Center for Epigenetics: Mission Statement and Goals

Epigenetics is the study of non-DNA sequence-based inheritance (both mitotic and meiotic) and includes mechanisms that regulate gene expression (e.g., transcription), DNA replication, DNA repair, and RNA processing. In the most general sense, epigenetics is the study of mechanisms that regulate DNA function.  The past decade has seen a surge of interest and research activity in the field of epigenetics due to a greater understanding and appreciation of its critical role in a wide spectrum of biological processes and systems, including development and differentiation, stem cell biology, regulation of cellular functions, human diseases (e.g., cancer), gene regulation, cellular responses to environment, etc.  Epigenetics now is widely understood to impact an increasing diversity of disciplines including medicine, genetics, genomics, nutrition, neurosciences, environmental toxicology, anthropology (e.g., cultural and societal influences on gene expression patterns), psychology (e.g., epigenetic effects of stress), behavior (e.g., epigenetic mechanisms of drug and alcohol addiction), epidemiology, botany, etc.  And increasingly, the fields of bioinformatics/computer science, computational biology, and statistics are becoming essential components of research in epigenetics.

The Center for Epigenetics (CEG), and the extensive expertise of its associated faculty, is positioned to influence and enhance UF research programs in an expanding variety of disciplines in the life, health, and social sciences.  The role of the CEG is to support, facilitate, coordinate, and enhance interdisciplinary research and training in epigenetics within the UF College of Medicine (COM) as well as across the UF research and teaching community.  The CEG serves as focal point and provides a framework to promote communication, interactions, and collaboration among ~50 investigators in the area of epigenetics who are housed in many different departments within and outside of the COM.  It also provides a variety of important services, facilities, training, equipment, and expertise to assist the large number of laboratories engaged in epigenetics-related research. In its role to enhance learning and communication in the area of epigenetics, the CEG organizes a weekly Epigenetics Journal Club that has been active since 1990.  The Journal Club presents and discusses recent groundbreaking papers in the field of epigenetics. The CEG also organizes a weekly Epigenetics Research Colloquium (also active since 1990) in which students, postdocs, and faculty from UF laboratories engaged in epigenetics research present a detailed update of their own research.  This Research Colloquium complements the CEG Seminar Program of outside speakers that includes some of the most prominent researchers in the field of epigenetics. Finally, CEG faculty are closely involved in the COM Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IDP) curriculum in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB), which offers a doctoral training focus in epigenetics. Graduate students in BMB may choose specific coursework that emphasizes topics and principles in epigenetics.  Together, these activities of the CEG provide essential enhancement and support to research and teaching in this increasingly important and expanding field.