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Cell Biology, Physiology, and Metabolism - CPM


CPM at Penn includes an interdisciplinary group of investigators with a common interest in understanding the inner workings of the basic unit of life, the cell. Major research themes include:

  • Signal Transduction

  • Intracellular Trafficking and Organelle Function

  • Membrane Transport

  • Cytoskeleton, Motility, and Adhesion

  • Metabolism

Researchers at Penn employ a broad array of organisms, from yeasts to human, and state-of-the-art research tools - microscopy, genomic and proteomic technologies, metabolomics, electrophysiology, biochemistry and molecular biology.

We strive to foster diverse interdisciplinary research collaborations between traditional cell biology labs and colleagues investigating the molecular foundations of human disease, embryonic development, biomedical engineering, and structural biology. In particular, we leverage our unique access to a large academic integrated medical center, the Penn School of Medicine, to connect fundamental question in cell biology to human disease. We have close relationships with a number of Institutes at Penn, including the Penn Muscle Institute (PMI), the Cardiovascular Institute (CVI), and the Institute for Diabetes Obesity and Metabolism (IDOM). We strive to provide a stimulating and challenging environment for the training of students and postdoctoral fellows in cutting edge cell biology research.


Research Areas


The Penn campus includes an active group of laboratories engaged in investigations regarding, in its broadest context, the transfer of information within cells. This includes work on components of canonical signal cascades, such as protein tyrosine kinases, phospholipids, heterotrimeric G proteins, serine/threonine kinases and second messengers, as well as novel modes of intracellular communication. In addition to many collaborations and informal interactions, the cell biology community sponsors seminars and lectures related to signaling, a general signaling data/journal club, and a number of more specialized interest groups. The result is an environment that provides numerous opportunities for education and training while conducting high quality and high-impact signaling research.

Cell Signaling


Investigators at Penn are elucidating the mechanisms by which the functional attributes of the organelles of the endomembrane system are established, maintained, and regulated. A major theme of this research category is intracellular protein and lipid sorting, although other important areas of organelle cell biology, including organelle motility, ion transport, and the roles of intracellular organelles in human disease are also well represented. Interactions within the interest group are fostered through numerous collaborations, journal clubs, and combined group meetings. The cell biology community at Penn provides opportunities for focused education and training related to intracellular trafficking and organelles, and consistently produces research of high quality and impact.

Cellular Trafficking & Organelle Function

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Numerous laboratories at Penn are actively engaged in investigations regarding the translocation of ions and other solutes across cell membranes. Ion channels, transporters, and pumps are studied using a range of technical approaches, including crystallography, single molecule real-time electrical recording and high-resolution real-time optical imaging, biochemistry and molecular biology. Ongoing projects address ion channel and pump structure, single channel kinetics and their regulation, ion channel biogenesis and trafficking, and pharmacological discovery, using normal as well as disease models. In addition to many collaborations and informal interactions, the membrane transport community sponsor seminars and lectures, and an ion channel journal club. Penn offers an opportunity to conduct high quality, high impact research related to membrane transport, as well as education and training for students and postdoctoral fellows.

Membrane Transport


A highly interactive group of investigators are using interdisciplinary techniques to investigate the biology of cell migration, adhesion, intracellular transport, chromosome segregation, cell division, mechanisms of molecular motor function, smooth, cardiac and skeletal muscle contraction, muscle physiology and development. Strengths of the Penn faculty include investigating the mechanisms of force production, coordination and regulation of intracellular transport, regulation of cell-matrix and cell-cell adhesion and behavior by the physical and chemical properties of cellular molecules and the surrounding microenvironment, and the exploration of the links between cytoskeletal and motor protein defects and human disease. Active seminar and journal club programs cover the latest advances in the field. Penn investigators have a rich history in the study of the cytoskeleton motility, and adhesion, and continue to apply multi-disciplinary, state-of-the-art technologies to probe the mechanisms driving cellular dynamics.

Cytoskeleton, Motility, & Adhesion

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Penn investigators are using state-of-the-art techniques to elucidate the pathways by which nutrients are metabolized to generate energy as well as the building blocks for new cells and tissues. Mass spectrometry, biochemical assays, and advanced imaging techniques are used to study the metabolism of sugars, lipids, amino acids, vitamins and drugs. Several groups on campus meet regularly to discuss current topics related to metabolic research, including normal metabolism as well as changes that occur in pathological states such as obesity or cancer. Penn offers numerous opportunities for students to conduct cutting edge metabolic research.


Research Areas


Graduate Education

CPM faculty primarily mentor graduate students from programs in the Biomedical Graduate Studies (BGS) umbrella group, but frequently advise students in other biology-related departments on the Penn Campus.  

Prospective students that are interested in the CPM graduate program should apply to the Cell and Molecular Biology (CAMB) program and select CPM as the sub-program. 

Postdoctoral Training
Please contact individual faculty members to learn about post-doctoral training opportunities.

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