The University of Texas at Dallas

Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science


Joint PhD Program Celebrates First Graduating Class

Joint PhD Program Celebrates First Graduating Class

John Corbett PhD’17, who earned a biomedical engineering degree, was one of more than 500 students to graduate from the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science in December 2017. He was among the first cohort of students to graduate from the joint biomedical PhD program between UT Dallas Department of Bioengineering and UT Southwestern Medical Center (UT Southwestern).

John Corbett

As a doctoral student in the Jonsson School, Corbett’s research interests were in the field of top-down mass spectrometry based proteomics, the study of proteins. During his tenure as a graduate student, he created a new platform enabling the observation of thousands of unique protein forms in an automated fashion. This entailed five years of hard work creating software and analytical techniques with tweaking of instruments to streamline an otherwise time-consuming and data-heavy process of collection and analysis. These methods in the future will be applied towards the discovery of biomarkers associated with different neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.

“I got a lot out of this joint program,” Corbett said. “I took classes at UT Dallas and worked in labs at UT Southwestern. I interacted with all sorts of students at both campuses. Overall, I had a great experience and the program has opened many doors.”

Corbett added that with his versatile platform, researchers are no longer limited in their approach with many different classes of protein forms analyzed concurrently. Additionally, as long as the problem is protein related, scientists and doctors can apply this approach across a broad range of biological material like bacteria or yeast, for example to answer important scientific inquiries.

After finishing his bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering at The Georgia Institute of Technology, Corbett came to Dallas to study with Dr. Steven Patrie, who taught at both UT Dallas and served as the John L. Roach Scholar of Biomedical Sciences and assistant professor of pathology at UT Southwestern. The co-chair of Corbett’s PhD was UT Dallas assistant professor Dr. Hyuntae Yoo.

Corbett earned a number of awards and fellowships while at UT Dallas, including the Jonsson Family Graduate Fellowship in Bioengineering, the Lars Magnus Ericsson Graduate Fellowship, and the Phil Ritter Endowed Scholarship/Fellowship. During his doctoral program, he was lead author or co-author on many publications that appeared in academic journals including Proteomics and Analytical Chemistry.

Following his graduation, Corbett has continued working at UT Southwestern in the Department of Ophthalmology. He investigates how mechanical behaviors of corneal fibroblasts are regulated by both biochemical and biophysical stimuli. This research provides a better understanding of how wounds heal in the eye, specifically the cornea.