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Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Track

Molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics are fundamental approaches implemented at the forefront of scientific discovery, leading the way toward understanding the molecular mechanisms of diseases. By getting to the core of how living organisms work and unlocking the innermost secrets of the cell, scientists can uncover new ways to detect and attack disease, and answer other fundamental questions about human life.

As a student in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) Track within the Ph.D. Program at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, you’ll learn to conduct hypothesis-driven, molecular research in a variety of areas spanning basic to applied science using a multitude of approaches ranging from model organisms to human specimens.

You’ll have the opportunity to work with researchers from across Mayo Clinic’s diverse scientific specialties, with access to state-of-the-art facilities for analyses at whole organ, cellular, molecular and atomic levels.

Current areas of research within our three foci include:

  • Protein and lipid trafficking
  • Genetic and epigenetic studies in monogenic and multigenic disorders
  • Protein folding and disease
  • Regulation of gene expression
  • Cell signaling
  • Aging
  • Organelle function and dynamics
  • Hormone-based diseases
  • Genome editing
  • Musculoskeletal biology
  • Cancer biology and progression

Most projects are directly related to human disease, with a view to understanding pathogenesis and development of effective therapies. Investigators within the BMB Track employ human disease specimens and an array of model systems including mice, zebrafish, drosophila and yeast in their studies.


As a student, you begin the program by discussing your career goals and research interests with track leadership in order to begin tailoring your individual educational trajectory. Subsequent to this discussion, you’ll select a minimum of three laboratories in which to perform eight- to 10-week rotations. You’ll spend a minimum of 20 hours each week in these rotations and use these experiences to select a thesis mentor.

In conjunction with the laboratory rotations, you begin fulfilling the graduate school core curriculum requirements and the track-specific requirements. The BMB Track requires 42 credits accumulated from four required core courses and the remaining built by the student from any course offered by the graduate school and tailored to their interests and research project.

Recent thesis topics


  • “Exploiting Mosaic Variegated Aneuploidy Syndrome Mutations to Elucidate BubR1's Role in Cancer and Aging,” Cynthia Sieben, Ph.D. (Mentor: Jan van Deursen, Ph.D.)
  • “Identifying and Addressing Roles of Proteases and Protease Inhibitors in Progression of Metastasis of Ovarian Clear Cell Carcinoma,” Christine Mehner, Ph.D. (Mentor: Evette S. Radisky, Ph.D.)
  • “Regulation of Hepatocyte Growth and Metabolism by the Small Rab GTPases,” Kristina Drizyte-Miller, Ph.D. (Mentor: Mark A. McNiven, Ph.D.)
  • “Cellular Senescence in Neurodegenerative Disease,” Tyler Bussian, Ph.D. (Mentor: Darren J. Baker, Ph.D., M.S.)
  • “Cytoskeletal and Membrane Remodeling at the Leading Edge Drives Pancreatic Tumor Cell Invasion and Growth,” Kevin Burton, Ph.D. (Mentor: Mark A. McNiven, Ph.D.)
  • “The Role of Ceramides in Human Skeletal Muscle Insulin Resistance Development,” Paola Ramos, Ph.D. (Mentor: Michael D. Jensen, M.D.)
  • “Alterations in Centrosome Separation and the Actomyosin Cortex as a Source of Tumor Promoting Chromosomal Instability,” Jazeel Limzerwala, Ph.D. (Mentor: Bruce F. Horazdovsky, Ph.D.)
  • “Estrogen Receptor Beta Elicits Anti-Cancer Effects in Triple Negative Breast Cancer through Suppression of NFκB Signaling,” Kirsten Aspros, Ph.D. (Mentor: John R. Hawse, Ph.D.)
  • “Determining the Mechanisms of Endoxifen Resistance in Estrogen Receptor Alpha Positive Breast Cancer,” Calley Jones, Ph.D. (Mentor: John R. Hawse, Ph.D.)
  • “The Role of BubR1 in Vascular Biology,” Annyoceli Santiago, Ph.D. (Mentor: Bruce F. Horazdovsky, Ph.D.)
  • “Automated Segmentation of CT Abdomen for Quantifying Body Composition Using Deep Learning,” Khaled Aziz, M.D., Ph.D. (Mentor: Bradley J. Erickson, M.D., Ph.D.)


