Image: UVA Department of Surgery

The Department of Surgery is engaged in a wide range of research in an effort to forward our knowledge of the basic sciences and improve patient care. We are dedicated to achieving quality results while addressing some of the biggest questions facing the medical and scientific community. The projects we are involved in span our numerous surgical divisions, and include collaborations within the University and with academics at other institutions.


The Surgical Therapeutic Advancement Center (STAC)

The Surgical Therapeutic Advancement Center (STAC) at the University of Virginia (UVA) is an academic research center dedicated to the development of innovations in the field of surgery in order to improve the clinical care of patients.

Vascular Research Lab

Our basic scientific research facility is one of the few labs in the nation that is dedicated solely to the basic scientific research of aortic aneurysm. It is headed by two principle investigators: Dr. Gorav Ailawadi and Dr. Gilbert R. Upchurch.

Thoracic Immunology Lab

The Thoracic Immunology Lab at the University of Virginia is studying various aspects of pulmonary immune response, with respect to lung cancer and organ transplantation.

Summer Diabetes Research Internship 2020

The diabetes research program at UVA is a ten-week summer internship for undergraduates with a focus on diabetes research. The program is sponsored by NIH NIDDK R25 training program, Department of Surgery, Biomedical Engineering, and Echols Scholar Program.

Research in Surgical Oncology

The main focus of our laboratory is the identification of human tumor antigens recognized by human cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTL), in the elucidating the nature of the host: tumor relationship and in hopes of creating novel immunologic treatments for human cancer. We use human tumor cells and autologous lymphocytes to generate tumor specific CTL, HLA-type the patient’s cells, seek evidence of shared tumor antigens, and extract MHC-associated peptides. Immunologically active peptides are identified and sequenced using tandem mass spectrometry. At present, most of our energies are devoted to identification of peptide epitopes for CTL specific for human melanoma expressing HLA-A2.1. We have recently identified one peptide epitope for HLA-A2-restricted melanoma-specific CTL, and we poised to identify others. We are preparing tumor vaccines in the laboratory, using melanoma cell lines as well as synthetic peptides, and a major effort in the lab will be to evaluate patient immune responses to novel tumor vaccines. The work is being expanded to include identification of peptide epitopes for melanoma presented on HLA-A3 and on other MHC molecules, as well as the identification of peptide epitopes for CTL specific for solid tumors other than melanoma. We have human CTL lines specific for melanoma and restricted HLA-A3 and other CTLl ines specific for squamous cell carcinoma of the lung. We have preliminary data on CTL against colon, ovarian, and breast cancers. The process of peptide extraction and identification is well underway for the characterization of epitopes from the HLA-A3(+) melanomas and from lung cancer.

Research in Transplant Surgery

The Lung Transplant Research Program in the Department of Surgery, University of Virginia is a diverse team of clinicians and researchers dedicated to helping lung transplant recipients through the advancement of lung transplant research and the research training of surgery Residents, PostDocs, and Students. Our research labs are headed by four Principle Investigators who utilize in vivo and in vitro models to study clinically relevant issues in lung transplantation with a focus on ischemia-reperfusion injury, primary graft dysfunction, lung preservation, ex vivo lung perfusion (EVLP) and rejection.

For over 50 years, The Charles O. Strickler Transplant Center has been saving the lives of Virginian’s and beyond through organ transplantation.

Transitional Genomics Transplant

The Genomics Transplant Translational Core’s research is aimed at improving outcomes and quality of life for patients. For example, we are developing biomarkers capable of providing earlier diagnoses for liver, kidney, and pancreas transplant patients, which will allow treatments to be given sooner and more likely to be successful.

Cell Processing

At the Cell Processing Core, cells called islets are taken from a pancreas and transplanted into the liver of a patient with chronic pancreatitis or diabetes. Islets help the patient’s body begin to regulate blood glucose in a more normal way and prevent hypoglycemia and hypoglycemia unawareness.

Resident Research Opportunities

There is a strong tradition of research among the residents at the University of Virginia. Residents spend one to three years working in a basic or clinical science laboratory.  Some even seize the opportunity to receive a Masters in Public Health or Clinical Sciences during this time.

Microfluidic-Based Beta-Cell Functional Analysis Facility

The Microfluidic-based beta-cell functional analysis facility is located in the Department of Surgery, at the University of Virginia (UVA) and is supported by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF).

Surgical Therapeutic Advancement Center (STAC)

The Surgical Therapeutic Advancement Center (STAC) at the University of Virginia (UVA) is an academic research center dedicated to the development of innovations in the field of surgery in order to improve the clinical care of patients. Our collaborators include some 30 UVA faculty members whose efforts are coordinated through one central office under the direction of Dr. William D. Spotnitz.