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Division of Physiology
School of Medicine
University of California, San Diego

The Division of Physiology is one of 18 divisions in the Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California San Diego. Its chief teaching function is to coordinate the main course in physiology for first year medical students. The Division also makes a major contribution to graduate teaching through the Biomedical Sciences and Bioengineering graduate programs. In addition the Division has a substantial research program with excellent opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral trainees.

UCSD Medical School is unusual in that there are almost no preclinical departments per se (an exception is the Department of Pharmacology). Specifically there is no department of physiology. One of the main advantages of this arrangement is that there are very close links between preclinical and clinical teaching. Faculty engaged in physiology can be found in several departments though most are in the Department of Medicine. Although it could be argued that this arrangement weakens the discipline of physiology, the "Physiology" program at UCSD was recently ranked 2nd in the nation by the National Research Council.

John B. West, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc.
Professor. Chief interests: physiological basis of lung disease, pulmonary gas exchange, peripheral oxygen delivery, exercise, high altitude.
Peter D. Wagner, M.D.
Professor. Chief interests: physiological basis of lung disease, pulmonary gas exchange, peripheral oxygen delivery, exercise, high altitude, angiogenesis and VEGF.
Shu Chien, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor. Chief interests: blood flow, cardiovascular system, molecular and mechanical mechanisms of atherosclerosis, mechanotransduction, stem cell engineering.
Frank L. Powell, Ph.D.
Professor. Chief interests: control of ventilation, especially chemoreception, high-altitude, comparative physiology of gas exchange.
G. Kim Prisk, Ph.D., D.Sc.
Professor. Chief interests: space physiology, bioengineering of the lung.
Michael C. Hogan, Ph.D.
Professor. Chief interests: exercise physiology, skeletal muscle metabolism, O2 dependence of skeletal muscle function, control of mitochondrial respiration.
Susan R. Hopkins, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor. Chief interests: exercise physiology, high altitude physiology, functional lung imaging, pulmonary gas exchange during exercise, elite athlete training.
Chantal J. Darquenne, Ph.D.
Adjunct Professor. Chief interests: pulmonary ventilation, especially aerosol deposition in the lung.
Ellen C. Breen, Ph.D.
Associate Project Molecular Biologist. Chief interests: molecular biology of the lung, regulation of extracellular matrix.
Kechun Tang, M.D., Ph.D
Associate Research Scientist. Chief interests: molecular biology of VEGF effects on skeletal muscle vascularization.
Zhenxing Fu, Ph.D
Associate Project Scientist. Chief interests: physiology of pulmonary capillaries, cell biology of the lung.
A. Cortney Henderson, Ph.D.
Assistant Adjunct Professor. Chief interests: physiology in microgravity.
Leonardo Nogueira, Ph.D.
(Brazil) Chief Interests: Free radical production in skeletal muscle function.
Paulo G. Gandra, Ph.D.
Rui Carlos Pereira De Sa,Ph.D.
Tatum Simonson, Ph.D.

The teaching responsibilities of the Division include medical students, pharmacy students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows.

The chief teaching responsibility for medical and pharmacy students is the Organ Physiology course in the first year. The Division has an important role in organizing the course, and its faculty teach the respiratory section of the course which includes lectures, discussion groups, laboratories, a clinical correlation session, and films. Other core course teaching for medical students includes Introduction to Clinical Medicine and the second year course Human Disease where the Division teaches pulmonary pathophysiology. The Division also contributes to elective courses including the course Development of Ideas in Physiology and Pharmacology. Medical students frequently spend periods in our laboratories, for example to do their Independent Study Projects.

The Division makes a major contribution to graduate student teaching. The Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program has three main areas: molecular biology, pharmacology and physiology. The Division is responsible for the main graduate student course on physiology. Division faculty members also participate in other graduate courses including some in the Bioengineering Ph.D. Program. Graduate students are welcome to do rotations and their thesis research in laboratories of the Division.

The Division has a strong postgraduate training program. An NIH Training Grant supports three postdoctoral fellows and three graduate students. Only permanent residents of the U.S. can be supported by this program. However we frequently have postdoctoral trainees from abroad supported by funds in their own country and occasionally we can supplement these funds. At any one time the Division usually has 6-10 postdoctoral trainees.