  • “Therapeutic Modulation of the Phagocytosis Axis as a Novel Glioblastoma Immunotherapy,” Christina von Roemeling, Ph.D. (Mentor: Yon Son Betty Kim, M.D., Ph.D.)
  • “Regulation of Metalloprotease Action During Cancer Cell Metastasis,” Li Qiang, Ph.D. (Mentor: Mark A. McNiven, Ph.D.)
  • “IPF Pathogenesis is Dependent Upon TGFβ Induction of IGF-1,” Danielle Hernandez, Ph.D. (Mentor: Edward B. Leof, Ph.D.)


  • “Roles of TMPRSS2-ERG Gene Fusions During Prostate Adenocarci Noma Initiation and Progression,” Alexandra M. Blee, Ph.D. (Mentor: Haojie Huang, Ph.D.)
  • “Genetic Status of KRAS Influences Transforming Growth Factor Beta (TGFb) Signaling in Tumorigenesis,” Sneha Vivekanandhan, Ph.D. (Mentor: Debabrata Mukhopadhyay, Ph.D.)
  • “Epigenetic Abnormalities in Brain Tumors,” Xiaoyue Chen, Ph.D. (Mentor: Jann Sarkaria, M.D.)
  • “Mechanisms Regulating Epigenetic Information Passage and Development-Associated Chromatin Remodeling,” Yuan Gao, Ph.D. (Mentor: Zhenkun Lou, Ph.D.)
  • “Role of DNA Replication-Coupled Nucleosome Assembly in Cell Fate Determination During Development,” Liang Cheng, Ph.D. (Mentor: Tamas Ordog, M.D.)


  • “Characterizing Cyclophilin-Mediated Survival in Glioblastoma Multiforme,” Lin Wang, Ph.D. (Mentor: Richard Bram, M.D., Ph.D.)
  • “The Role of Protein Kinase D in Focal Adhesion Signaling and Cell Adhesion,” Nisha C. Durand, Ph.D. (Mentor: Peter Storz, Ph.D.)


  • “Nucleosome Assembly and Cellular Senescence,” Jong-Sun Lee, Ph.D. (Mentor: Zhiguo Zhang)
  • “Spartan, a Novel Regulator of Replication Stress Response and Genome Stability,” Reeja Maskey, Ph.D. (Mentor: Yuichi Machida, Ph.D.)
  • “Modulation of the AAA-ATPase Vps4 by the V Domain of the ESC RT-Associated Factor Bro1,” Shirley E. Bradley Dean, Ph.D. (Mentor: David Katzmann, Ph.D.)
  • “Evaluation and Analysis of DNA Supercoiling and Protein Mediated DNA Loops in vivo and in vitro FAP,” Lauren S. Mogil, Ph.D. (Mentor: Louis J. Maher III, Ph.D.)
  • “The Role of Histone Deacetylase 3 in Chondrocyte Maturation During Endochondral Ossification,” Lomeli C. Shull, Ph.D. (Mentor: Jennifer Jane Westendorf, Ph.D.)
  • “Epigenetic Regulation of Interstitial Cell Fates and Function in the Gastrointestinal Tract,” Sabriya A. Syed, Ph.D. (Mentor: Tamas Ordog, M.D.)
  • “Engineered Gold Nanoparticles for Identification of Novel Ovarian Cancer Biomarkers,” Karuna Giri, Ph.D. (Mentor: Y.S. Prakash, M.D., Ph.D.)

Your future

The BMB Track offers a broad range of research opportunities in laboratories supported by state-of-the-art core facilities. A particular emphasis of the BMB department at Mayo Clinic is the study of the molecular mechanisms of human disease with a view to understanding pathogenesis and development of effective therapies.

After successfully graduating from this program, you’ll have a skill set that is ideally matched for a wide range of careers, including biomedical research, industry, education, government, or health care liaison.

Meet the director

John Hawse, IV, Ph.D. (318x318)The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) Track at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences is associated with the department of the same name and offers training for graduate students in a broad range of basic sciences.

The track has three areas of specialty: Biochemistry and Structural Biology, Cancer Biology, and Cell Biology and Genetics.

This track also holds the largest faculty and student population of any Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences track, with more than 100 faculty members and more than 40 students.

John Hawse, Ph.D.
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Track Director
Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Phone: 507-284-4268
See research interests

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