T32 Breathing Research and Therapeutics (BREATHE) Training Program

Become a BREATHE Trainee

The BREATHE program consists of an individualized training plan. Each trainee will create a plan based on their background, experiences and research focus.

Clinicians demonstrate intermittent hypoxia therapy.

Program Overview

BReathing REsearch And THErapeutics (BREATHE) is focused on the respiratory neuromuscular system, emphasizing the discovery of new knowledge and its translation to severe clinical disorders that compromise breathing capacity, stability and/or airway defense. At its core, breathing is a neuromuscular act, initiated in the brain and translated through somatic motor neurons to engage the respiratory muscles that move the lung/chest wall system. Airway defense, a distinct yet related neuromuscular act, involves coordination of complex automatic behaviors (breathing and swallowing) or expulsive maneuvers to clear airways (cough). Breathing and airway defense are inextricably linked in function and are regulated by a complex, integrated neural control system.

Program Goals

The goal of the BREATHE Training Program is to develop a unique cohort of researchers with strong foundations in basic research on respiratory neuromuscular biology, and a strong appreciation for the needs/realities of translational research in our attempts to develop treatments for impaired breathing and airway defense. Our perspective is that we can accelerate progress towards development of treatments for impaired breathing capacity/stability in diverse clinical disorders by training investigators with:

1) A well-developed and comprehensive conceptual framework, embracing similarities and differences between disorders;

2) A state-of-the-art “tool kit,” providing the technological know-how to perform meaningful investigations in animal models and humans with spontaneous disease

3) The professional skills necessary to succeed in a competitive research environment.

Program Administration

Gordon S. Mitchell, PhD, a Preeminence Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Physical Therapy, is the program director. Dr. Mitchell was among the first to recognize the importance of neuroplasticity in respiratory motor control. Current research focuses on fundamental mechanisms of spinal respiratory motor plasticity induced by intermittent hypoxia, and attempts to harness that plasticity to treat clinical disorders that compromise breathing and non-respiratory limb movements, such as spinal injury and ALS. 

The program is also led by Dr.Leonardo Ferreira, Curriculum Coordinator, and Dr. Emilly Plowman, Clinical Practicum Coordinator.

Curriculum & Requirements

Predoctoral trainees are admitted by and receive a degree from established UF PhD granting graduate programs. BREATHE graduate programs include:

Program Admission is based on GPA, GRE scores, letters of reference, educational accomplishments and interviews with training faculty. You can read more about the exact requirements by clicking on your program of interest. Once admitted into the graduate program, trainees choose an area for advanced study. Graduate students will be considered for a BREATHE fellowship after one year of training.

Postdoctoral trainees focus on research, with few formal course requirements except for courses on research ethics and the neuromuscular control of breathing and airway defense.

The program consists of an individualized training plan. Each trainee will create a plan based on their background, experiences and research focus. These plans consist of six components:

  • Didactic program
  • Seminars and journal clubs
  • Plan to acquire needed technical skills
  • Clinical training experiences
  • Participation in conferences and networking opportunities
  • A mentored research project