Neuroscience Graduate Program Faculty

John Allen, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Pharmacology
  • Research Interest: Neuropharmacology; drug discovery and translational research for neurological and psychiatric disorders; biology; biochemistry and pharmacology of G protein-coupled receptors.  

Noelle C. Anastasio, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Research Interest:  The interface of pharmacology, neuroscience and psychiatry in the prevention and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders.

Dennis Bente, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Microbiology and Immunology
  • Research Interest: Long-term behavioral and neuroinflammatory changes of encephalitic arboviruses in animal models

Shelly Buffington, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Neurobiology
  • Research Interest: Host-microbe interactions regulating synaptic plasticity and behavior, with emphasis on environmentally- and genetically-induced mouse models of autism spectrum disorder.

Kae-Jiun Chang, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Neurobiology
  • Research Interest: Molecular mechanisms of myelination and remyelination; Schwann cells; oligodendrocytes; neuron-glia interactions

Bo Chen, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Neurobiology
  • Research Interest: Developing novel methods to promote functional recovery through enhancing and re-establishing functional connections between the brain and spinal cord

Jin Mo Chung, PhD

  • Professor and Chair, Neurobiology
  • Research Interest: Somatosensory system; mechanisms of neuropathic pain; cell signaling and reactive oxygen species.

Luca Cicalese, MD

  • Professor, Surgery
  • Research Interest: Tolerance induction; preservation and ischemia reperfusion injury;
    liver and intestinal transplantation; stem cell and organ regeneration; hepatocellular carcinoma; cellular transplantation.

Kathryn A. Cunningham, PhD

  • Professor and Vice Chair, Pharmacology and Toxicology;
    Director, Center for Addiction Research
  • Research Interest: Drug abuse and addiction biology; eating disorders and obesity; neuropsychopharmacology; translational research and drug discovery in psychiatry; mechanisms of action of psychostimulants; circuitry/regulation of serotonin systems.

Douglas DeWitt, PhD

  • Professor, Anesthesiology
  • Research Interest: Experimental traumatic brain injury; cerebral vascular regulation.

Kelly T. Dineley, PhD

  • Professor, Neurology
  • Research Interest: Molecular mechanisms of cognitive (hippocampal) dysfunction in early versus late Alzheimer's disease; nicotine addiction with specific emphasis on nicotine-context associations and the molecular mechanisms underlying their extinction.

Perenlei Enkhbaatar, MD, PhD

  • Professor, Anesthesiology
  • Research Interest: Pathophysiology of acute lung injury/acute respiratory distress syndrome secondary to skin burn, smoke inhalation and sepsis. Focus on the interrelation of the coagulapathy and inflammation, microthrombosis, neutrophil biology, nitric oxide and reactive nitrogen species.

Rinat Esenaliev, PhD

  • Professor, Neurobiology
  • Research Interest: Novel diagnostic imaging modality; nanoparticle-based therapy of tumors; real-time noninvasive optoacoustic/photoacoustic monitoring of tissue; noninvasive continuous monitoring of blood oxygenation; noninvasive measurement and monitoring of total hemoglobin concentration; noninvasive monitoring of blood glucose concentration.

Eliseo Eugenin, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Neurobiology
  • Research Interests:  The role of cellular communication during the pathogenesis of NeuroHIV; Identification of brain biomarkers of dementia; Glioblastoma, a novel approach to cure this disease; heart disease and cell to cell communication.

Benjamin B. Gelman, MD, PhD

  • Professor, Pathology
  • Research Interest: Mononuclear phagocytes in the nervous system; AIDS.

Dustin Green, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Neurobiology
  • Research Interest: The molecular determinants of mental health and addiction-related behavior. We have developed novel rat models of frustration behavior that allow us to study the neurobiological underpinnings of how frustration mediates drug-seeking behavior

Thomas A. Green, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Research Interest: Molecular mechanisms underlying addiction- and depression-related behavior; role of environment in altering these molecular targets in brain reward regions subsequent to stress or cocaine exposure; genomic strategies to identify new molecular targets mediating these phenotypes and construct novel viral vectors to manipulate these proteins in vivo and alter subsequent behavior related to addiction or depression.

