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View from the Chair

headshot of Paul S. Cooke Chair of Physiological SciencesPaul S. Cooke, Ph.D., Chair of Physiological Sciences

The Department of Physiological Sciences is one of the two basic science departments in the College of Veterinary Medicine. It is composed of 16 tenure track and 4 non-tenure track faculty members with expertise in the areas of physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, toxicology, neuroscience, and clinical pathology. Most faculty members teach veterinary students in the basic sciences during the first two years of the curriculum, but clinical pathology faculty members also teach clinical pathology to junior and senior veterinary students. Departmental faculty are also involved in teaching undergraduate and graduate students in various departments in the Health Science Center and on the main campus.

The major research strengths of the department are in the areas of neuroscience/neurophysiology and toxicology/pharmacology. Research in the neuroscience/neurophysiology area includes studies of traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury, neural control of respiration, cough, the cardiovascular system, and comparative neuroanatomy.

Research in the area of toxicology/pharmacology includes basic toxicology, drug residues in meat-producing animals, drug metabolism in racing horses, aquatic toxicology, toxicologic risk assessment, and the emerging field of nanotoxicology. The department also has faculty members working in the areas of bone metabolism, reproductive biology, stem cells and the molecular parasitology of humans and domestic species. The current expansion of the veterinary school enrollment at the University of Florida (UF) is fueling faculty expansion in the department, and we anticipate that these new faculty hires will strengthen existing areas of research expertise as well as to expand our research presence into other new and important areas of physiology.

The department maintains a large and robust graduate program. Presently, over twenty students are pursuing graduate work leading to the MS or PhD degrees, and a number of postdoctoral fellows are also training in the department.

Grant funding to support faculty research is obtained from many intramural and extramural sources. The majority of departmental research support comes by way of competitive extramural grants from federal agencies including NIH, EPA, NSF and others.

The department has oversight responsibility for the UF Center for Environmental and Human Toxicology (which includes the Analytical Toxicology Core Laboratory and the Aquatic Toxicology Laboratory). In addition, members of the department are active participants in the Environmental Health Core of the MPH graduate program in the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the MS graduate program in Forensic Toxicology.

Finally, the department is responsible for operation of the Clinical Pathology Laboratory in the UF Veterinary Hospitals. This laboratory provides assistance in the diagnosis of diseases of animals using hematology, clinical chemistry, exfoliative cytology, and urinalysis. Within this laboratory, we have three residents in training to become board-certified veterinary clinical pathologists.

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