Molecular Metabolism & Metabolic Diseases

The Molecular Metabolism and Metabolic Diseases (3MD) Track is designed to deepen students’ understanding of biological processes and molecular mechanisms underlying metabolic diseases. Participating in the Track also offers students tools to investigate metabolic aspects of cancers and disorders of the neuronal, cardiovascular, immune, endocrine, renal, pulmonary, rheumatologic, and musculoskeletal systems. The Track is designed to build camaraderie among a network of students who are all interested in metabolism.

Affiliation with 3MD:

The 3MD track is most appropriate for those students with an interest in metabolism and metabolic diseases. All students are welcome to affiliate with the 3MD track. Upperclassmen can affiliate at any time. First year students would affiliate at the time they choose their graduate program.

Requirements for remaining a student in good standing with the 3MD Track:

Upperclassmen:

  • Must attend all eight 1-hour Metabolism Masterclass sessions throughout the year (attendance will be recorded). If there is a legitimate reason for missing a class, the course moderators should be notified in advance. Students can “make-up” the session by watching a recorded session afterward and then submitting a short summary (no longer than a half-page) to the course moderators. Missing a class is highly discouraged.
  • Can opt in to taking the Manifestations and Pathogenesis of Metabolic Diseases course in the Summers, but this is not mandatory.

First year Students:

  • Must attend all eight 1-hour Manifestations and Pathogenesis of Metabolic Diseases course sessions (in the Summer prior to Year 2). If there is a legitimate reason for missing a class, the course moderators should be notified in advance. Students can “make-up” the session by watching a recorded session afterwards and then submitting a short summary (no longer than a half-page) to the course moderators. Missing a class is highly discouraged.
  • Must attend all remaining 1-hour Metabolism Masterclass sessions in the first year once they do affiliate. Also, encouraged to attend Metabolism Masterclass session even prior to affiliating with 3MD.

 

Ryan Reynolds

“I am fascinated by a region of the brain called the hypothalamus, which acts as an interface to detect signals in the blood and seamlessly integrate them into complex neural circuitry that influences animal behavior.”

Ryan Reynolds

Molecular Metabolism and Metabolic Diseases Track and Biological Chemistry Graduate Program
Research Topic: Hypothalamic Control of Metabolism

 
 

Highlights of Metabolism Research at UT Southwestern

Nature Index No. 1 in All Sciences 2020 badge

Research at UT Southwestern in metabolism and metabolic diseases is renowned and has been led by some of the country’s most respected investigators. Included among our faculty currently performing metabolism research are three Nobel prize winners, seven Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators, and 13 National Academy of Sciences members. These investigators and others affiliated with the 3MD Track are distributed across a wide range of departments and buildings throughout the UT Southwestern campus.

Graduate students in the labs of our UT Southwestern investigators have contributed to a consistent set of exciting and seminal findings in the field of metabolism over the last half-century. Here are some recent highlights from the many key discoveries by our metabolism faculty, their students, and their other lab members:

Discovery HighlightsScientist
2014
FGF21 is a starvation hormone that acts centrally to induce weight loss Mangelsdorf and Kliewer
2006
PCSK9 inactivation mutations lower LDL and prevent heart attacks Horton, Cohen, Hobbs
2005
Disruption of molecular circadian clock causes obesity Takahashi
1974
LDL receptor and genetic basis of familial hypercholesterolemia Brown and Goldstein
(1985 Nobel Prize)

View More Discoveries

Mission Statement

The mission of the Track is to prepare graduate students to conduct cutting-edge basic science research on the biological processes underlying metabolism and the metabolic drivers of disease.

  • Advanced Coursework

    The Track’s course work and activities will supplement those of the student’s home program. By the end of training, students will be able to:

    • Perform original, basic science research on the hormonal, neuronal, and biochemical processes underlying normal metabolism and the metabolic derangements that lead to, and result from, disease states
    • Employ cutting-edge, state-of-the-art techniques in their research projects
    • Conduct critical assessments of metabolism-focused scientific literature and apply the latest findings to their own research
    • Convey their research findings, and the implications of their research findings, to the academic community in the forms of posters and oral presentations at local, national, and international settings, and in the form of peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts
  • FAQs

    Q: Is there a special form or essay needed to apply for the 3MD Track?

