About the Department

The Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at St. Jude was established in 2015 to enhance and expand the institution’s commitment to fundamental biomedical research. Investigators in the department share a common goal of deciphering how a complex collection of molecules work together to define the form and function of a cell – the fundamental unit of an organism – and how cells function together to support complex physiology. Informed by structural and biophysical insights into molecular function, aided by an understanding of the assembly of higher-order complexes and pathways, this multi-dimensional cell and molecular research elucidates the function, and dysfunction, of organismal systems.  

A distinctive feature of CMB is that our investigators take cues from patients, especially genetic insights, to inform fundamental biological questions. Our research programs focus on catastrophic diseases of children, with special attention to pediatric neurological diseases, with the shared goal of revealing disease mechanisms that can inform therapeutic development. CMB is intimately involved in advancing the Pediatric Translational Neuroscience Initiative and houses the Center for Pediatric Neurological Disease Research (CPNDR), the core activities of which are made available to the entire St. Jude research community through the Center Without Walls (CWW). CMB has also developed the Center for Advanced Genome Research (CAGE) to provide cutting-edge molecular tools to the department, and these tools are made available to the St. Jude research community as an institutional shared resource.

CMB

Research Focus Areas

Chi-Lun Chang, PhD

Dynamic organization of inter-organelle logistics

Hans Martin-Herz, PhD

Interrogating epigenetics to understand chromatin biology and transcription regulation

Andrew Kodani, PhD

Leveraging human genetics to understand brain development and identify mutations that cause rare disorders

Mondira Kundu, MD, PhD

Investigating the cellular response to metabolic stress and the role of autophagy-related proteins in coordinating these responses

Peter J. McKinnon, PhD

Elucidating how maintenance of genome stability prevents nervous system diseases

Heather C. Mefford, MD, PhD

Diving into gene discovery to determine the biological basis and molecular and functional implications of epilepsies

Stacey K. Ogden, PhD

Understanding cell communication by deciphering mechanisms of sonic hedgehog signaling in development and disease

Joseph T. Opferman, PhD

Investigating how cell fate decisions are controlled and contribute to both normal development and homeostasis, and cancer pathogenesis

Shondra Pruett-Miller, PhD

Genome editing technologies and pediatric disease modeling

J. Paul Taylor, MD, PhD

Exploring the structure and function of biomolecular condensates and the impact of mutations on their physical properties

Department at a Glance

Training and Development

The Department of Cell and Molecular Biology is home to a large number of trainees, including graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and MD fellows. Weekly work-in-progress meetings led by these trainees raise the visibility of ongoing work across the member labs and provide opportunities for interaction and feedback from a broad range of experts. These forums also serve as robust training grounds for trainees who benefit from candid and productive feedback. 

CMB employs a wide range of approaches to studying cell and molecular biology, including genome engineering, model organisms, advanced light microscopy, genetics, biophysics, and structural biology, to address a wide variety of topics, such as autophagy, mechanisms of cell death, biomolecular condensation, cell signaling, DNA damage responses, epigenetics, lipid metabolism, and centrosome function. The common thread connecting this broad range of biological processes is a focus on illuminating the fundamental processes that go awry in catastrophic pediatric diseases.

Current Makeup and Future Growth

CMB is a comparatively new department still undergoing substantial growth. Founded 6 years ago, CMB now consists of 10 individual laboratories and we expect to grow to 18 laboratories over the next 5 years.

Innovative Institutional Initiatives

CMB founded the Center for Advanced Genome Engineering, which has grown to become an institutional shared resource that provides genome engineering technology to all St. Jude investigators. Furthermore, a focus on pediatric translational neuroscience that was initiated in CMB has blossomed to become the institution-wide Pediatric Translational Neuroscience Initiative (PTNI) through the St. Jude “Blue Sky” program.

Leadership

  • J. Paul Taylor, MD, PhD

    Chair, Cell and Molecular Biology

    Director, St. Jude Pediatric Translational Neuroscience Initiative 

    Edward F. Barry Endowed Chair in Cell and Molecular Biology

    Faculty Bio

  • Peter J. McKinnon, PhD

    Director, Center for Pediatric Neurological Disease Research

    Faculty Bio

  • Shondra Pruett-Miller, PhD

    Director, Center for Advanced Genome Engineering

    Faculty Bio

Join us

St. Jude investigators have the freedom to focus on making big discoveries, backed by extraordinary resources and support teams. We are always looking for highly motivated scientists and engineers with passion and talent to join us!

Explore Career Opportunities

Cell and Molecular Biology and PTNI are currently recruiting!

Contact us

Department of Cell & Molecular Biology

MS 340
St. Jude Children Research Hospital

262 Danny Thomas Place
Memphis, TN, 38105-3678 USA
901-595-6047 jpaul.taylor@stjude.org

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262 Danny Thomas Place
Memphis, TN, 38105-3678 USA
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