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Members

Biography
I am a Professor of Neuroscience and Director of the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Brain
Research Institute. As former Interim Dean of the College of Graduate Studies that oversees predoctoral and
postdoctoral affairs and Director of MUSC’s NIDA T32 Training Program in Drug abuse since 2003, I have a
global perspective on the career development needs of predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees as they progress
towards independent scientists. I also serve as Director of MUSC’s Center for Opioid and Cocaine Addiction’s
(COCA) Pilot Project Core that recruits young investigators into, and supports new projects in, substance use
disorder research. I currently serve, or have served on, five T32 advisory boards at different institutions. I am PI
of the Building Institutional Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) K12 program through which I have served on
the advisory committees of 14 BIRCWH faculty scholars (all but two are women) and personally served as
secondary mentor for two of them. I am an active member of MUSC’s Mentorship Leadership Council (MLC)
that developed and implemented MUSC’s Mentoring Plan. Annually, I teach in two different grant-writing courses,
one for predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees and another for K12 and KL2 mentees, the latter sponsored by
MLC and MUSC’s CTSA. I am the past chair of, and currently serve on, the Dept. of Neuroscience Career
Development Committee (promotions and tenure) and the DEI Task Force formed in 2020. I also am a past
member of the Women in Neuroscience subcommittee of the Society for Neuroscience’s (SfN) Professional
Development Committee that sponsors workshops for young investigators at its annual meeting. I have also
served on the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) Women’s Task Force. Personally, I
currently mentor four tenure-track faculty (3 women) in the Dept of Neuroscience at MUSC. I have been the
primary mentor for 20 (2 current) postdoctoral fellows, 15 predoctoral students, and 10 undergraduate students,
including 14 women. These activities reflect my commitment to the career development of men and women
neuroscience scholars with diverse backgrounds.
My research program has been funded by NIH since 1983. The goal of my research is to understand the
neurobiology of, and develop therapies for, substance use disorders. During the last ten years, my research has
demonstrated that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) suppresses drug-seeking in preclinical models of
addiction. My current research is driven by three main questions. 1. What mechanisms underlie cocaine- and
heroin-induced disturbances in the prefrontal cortex during abstinence that lead to drug-seeking? This focuses
on corticostriatal structural plasticity, nuclear activity markers, and AMPA receptor expression in dendritic spines.
2. How and via what pathways does BDNF suppress drug-seeking when it is infused into the prefrontal cortex
during early withdrawal from cocaine? This research utilizes DREADDs to manipulate defined prelimbic
projection pathways (PL-accumbens; PL-midline thalamus) that mediate relapse to drug seeking and are
regulated by BDNF. Major publications include the following.


Education
  • B.A., 1972, Connecticut College
  • Ph.D., 1978, Downstate Medical Center