Faculty Research

The Keck School of Medicine is representative of a small number of premier academic institutions in which research and teaching are inextricably intertwined and upon which the nation depends for a steady stream of new knowledge in the field of health care. The School’s faculty members are therefore not only teachers of the works of others, but also creators and shapers of what is taught and practiced in the field of medicine throughout the world.

Over the years, Keck research has catalyzed broad changes in medical practice, advanced basic understandings in biomedicine and attracted international recognition and honors. Faculty researchers explore the broad frontiers of medicine and biosciences. From basic sciences to clinical research to public health, Keck School scientists seek to pinpoint the causes of disease, identify better methods of diagnosing and treating disease, develop strategies to prevent disease and promote health, and understand how environmental factors influence our health.

The Keck School has long been home to outstanding research leaders. Current leaders who developed international reputations as faculty members at USC include:

Integral to Keck's transformation into a full-fledged academic medical center is the recent recruitment of a new generation of leaders, adding incrementally to the school’s excellence (click links for USC press releases):

  • D. Brent Polk, M.D. – pediatric gastroenterologist, appointed April 1, 2010 as chair, department of pediatrics, and vice president of academic affairs, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. A distinguished clinician-scientist, Dr. Polk is internationally recognized for his innovative research on pediatric inflammatory bowel disease and immune regulation of the gastrointestinal tract. Polk is chair of the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Committee.
  • Preet M. Chaudhary, M.D., Ph.D. – appointed January 1, 2010 as chief of the Jane Anne Nohl division of hematology and center for the study of blood diseases, USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and department of medicine.  Chaudhary has research interests in several areas of cancer biology. He is also interested in molecularly targeted and biological therapies, as well as novel strategies to improve the outcome of stem cell transplantation. He is an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, an organization that honors physician-scientists.
  • Stephen Sener, M.D. – surgical oncologist and cancer control expert, appointed September 1, 2009 as chief, division of surgical oncology, department of surgery and the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Sener is known for his contributions to outcomes research and to international efforts in cancer control. He served as president of the American Cancer Society from 2004-2005.
  • Debasish Tripathy, M.D. – oncologist and breast cancer expert, appointed August 1, 2009 as chief, section of women’s cancers, division of oncology, department of medicine and USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. A clinical researcher, Dr. Tripathy is known for his work in the area of breast cancer therapy.  He was part of the team that brought the now commonly used drug Herceptin into clinical care as the first biological drug for cancer.
  • Michael E. Selsted, M.D., Ph.D. – pathologist and innate immunity expert, appointed July 1, 2009. Dr. Selsted is an internationally renowned scholar in the field of innate immunity and pathogenesis. Selsted’s research has focused on defensins, antimicrobial peptides produced by the body that provide a first line of defense against potentially invasive pathogens. His research discoveries have resulted in more than 20 U.S. patents.
  • Pat Levitt, Ph.D. – neuroscientist and autism expert, appointed July 1, 2009 as director, Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute and chair, department of cell & neurobiology. Dr. Levitt’s research focuses on the molecular and cellular mechanisms that control the development of the forebrain, and the causes of such disorders as autism, anxiety, and schizophrenia. A highly influential and productive scholar in the field of basic and translational neuroscience, he currently serves on the National Advisory Mental Health Council.
  • David B. Agus, M.D. – oncologist and cancer molecular biologist, appointed April 1, 2009 as director, USC center for applied molecular medicine director, USC westside prostate cancer center, and professor of clinical medicine. Known for his innovative work in proteomics and molecular therapeutics for cancer, Dr. Agus co-heads the new NIH-funded physical-oncology center at USC.
  • Jonathan Samet, M.D., M.S. – pulmonary physician, epidemiologist, and global health expert, appointed November 1, 2008 as chair, department of preventive medicine and director, USC Institute for Global Health. An elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Samet is a leading expert on the health effects of smoking and air pollution. He is the current chair of the clean air scientific advisory committee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Jae U. Jung, Ph.D. – virologist, appointed August 1, 2007 as chair, department of molecular microbiology & immunology. Regarded as a leading expert in the molecular biology of herpes viruses and their pathogenesis, Dr. Jung has also made a number of important discoveries and contributions to understanding some of life’s most threatening microbes, including Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpes virus, influenza, and HIV.
  • Martin Pera, Ph.D. – Cell biologist and stem cell expert, appointed in 2006 as director, Eli & Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC. Pera was among a small number of researchers who pioneered the isolation and characterization of pluripotent stem cells from human germ cell tumors of the testis—research that provided an important framework for the development of human embryonic stem cells. His laboratory was the second in the world to isolate embryonic stem cells from the human blastocyst, and the first to describe their differentiation into somatic cells in vitro.
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