure and function, the molecular basis of excitation, channel function, transport mechanisms, the role of the cell membrane in controlling the cytoplasmic milieu, Ca2+ homeostasis and its relationship to excitation- contraction and excitation-secretion coupling. To receive credit, students are required to attend regularly and to give one seminar presentation.

GPILS 645 Cell and Systems Physiology (3 credits) This course provides a detailed overview of integrative physiological regulation from the level of single cells to organ systems, with a focus on epithelial cell biology, muscle biology, and neurophysiology, as well as endocrine, immune, and bone physiology. In addition to regular course work, there are paper presentations and  extensive presentations of the methodology used to study these problems.

GPLS 714 Muscle: Contractility & Excitation (3 credits) This course covers basic physiology, biochemistry, and biophysics of cardiac, skeletal, and smooth muscle. Topics include ultrastructure of skeletal muscle, mechanical and biochemical features of the crossbridge cycle in contraction, excitation contraction coupling, calcium-induced calcium release in cardiac muscle, and physiology and pharmacology of smooth muscle.

GPLS 715 Muscle Cell Biology & Development (3 credits) This course considers the developmental biology of muscle, including its innervation and plasticity. The course begins with a discussion of the factors controlling the proliferation and differentiation of myoblasts. Next are a consideration of fiber type determination, its relationship to use, and the effects of hypertrophy and atrophy on muscle. The structure, function, and formation of the neuromuscular junction and its relationship to the organization of structures in the extrajunctional region forms the next set of topics. Emphasis is placed on the extracellular matrix and the cytoskeleton. The last part of the course deals with the relationship of activity and hormonal influences to the biochemical properties of muscle. The course meets twice weekly and consists of one lecture and one session for student oral presentations and discussion of assigned research pertinent to the lecture topic.

GPLS 721 Imaging Methods in Membrane Biology (2 credits) Examines structure-function relationships as evaluated by a range of morphological methods. One two hour session per week features readings, presentations by students, and group discussions with selected laboratory demonstration sessions. Topics include freeze fracture and negative stain analysis of membrane structure, localization of antibodies and other probes by fluorescence and electron microscopy, quantitative stereology of membranes, autoradiography, and electron probe analysis.


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