    ANSWER: There is no special application or essay that is needed during the application process to express your interest in or apply to the 3MD Track. Notably, the Mechanisms of Disease and Translational Science Track does require an essay during the application process since there are a set number of spaces available for that Track. If you would like to express your interest in 3MD and learn more about 3MD during the interview process, please check the appropriate box in the application. Once you are a student, all you will need to do to affiliate with 3MD is inform Dr. Zigman or Mardreana Reed and voila.

    Q: If I don’t express interest in the 3MD Track during the application process, can I still affiliate with 3MD?

    ANSWER: Yes – First year and upperclass students can affiliate with 3MD at any time. Most students affiliate in the Spring of their first year, at the same time they choose their graduate program. Just inform Dr. Zigman or Mardreana Reed, and we will sign you up. There is no limit to the number of students who can affiliate with the 3MD Track.

    Q: What makes the 3MD Track different than one of the Graduate Programs?

    ANSWER: Consider the 3MD Track as a “special emphasis” pathway for UT Southwestern graduate students interested in metabolism and/or metabolic diseases. All first year students formally join a degree-granting graduate program in ~ the Spring of their first year and also will have the opportunity to affiliate with the 3MD Track at that time. Each graduate program sets its own requirements for coursework, qualifying exams, thesis committee meetings, and graduating. The 3MD Track does not have a separate qualifying exam or Ph.D. thesis to write. Instead, the 3MD Track has only minimal requirements (two courses for which attendance alone is recorded). Many different graduate programs are represented within our current group of 3MD students. Our faculty in 3MD are affiliated with several of the Graduate Programs – and some faculty members are affiliated with more than one Graduate Program.

    Q: Are there plans for the 3MD Track to become a Graduate Program in the future?

    ANSWER: This is not likely within the next two years. Since we are a state school, the Texas State Legislature would need to approve any new Graduate Program. We are in the very early stages of preparing the documents needed to apply with the state. Although there will likely not be a 3MD Graduate Program soon, you will still be able to affiliate with the 3MD Track at the time you choose your graduate program. You would be able to perform research on Metabolism and Metabolic Diseases in any of the current Graduate Programs. For instance, some of our students are in the Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP). Other students are in the Genetics, Development and Disease (GDD) Graduate Program, the Biological Chemistry Graduate Program, the Cell and Molecular Biology Program, the Cancer Biology Graduate Program, or others. If a 3MD Graduate Program were to start sometime later in your graduate training, you likely would continue in the same Graduate Program you originally enrolled in. Practically speaking, and most importantly, you would not be underserved by remaining in the original Graduate Program. Presumably, a new 3MD Graduate Program would also come with some more courses, and you would definitely be able to audit those courses if you so desired.

    Q: If I am interested in affiliating with 3MD, which Graduate Program should I choose?

    ANSWER: That is up to you – whichever graduate program fits best with your interests. For instance, if you are interested in regulation of body weight, just about any Graduate Program might be relevant. If you are interested in the brain regulation of body weight in obesity, perhaps, the Neuroscience Graduate Program or Genetics, Development, and Disease would be a good choice. Perhaps, you might choose your graduate program based on the coursework or the requirements of one Graduate Program vs. another. Several of the Graduate Programs are currently represented by our 3MD students.

    Q: What requirements are there for 3MD students?

    ANSWER: Besides the requirements set out by each Graduate Program, the requirements for remaining a student in good standing with the 3MD Track are minimal and not burdensome. The short list is below, but essentially, it consists of attending an 8 week-long, 1 hour-per-week Manifestations and Pathogenesis of Metabolic Diseases class (with no homework and no exams) during the Summer after your first year + attending a 1 hour-per-month Metabolism Masterclass (with no homework and no exams) 8 months out of each year over the course of your graduate studies. Given our students’ interests in metabolism, these classes are likely ones you would want to attend even if they were not required. Although not required, we encourage our students to attend the social events and guided lab tours sponsored by 3MD. We also encourage our students to learn more about our faculty performing research on metabolism and metabolic diseases by reading more on our curated website.