Praveena Gupta, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
  • Research Interest: High Energy Violet (HEV) light induced phototoxicity on the retina in a mouse model; Combined treatment using corneal crosslinking and topical osmolar agents in reducing corneal edema; Characterization of exosomes in age related macular degeneration.  

Owen P. Hamill, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Neurobiology
  • Research Interest: Membrane channel regulation of tumor cell migration and invasiveness.

Jonathan D. Hommel, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Research Interest: Molecular mechanisms of food addiction, neuropeptide control of eating behavior, drug discovery, obesity. Techniques: gene therapy, neuronal tracing, animal models of food craving and food reward.

Li-Yen Mae Huang, PhD

  • Professor, Neurobiology
  • Research Interest: Mechanisms of receptor sensitization after injury; opioid receptor gene transfer.

Kenneth M. Johnson, PhD

  • Professor Emeritus, Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Research Interests:  Mechanisms of drug of abuse and animal models of psychiatric disease.

Rakez Kayed, PhD

  • Professor, Neurology
  • Research Interest: Neurodegenerative diseases associated with amyloid, such as Alzheimer`s (AD), Parkinson's (PD), Type II diabetes, amyloidosis and others; cellular mechanism of tau/amyloid oligomer formation and toxicity; role of cell membrane and receptors in amyloid pathogenesis; tau oligomers and their role in AD and related tauopathies; imunotherapy for the treatment of AD and PD; development of methods for early diagnostics of neurodegenerative diseases; screening for drug like molecules that interfere with different amyloid species.

Balaji Krishnan, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Neurology
  • Research Interest: Understanding the synaptic changes in formation and retrieval of short-term and long-term associative memory mechanisms using behavior, biochemistry, molecular biology and electrophysiological approaches.

Jun-Ho La, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Neurobiology
  • Research Interest: Chronic  pain and  developing therapeutic tools to manage this debilitating condition, changes in synaptic strength that are  associated with  chronic pain, and primary afferent input contributes to the dynamic synaptic  plasticity

Fernanda Laezza, MD, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Pharmacology & Toxicology
  • Research Interest: Cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying modulation of ion channels in relationship to intrinsic excitability, synaptic transmission and plasticity; regulation of intrinsic excitability and synaptic transmission by intracellular fibroblast growth factors (iFGFs); ataxias and neurodegenerative diseases.

Agenor Limon, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Neurology
  • Research Interest:  Molecular mechanisms of excitation-inhibition imbalance in neurodegenerative diseases and mental disorders; Microtransplantation of Synaptic Membranes (MSM) to direct analysis of pharmacological and biophysical remodeling of human native receptors in disease.

Hua Liu, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences
  • Research Interest: Using genetic and pharmacological approaches to understand the neuroprotective role of Sirt6 in glaucoma and identifying novel mechanisms underlying ZIKV-induced retinal neuronal and vascular degeneration

Tomoko Makishima, MD, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Otolaryngology
  • Research Interest: Genetic hearing loss and vestibular dysfunction; apoptosis in the inner ear.

Walter J. Meyer, III, MD, PhD

  • Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Research Interest: Relationship between psychologic and psychiatric problems and physical illness; management of pain and anxiety in the burn survivor.

Maria Micci, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Anesthesiology
  • Research Interest: Development of novel therapies for the treatment of traumatic brain injury including, short-pulse laser therapy and stem cell transplantation; analysis of neurogenesis in the hippocampus in an animal model of traumatic brain injury and in human bioptic specimens of Alzheimer’s disease; development of non-invasive imaging techniques for monitoring viable cells grafted in the brain.

Massoud Motamedi, PhD

  • Professor, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
  • Director, Center for Biomedical Engineering
  • Research Interest: Biomedical engineering, biophysics, imaging, monitoring and sensing.  Ocular imaging and therapy.  Nanotechnology.  Cancer diagnosis and therapy.  Cardiovascular research.  

Andres Oberhauser, PhD

  • Professor, Neurobiology
  • Research Interests:  To elucidate the precise molecular mechanisms by which the chaperones UNC-45 and Hsp90 assist in the folding of the myosin head which is critical for sarcomere assembly during the development and repair of stress-induced damage to sarcomeres in mature muscle.

