Reflections from the Dean

News & Events

The spring issue of Synapse just landed in mailboxes across the country, with an impressive story titled "Physiology & Cell Biology Ranked 17th in U.S. for Research Funding."

The ink on that great news story is barely dry, and it's already outdated. I couldn't be more thrilled.

According to the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, our University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine Department of Physiology and Cell Biology is now ranked 4th in the U.S. for research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Leaping from 17th to 4th in just one year is an outstanding achievement and the direct result of the leadership of Dr. Kent Sanders, Ph.D. and his talented faculty and staff.

In research dollars, the $11.47M secured by Dr. Sanders and his team places UNR Med's Department of Physiology and Cell Biology just behind more prestigious national medical schools like the University of Michigan ($18.8M), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ($16.4M) and Vanderbilt ($14.88M), and ahead-sometimes well ahead-of schools like University of California San Francisco ($11M), Penn ($10.4M), Johns Hopkins ($9.38M), Yale ($8.99M), and UCLA ($9.28M).

Dr. Sanders himself is ranked 8th in the U.S. for research funding among academic investigators in physiology, a reflection of the strong scientific teams he has assembled to manage large program grants. In total, the department has secured nearly $13M in external grant and contract funding.

The impressive news from the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology reminds me of the many other investigators, research scientists, technicians, and staff members in our biomedical science departments whose work is deserving of celebration.

We have been particularly successful this year in recruiting yet another outstanding group of early- and mid-career scientists who discovered Reno, the School of Medicine and the University and realized the opportunities we offer to advance their science and their careers.

  • The Department of Pharmacology added six new investigators to its faculty, organized in three major research themes: Muscular Dystrophies, Cardiovascular Diseases and Human Reproduction. Among the new investigators, Peter Jones, Ph.D. came from the University of Massachusetts with his research partner and wife, Takako Jones, Ph.D., to hold a new endowed chair supported by Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D. Drs. Jones and Jones and their research team are international experts on facioscapulohumeral dystrophy. They have joined forces with Dean Burkin, Ph.D., an expert on other forms of muscular dystrophy, to explore new diagnostics and treatments for the muscular dystrophies, attracting substantial interest from the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Three new faculty members in Microbiology and Immunology are bringing substantial grant funding to study viral and bacterial pathogenesis. Cyprian Rossetto, Ph.D., secured new funding from the NIH to study herpes virus pathogenesis. Paul Brett, Ph.D. and Mary Burtnick, Ph.D. recently arrived from the University of South Alabama College of Medicine with substantial funding from the Department of Defense to develop diagnostic tests and glycoconjugate vaccines with the potential to save thousands of lives.
  • The Department of Microbiology and Immunology was honored with the Outstanding Basic Science Department award from the Class of 2017. Within the department, new grants are supporting research on the Zika virus, led by Subhash Verma, Ph.D., and the Ebola virus, led by David AuCoin, Ph.D. Additionally, Tom Kozel, Ph.D. and Amanda Burnham-Marusich, Ph.D., are developing a point-of-care test for whooping cough.
  • Department of Physiology and Cell Biology faculty members have claimed major editorial board positions, including Wei Yan, MD, Ph.D., editor-in-chief for Biology of Reproduction, and Dr. Sanders, editorial board member for Gastroenterology. Department faculty members have published recently in some of the nation's highest impact scientific journals, including Science, Nature Reviews, Physiological Reviews, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature Genetics, and Gastroenterology.

At the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, we have some of the most heavily-funded investigators in the country doing research that could very soon enhance the quality of life here in northern Nevada and globally. Our researchers are internationally-known, widely-cited, and consulted regularly for their expertise. We are fortunate to boast a facilitative environment for their collaborations and work. And, our research facilities are outstanding, thanks to the University, the state of Nevada, and our generous donors.

UNR Med is unusual if not unique in its makeup. We are one of the most community-based of the research-intensive schools, and possibly the most research-intensive of the community-based schools. The latter distinction is only possible because of our innovative biomedical scientists, whose research informs their medical student teaching and directly contributes to our vision of A Healthy Nevada.


Julie Ardito, APR
Senior Director, Advancement and Engagement
Office: (775) 784-6006

Tessa Bowen
Communications Manager, Advancement and Engagement
Office: (775) 682-9254

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine is a community-based, research-intensive medical school with a statewide vision that has served Nevada for nearly 50 years as its first public medical school. UNR Med’s vision is a healthy Nevada, supported by our mission: establishing excellence in medical education, medical care, research and community engagement, while committing to a culture of respect, compassion and inclusion. Through targeted growth and investment in research, clinical services, education and outreach, UNR Med is a resource for improving healthcare regionally and across the country. For more information, visit: