View from the Chair

photograph of Paul S. CookePaul S. Cooke, Ph.D., Chair of Physiological Sciences

The Department of Physiological Sciences is one of two basic science departments in the College of Veterinary Medicine. It is composed of 16 tenure track and 3 non-tenure track faculty members with expertise in physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, toxicology, and neuroscience. Most faculty members teach basic science courses to veterinary students during their first two years of the curriculum. 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 department takes great pride in its teaching. Our faculty have regularly received recognition for their teaching excellence at the college, university and national levels. Our teaching evaluations from the veterinary students over the last few years have increased to their highest levels ever, and the department is involved in the development of teaching tools such as the Sectra table that is beginning to be used in teaching veterinary anatomy and radiology courses around the world.

The major research strengths of the department are in the areas of neuroscience/neurophysiology and toxicology/pharmacology, as described in detail in the Research section of our web site. Over the past 8 years, the College of Veterinary Medicine here at the University of Florida (UF) has expanded its annual enrollment from 88 to approximately 120 students per year. This, in conjunction with the ongoing UF Preeminence program, has fueled faculty growth in the department. These new faculty hires, in conjunction with new faculty hired to replace retiring faculty, have allowed us to strengthen our historical areas of research strength in neurobiology and toxicology. In addition, they have allowed us to  expand our departmental research presence into other new and important areas, such as neural regulation of airway function, hypertension, aquatic toxicology, bone metabolism and periodontitis, metabolomics and lipidomics, CRISPR technology, neuroendocrine tumors and male and female reproductive endocrinology.

The past few years have been a difficult time to obtain research funding, but our department has experienced a 48% increase in research funding over the past 4 years. This increase reflects the success of our junior faculty in obtaining grant funding, due in part to a rigorous mentoring program for new faculty in the department. In addition, our senior faculty have continued to build their programs and attain increased grant funding, despite declining grant funding from the U.S. government. 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 and state agencies including NIH, Department of Defense, NSF, Florida Department of Health and others, as detailed under Research.

The department maintains a large and robust graduate program. Presently, approximately 15 students are pursuing graduate work leading to the MS or PhD degrees, and a number of postdoctoral fellows are also training in the department.

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.

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