    Requirements for 3MD students:

    Upperclassmen:

    • Must attend all eight 1-hr Metabolism Masterclass sessions throughout the year (attendance will be recorded). If there is a legitimate reason for missing a class, the course moderators should be notified in advance. Students can “make-up” the session by watching a recorded session afterwards and then submitting a short summary (no longer than a half-page) to the course moderators. Missing a class is highly discouraged.

    • Can opt in to taking the Manifestations and Pathogenesis of Metabolic Diseases course in the Summers, but this is not mandatory.

    First year Students:

    • Must attend all eight 1-hr Manifestations and Pathogenesis of Metabolic Diseases course sessions (in the Summer prior to Year 2). If there is a legitimate reason for missing a class, the course moderators should be notified in advance. Students can “make-up” the session by watching a recorded session afterwards and then submitting a short summary (no longer than a half-page) to the course moderators. Missing a class is highly discouraged.

    • Must attend all remaining 1-hr Metabolism Masterclass sessions in the first year once they do affiliate. Also, encouraged to attend Metabolism Masterclass session even prior to affiliating with 3MD.

    Q: If I don’t have a background in Metabolism research, am I still a good candidate for the 3MD Track?

    ANSWER: Yes, definitely. The 3MD track is most appropriate for those students with an interest in metabolism and metabolic diseases. Whether or not you have a background in metabolism research is inconsequential. All students are welcome to affiliate with the 3MD track.

    Q: Is it possible to affiliate with both the Mechanisms of Disease and Translational Science (MoDTS) Track and the 3MD Track?

    ANSWER: Yes. Notably, if you are interested in the MoDTS Track, a special MoDTS Essay must be included as part of your application to the Division of Basic Sciences at UT Southwestern. No essay or special application is needed to affiliate with the 3MD Track.

    Q: What can I expect during my time in the Track?

    ANSWER: The Track is designed to build camaraderie among a network of students who are all interested in metabolism. Even before you join the 3MD Track, interested students can participate in Guided Lab Tours of our 3MD Faculty labs, social events, and the monthly Metabolism Masterclass. Once you affiliate, we encourage continued participation in our social events. Also, you will continue to attend the Metabolism Masterclass. During the Summer after your first year of classes, you will attend the Manifestations and Pathogenesis of Metabolic Diseases course. Beginning in the second part of your first year, you will begin your PhD research. This could be within a 3MD Faculty member’s lab (although this is not a requirement) and/or could be under the guidance of a Thesis Committee that includes one or more 3MD Faculty members (although this is not a requirement).

    Q: What can I do to learn about the 3MD faculty and figure out who I’d work with?

    ANSWER: We plan to sponsor guided lab tours of our 3MD faculty members lab each Fall. Be on the lookout for announcements of Introductory poster sessions in the Fall sponsored by the graduate school. A list of 3MD faculty with very brief descriptions of their labs is included below. Click on the listed links for more information. Also, please feel free to email faculty to learn more. In addition, there will be ample opportunity for you to rotate through the labs of faculty who interest you during the Fall and Winter of your first year. Most students perform 3 rotations before deciding. Opportunities may exist to begin a rotation in the Summer prior to your first year. 

  • Journal Clubs

    Students attend a series of advanced-graduate, special-topics journal clubs. Topics under current consideration are Central Nervous System Control of Metabolism and Biology of the Adipocyte.

Meet the Program Chair

Jeffrey Zigman, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor

The Molecular Metabolism and Metabolic Diseases (3MD) Track at UT Southwestern is designed with metabolism in mind. Its goal is to train Ph.D. students to perform cutting-edge basic science research on the hormonal, neuronal, and biochemical processes underlying the metabolic derangements that lead to and result from disease states. Read Dr. Zigman’s message.

Jeffrey Zigman, M.D., Ph.D.