The Division has a strong commitment to training graduate students and all the areas of research described under Research Program are available. Our NIH Training Grant includes support for three graduate students. We are strongly committed to recruiting graduate students from minority groups that are underrepresented nationally in the biomedical sciences. Prospective students who would like information about the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program should write to:

UCSD Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program
9500 Gilman Dr., 0685
La Jolla CA 92093-0685 USA
+1 (858) 534-3982; fax +1 (858) 534-0006
e-mail biomedsci@ucsd.edu

For information about the Bioengineering Ph.D. Program, write to:

UCSD Bioengineering Ph.D. Program
9500 Gilman Dr., 0412
La Jolla CA 92093-0412 USA
+1 (858) 534-4272; fax +1 (858) 534-5722

The Division generally has about 6-10 postdoctoral trainees from the United States and abroad. A National Institutes of Health Training Grant provides stipends for U.S. citizens and permanent residents of the United States. We are strongly committed to recruiting trainees from minority groups that are underrepresented nationally in the biomedical sciences. In general, non-residents are required to bring their own support though occasionally we can provide small supplements.

Training is chiefly through involvement in research projects, in conjunction with the faculty. Divisional seminars are held to discuss the progress of research and trainees are expected to present their research results at national meetings. Postdoctoral trainees have ample opportunities to attend clinical conferences, grand rounds, etc. if they wish.

Additional information about the postdoctoral training program can be obtained from Frank L. Powell, Ph.D.

The Division of Physiology has a wide spectrum of research interests ranging from cellular and molecular physiology through integrated physiology to clinical investigation. Much of the work can be described under the heading of "Physiological Basis and Consequences of Respiratory Disease" as interpreted in the widest sense.

Traditionally, one of the main thrusts of the Division has been pulmonary gas exchange, especially ventilation-perfusion inequality and diffusion. This work continues but recently much effort has been devoted to gas exchange in peripheral tissues including skeletal muscle, particularly under conditions of exercise and hypoxia. Structure-function relationships in muscle including capillary morphology are studied by electron microscopy and a recent interest is gene expression in muscle capillaries in response to training and hypoxia.

Another major interest is bioengineering aspects of the lung, especially the physiology and morphology of pulmonary capillaries at high capillary pressures. Particular attention is being paid to the strength of the pulmonary capillary wall and the conditions under which the wall fails. For the last few years we have had a molecular biology laboratory devoted to regulation of the structure of the capillary wall, particularly gene expression of components of the extracellular matrix.

High altitude physiology remains a strong interest following the successful American Medical Research Expedition to Mt. Everest in 1981. Recently Dr. Powell has been appointed Director of the University-wide White Mountain Research Station, a facility that has laboratories at 3094, 3801, and 4342 m. This last is the highest high altitude laboratory in the U.S. The facilities are used in the summers to study both human and animal physiology. One interest is the use of oxygen enrichment of room air to alleviate the hypoxia of high altitude.

Control of ventilation, especially adaptation to chronic hypoxia is another major interest. This includes studying ventilatory reflex plasticity in humans, and mechanisms of arterial chemoreception transduction with cultured cells and patch clamp techniques.

A further major area of research is pulmonary function during weightlessness. In June 1991 and October 1993 we made the first comprehensive measurements of pulmonary function in orbiting astronauts during Spacelabs SLS-1 and SLS-2. Further studies were carried out on Spacelab "Life and Microgravity Sciences" in 1996, and additional studies will be made in Spacelab "Neurolab" in April 1998. Some of the very first studies of the lung in long-duration spaceflight were carried out aboard the International Space Station between 2001 and 2003.

Comparative cardiopulmonary and exercise physiology is another area of activity. Here we are fortunate to be able to collaborate with faculty at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, part of the UCSD campus.

The main laboratories of the Division are located in the Medical Teaching Facility on the main UCSD campus, a few minutes walk from the Veterans Administration Hospital. The campus is some 14 miles north of downtown San Diego where the University of California San Diego Medical Center is located. A new University Medical Center opened a few years ago on the La Jolla campus.

UCSD is one of nine campuses of the University of California and essentially started in the 1960s though the Scripps Institution of Oceanography has been in La Jolla since the early part of the century. In spite of its relatively young age, UCSD has established a remarkable national and international reputation for scholarship and it presently ranks fifth in the country as a recipient of federal research funds.

The UCSD Medical School opened in 1968 and enjoys a high reputation for the quality of its faculty and research. The La Jolla campus is situated on cliffs 400 feet above the Pacific Ocean. La Jolla is a community of considerable charm, beautiful beaches and one of the best climates in the world. Housing in La Jolla itself is expensive but good accommodation can be found in communities east of the campus.

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Division of Physiology
Department of Medicine, School of Medicine
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive, 0623A
La Jolla CA 92093-0623 USA
+1 (858) 534-4190; fax +1 (858) 534-4812


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Updated November 8, 2011 by UCSD Division of Physiology.
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