Current Topics in Cell Biology (BIOC 791A) 

Current Topics in Cell Biology is a 3-credit advanced class. The course is uniquely structured to allow advanced students to independently study a focused area of cell biology of their choice, while working one-on-one with a faculty member. Students will analyze the primary literature and draft an original review on the topic. The faculty member will guide the student's literature search and provide editorial comments during development of the review.

Bioinformatics Course 

The Bioinformatics Course is organized as an intense, hands-on workshop held over the course of 2 weeks. Students will learn bioinformatics principles and perform practical exercises to practice analysis. The course will include training in data analysis and visualization, genome annotation, sequence alignment, analysis of gene expression and identification of differentially expressed genes, Gene Ontology analysis, promoter analysis and identification of transcription factor binding sites.

Specific skills learned will include using Unix/Linux shells, applied statistics using R, NextGen sequencing analysis, qPCR analysis, programming basics, data storage and retrieval, and sequence manipulation and analysis. The long term plan is to utilize this course as the core introduction to bioinformatics and to develop additional modules to provide a similar practical experience in specialized topics of interest. The course will be required for supported trainees, and an optional part of the curriculum for all other graduate students.

BIOC793 Professional Skills Development

Professional Skills Development is a 1 credit course utilizing a combination of didactic instruction and active student participation.  The purpose of this course is to provide the opportunity to learn and practice skills that are required for the successful professional throughout their career.  These skills will be valuable for professionals working in the sciences as well as other fields.  Areas of instruction will include communication, conflict resolution, negotiation, working in teams and project management.

Specific Objectives

  • Acquire knowledge on select topics to enhance professional development
  • Develop critical professional skills
  • Practice professional skills with peers
  • Reflect on your developing professional skills through peer and instructor feedback

Research Training Activities

Journal Club

We explore areas of interest and new technology through participation in a journal club where we spend a few weeks focused on subjects chosen by the students. Examples of topics include:

  • Studying GTPase activation using FRET imaging
  • Imaging real-time cell migration and invasion in C. elegans
  • Live cell imaging of actin dynamics in hippocampal neurons
  • Small animal imaging techniques
  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Stem cells
  • Imaging techniques to overcome the diffraction limit - STED, PALM and iPALM
  • Lgr5, wnt signaling and stem cells
  • Uses of ultra sound imaging in cardiovascular and cancer research using small animal models


Students invite and host seminar speakers doing exciting work in cell biology fields of interest. These experts bring new ideas and areas of imaging expertise to our program.

Past speakers include:

  • David R. Sherwood, Ph.D.
    Duke University
    "Genetic analysis of development in C. elegans: modeling cell invasive behavior"
  • Donna J. Webb, Ph.D.
    Vanderbilt University Medical Center
    "Imaging spine morphogenesis and synapse formation in hippocampal neurons"
  • Clare Waterman
    Director, Cell Biology and Physiology Center National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute National Institutes of Health
    “Integrating Actin Dynamics and Adhesion in cell migration”
  • Nick Barker
    Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore
    "Lgr5 stem cells in epithelial self-renewal and cancer"
  • Ronglih Liao
    Brigham and Women’s Hospital Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
    "Cardiac Regeneration: Can we turn back time?”
  • Peter Friedl
    Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology - Research, Division of Cancer Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
    Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, Netherlands
    "Intravital microscopy of collective cancer invasion and metastatic dissemination"


Our students have the opportunity to participate in hands-on workshops to gain experience in new imaging techniques.

Past workshops include:

  • Small Animal Imaging
  • Visiting the Animal Models & Imaging Facility to see our IVIS Lumina in action. Students will visualize orthotopic bioluminescent tumors and metastases in live mice.

Histology Series

General introduction to histology and tissues; introduction to specific histology topics selected by the students - circulatory system, nervous system. The workshop includes three hands-on microscope sessions studying histological specimens.


Two workshops were led by Dr. Fahad Bafakih, Chief Resident in Pathology at the WVU School of Medicine. The first workshop was focused upon the pathology of cancer in the central nervous system and the second workshop covered the pathology of neurodegenerative diseases. Special thanks to Drs. Barb Ducatman, Kymberly Gyure and the Department of Pathology for providing access to the pathology teaching lab.

Appalachian Regional Cell Conference (ARCC)

The students of the Cell Biology Training Program organized the inaugural Appalachian Regional Cell Conference held in 2012 in Charleston, West Virginia. They established contacts with students at Ohio University, Marshall University and the University of Kentucky, who shared an interest in Cell Biology. The students applied and received funding from the American Society for Cell Biology to defray the costs of the meeting.

The inaugural meeting was very successful, attracting 73 participants from the region. Students presented their research in podium and poster presentation. Dr. Vinay Pathak, Head of the Viral Mutation Section of the HIV Drug Resistance Program at the NCI, gave the keynote address.

Since the inaugural event, the students have organized seven additional annual ARCC meetings. Dr. Alfred Goldberg from Harvard University was featured as the keynote speaker to the 5th annual ARCC.


  • Research Conference
  • Student Sabbatical 
  • Leadership
  • Biomedical Engineering Experience 

National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) T32 program (T32 GM133369)

Research Forrest