Welcome to the Programs in Biomedical and Biological Sciences (PIBBS)! My goal as Associate Dean for Graduate Affairs is to bring top-notch PhD students to USC, and to see them succeed fabulously as young scientists.

Ite Offringa, PhD Associate Professor of Surgery Associate Dean For Graduate Affairs; Director of PIBBS
Ite Offringa, PhD Associate Professor of Surgery Associate Dean For Graduate Affairs Director of PIBBS

Message from the Associate Dean

As their publication records attest, our students lay a strong foundation for their future careers, whether that be in an academic setting, in biotech, or any other field related to science.

One of the most exciting aspects of joining PIBBS is the wide array of research choices our students are exposed to. Many of our incoming students are interested in topics they are familiar with, but they often discover a passion for a new field and end up pursuing PhD research on an entirely different topic.

The PIBBS approach is an interdisciplinary one; scientists with divergent expertise collaborate on topics, making interdisciplinary teams that together can achieve much more than any individual investigator. The same interdisciplinary mindset applies to our PhD programs, which are not departmentally based, but topic based. Mentors from many different departments converge in four topic-based programs:

Cancer Biology & Genomics (CBG), which capitalizes on the presence of our Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and its clinical and basic scientists, and strength in all areas of cancer research including epigenetics and epidemiology.
Development, Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine (DSR), which benefits from our Center for Regenerative Medicine and strength in stem cell research, tissue engineering and regeneration.

Infectious Diseases, Immunology and Pathogenesis (IDIP), a highly translational program that takes advantage of our outstanding clinical and basic scientists who investigate human organ systems in health and disease and are developing strategies translate this knowledge to medical treatments.

Medical Biophysics (MBPH) a programs that includes all aspects of biophysics, with an emphasis on structural biology and on application of biophysical methods and theories to answer important biomedical questions.

Faculty membership in these programs is driven by their research interests and crosses disciplines and departments. After the completion of the PIBBS rotation year (year 1), students join a laboratory of their choosing and the PhD program that best fits their research topic. While most PIBBS students will join one of these 4 programs, some of our students join other PhD programs in the USC School of Pharmacy or the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences (including Epidemiology and Biostatistics). Flexibility and matching the program to each student’s research focus drives the selection of PhD program. As students join their new labs, they partner with their new mentor to put together an Individual Development Program (IDP) with short- and long-term goals, to maximize their success.

Our PIBBS students share a core curriculum, in year 1, to lay a foundation of knowledge that will aid them in their PhD studies. Importantly, includes an interactive scientific writing class in which students learn how to write a National Institute of Health individual pre-doctoral fellowship grant application (F31). To solidify this skill, the Qualifying Exam portion consists of an F31 application based on the student’s research topic. The proposals are scored by a panel and defended during the oral part of the exam. Not only will this be an invaluable training experience, but many students will also submit these grants, and if funded they will add a very valuable dimension to the students’ CV.

I strongly encourage you to visit our faculty web pages to learn more about the fabulous research opportunities for our PIBBS students. We have a very wide variety of topics focusing on the biomedical and biological sciences in the broadest sense of those words.

In PIBBS, we foster outstanding science, collegiality and collaboration; in modern science, the most powerful research is done by interdisciplinary teams of scientists with diverse expertise, who join together to focus on a particular research question.


Ite Offringa, PhD
Dr. Offringa received her PhD in 1991 from University of Leiden (the Netherlands), and undertook a postdoctoral research fellowship from 1991–1996 at Harvard Medical School. She joined the USC faculty in 1996. Dr. Offringa is the recipient of numerous grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program and others.

The Offringa Lab studies lung cancer, specifically investigating how epigenetic changes contribute to lung cancer development, how lung cancer cells evade the immune system, the effects of cigarette smoking.