Basic Sciences - Departments

Basic Sciences researchers and teachers find their homes in five academic departments, each of which focuses on a particular discipline or range of disciplines within the biomedical sciences. The departments provide the framework for collaboration among investigators of similar interest and training the next generation of scientists. 


Biochemistry is the field of study of the chemical basis of biological processes. As research develops, the field uses new tools and approaches to address problems in more detail. Biochemistry began here even before the founding of Vanderbilt University with lectures being given in the Medical Department of the University of Nashville in 1851, with the Department of Biochemistry starting under that name in 1925. Through its history since then the Department has flourished under the direction of five chairmen and currently has 20 primary faculty and a Ph.D. program.

Cell & Developmental Biology

The Department of Cell and Developmental Biology is a vibrant, interdisciplinary environment for cutting-edge research over a scale that spans seven powers of ten, from single molecules to whole organisms. The difference between a test tube and a cell is spatio-temporal organization, and we study molecular, cellular, and tissue organization in many of the laboratories within our department, seeking insights into fundamental biological questions and human disease. This year the Department rose to the #1 ranking in the nation for funding, as compared with similar departments in research institutions and universities. The Department is interactive and highly collaborative, with a strong graduate student association, outstanding core facilities, a top-ranked developmental biology program, and exceptionally strong faculty.

Molecular Physiology & Biophysics

The Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics is a basic science department located in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. The Department was recently ranked first in funding in the nation as a Physiology department by the National Institutes of Health. The Department has diverse interests that include gene regulation and cell signaling, genetics, obesity, diabetes and metabolism, neuroscience, and structural biology and biophysics. 


The Department of Pharmacology is one of the most distinguished Pharmacology departments in the country. Research interests include five major areas: signal transduction, neuroscience, bioactive lipid metabolism, genetic basis of cardiovascular dysfunction, and drug metabolism. Molecules under investigation include G-protein coupled receptors (rhodopsin, adrenergic, serotonin and receptors), heterotrimeric G-proteins, ion channels, transporters and regulatory proteins such as arrestins, protein kinases and protein phosphatases. The Department provides training focused on critical thinking to promote innovation, scholarship, and integrity. To this end, the Deparment fosters creativity, collegiality, and leadership.