Brendan Prideaux, Ph.D.

  • Assistant Professor, Neurobiology
  • Research Interests: Understanding pathogenic mechanisms of infectious disease using state-of-the-art mass spectrometry and imaging technologies.

Donald S. Prough, MD

  • Professor and Chair, Anesthesiology
  • Research Interest: Response to traumatic brain injury; zinc neurotoxicity.

Cristiana Rastellini, MD

  • Professor, Surgery, Neurobiology
  • Research Interest: Organ/cellular preservation; mechanisms of acute and chronic rejection; tolerance induction; pancreatic islet transplantation; beta cell proliferation.

Gabrielle Rudenko, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor, Pharmacology
  • Research Interest: Answering fundamental questions about synapse function on a molecular level, and using this information to identify and exploit new targets for the treatment of neurological disorders.

Partha Sarkar, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Neurology
  • Research Interest: Toxic CUG RNA, chronic oxidative stress and mechanism of skeletal muscle wasting in myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1); Polyglutamine expansions, mechanism of genome instability, neuronal dysfunction and neurodegeneration in spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (SCA3).

Michael P. Sheetz, PhD

  • Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Research Interest: Mechanotransduction; cell migration; molecular motors; cytoskeleton.

Bartosz Szczesny, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
  • Research Interest:  Roles of the mitochondria in physiological and pathological conditions; mitochondrial DNA induced inflammatory response, mechanisms of the mitochondrial DNA repair and role of mitochondria in cancer

Giulio Taglialatela, PhD

  • Professor, Neurology
  • Director, Mitchell Center for Neurodegenerataive Diseases
  • Research Interest: Neurodegeneration and apoptosis in the aged CNS and Alzheimer's disease.

Gracie Vargas, PhD

  • Professor, Neurobiology
  • Research Interest:  Advanced intravital microscopy (nonlinear optical microscopy, endomicroscopy) in injury or disease; noninvasive optical diagnostics in cancer; use of contrast agents and molecular specific probes for enhanced image contrast; applications of advanced imaging in infectious diseases.

Gianmarco Vizzeri, PhD

  • Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
  • Research Interest:  Finding new diagnostic and therapeutic modalities to prevent vision loss due to glaucoma

Yogesh Wairkar, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Neurology
  • Research Interest: Molecular mechanisms of synapse development, synapses and neurodegeneration.

Ping Wu, MD, PhD

  • Professor, Neurobiology
  • Research Interest: Human stem cell biology; stem cell therapy and gene therapy for neurological disorders.

Qing Yang, MD

  • Assistant Professor, Neurobiology
  • Research Interests:  To identify potential therapeutic targets that can be used to effectively treat chemotherapy- and neurotrauma-induced complications.

Y. Whitney Yin, MD, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Pharmacology & Toxicology
  • Research Interest: Structural and biochemical basis for antiviral drug mitochondrial toxicity; mitochondrial DNA replication and repair; correlation of mitochondrial DNA polymerase mutation with clinical phenotypes; correlation of mitochondrial DNA polymerase mutation with clinical phenotypes.

Kangling Zhang, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor, Pharmacology & Toxicology
  • Research Interest: Development of state-of-the-art methodologies in mass spectrometry and their applications in epigenetics, with the hope of better understanding the cause of diseases and cancer.

Wenbo Zhang, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences
  • Research Interest: Mechanisms of ischemic retinopathy: retinal neuronal injury, retinal vascular leakage and degeneration, and retinal pathological antiogenesis.

Neuroscience Graduate Program Contacts

Program Director:

Ping Wu, MD, PhD
4.212 Research Building 17, Route 0620
Phone Number: (409) 772-9858

Associate Program Director:
Thomas Green, PhD
Rm. 7.102C MRB, Route 1059
Phone Number: (409) 747-7056

NOD Track Director
Rakez Kayed, PhD
10.138C MRB, Route 1045
Phone Number: (409) 772-0138

Program Coordinator
Carmen Duplan
2.102 MRB, Route 1069
Phone Number: (409) 772-2124