Leadership

The Program Director of the iRISE Translational Research Scholars Program is Christopher Waters, PhD. Dr. Waters is a professor of Physiology, Medicine, and Orthopedic Surgery and Biomedical Engineering at UTHSC, and serves as the Vice Chair of the Department of Physiology. He has served on grant review panels for NIH, the American Heart Association, and the American Lung Association, and he served a term as a standing member of the NIH study section Lung Injury, Repair, and Remodeling. He is currently on the editorial board for three prominent journals in pulmonary research (American Journal of Physiology: Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, and American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology). He serves on the Joint Program Committee for the Experimental Biology meeting, and he co-chairs the Respiration Section Program Committee for the American Physiological Society. Dr. Waters has mentored trainees at all levels in his lab including at least 16 graduate students, 10 postdoctoral fellows (including clinical fellows), and numerous undergraduates. Several of these trainees have obtained faculty positions and become independent investigators. Dr. Waters’ laboratory has a long-standing interest in understanding how changes in mechanical forces contribute to acute lung injury, particularly in ventilator-induced lung injury. He has focused for many years on the role of mechanical stretch in epithelial repair mechanisms. He has co-authored over 80 publications in peer-reviewed journals, and he recently published three review articles, one on epithelial repair mechanisms in the lung, one on alveolar mechanics, and one on lung mechanobiology. His laboratory has been continuously supported from agencies including NIH, the National Science Foundation, and the American Lung Association.

To assist Dr. Waters in administration of the Program, Jeffrey Towbin, MD, will act as co-PD. Dr. Towbin is a highly accomplished physician scientist with a distinguished record of mentoring. With over 475 publications, he is a leader in the field of gene discovery and cardiovascular research, and has recently received achievement awards from both the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology. His research spans the range of T0 to T4 research. He has been continuously funded since 1987 as PI or co-investigator. Dr. Towbin’s research takes a bedside to bench to bedside approach with a focus on heart failure and cardiomyopathies. He follows a large cohort of patients with cardiomyopathies, many of them with unknown genetic causes. He applies various gene discovery methodologies to identify the genetic underpinnings of these debilitating diseases, works out the underlying biology and physiology in small animal models, and then uses the insight gained at the bench to improve the care of these patients in the clinic. Dr. Towbin has trained over 50 post-doctoral and 20 pre-doctoral students, with a significant number of these trainees going into academic faculty positions. He has been a member of multiple T32 Training Grants, participated in many training committees, and has even taught multiple mentoring courses. Importantly, a number of his trainees successfully obtained K-awards under his mentorship. Dr. Towbin got his start as a physician-scientist as a K08 Awardee, and currently serves as the mentor on a K25 Award for Dr. Janaka Wansapura. He has previously mentored 21 researchers on career development awards including K08 Awards to Kathryn Meurs, DVM (currently director of the North Carolina State University Veterinary Cardiac Genetics & Holter Laboratories and Associate Dean of Research), Kenneth Schowengerdt (currently an endowed Professor and Chief of Pediatric Cardiology at St. Louis University), and Mousumi Moulik (currently Assistant Professor at University of Texas Health Science Center), as well as a K12 Award to John P. Breinholt III (currently Chief of Pediatric Cardiology at University of Texas Health Science Center).

Interim Chair, Department of Physiology
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