Get to know our BP-ENDURE Virtual Seminar Series: Innovative Neuroscience and Impactful Networking speakers that shared their investigation with our students and community.

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Speaker: Amelia J. Eisch, PhD
Professor
Departments of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine
University of Pennsylvania
Perelman School of Medicine 

Title: A Stimulating Question: Can A Neural Circuit of Memory Be Harnessed to Combat Depression (in Mice)?
Date: September 2, 2020

Biography: Dr. Amelia J. Eisch is a Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care and Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). As a PhD student in John Marshall’s Lab (UC Irvine), she detailed the neural mechanisms and circuitry underlying psychostimulant-induced dopaminergic toxicity, gaining experience working inside the brain’s classic “reward” circuitry and foundational knowledge on how to probe network function via behavioral metrics. As a postdoctoral fellow with Eric Nestler (Yale), her interest in the brain reward pathway led her “upstream” to the hippocampus which led to a successful effort in finding novel factors and processes that contribute to or are influenced by motivated behavior. For example, she discovered the relationship among experimenter-delivered- and self-administered-opiates, dentate gyrus neurogenesis, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal stress axis. In 2000, she opened her independent laboratory at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, where she and her team probed genetic and circuit mechanisms underlying behavior. She generated inducible transgenic mouse lines for fate tracking and genetic manipulation of adult neural stem cells in vivo, and worked with many approaches to genetically modify selective cell populations and analyze their behavioral impact. For her work, in 2011 Dr. Eisch was selected as the inaugural Seymour Benzer Lecturer by the National Academy of Science, an award established by Nobel Laureate Sydney Brenner to honor a researcher in neuroscience or genetics. The Eisch Lab still studies hippocampal neurogenesis, but merely as one index of the “health” of dentate gyrus, with the others being circuit- and behaviorally-based. The Eisch Lab is currently funded by NIH and NASA to explore hippocampal structure and function as relates to normal and pathological brain function, with a particular emphasis on adult neurogenesis, addiction, and stress-induced depression. In addition to her scientific accomplishments, Dr. Eisch has documented commitment to training the next generation of neuroscientists. She has mentored 100+ trainees in the Eisch Lab since 2000, has been PI of several NIH T32 training grants, is co-Director of admissions for the Neuroscience Graduate Group at PennMed, and in 2019 was received the Distinguished Mentor Award from PennMed’s Biomedical Postdoctoral Programs.

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Speaker: Andrea Gómez, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neurobiology
Department of Molecular & Cell Biology
Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute
University of California, Berkeley

Title: Alternative Splicing Choices for Synaptic Function
Date: September 9, 2020

Biography: Dr. Andrea Gómez is a neurobiologist at the University of California, Berkeley. She started her journey orbiting the sun in the desert mountains of southern New Mexico. The synthesis of two nerds: one a Mexican American electrical engineer, the other a social worker turned educator from the sovereign nation of Laguna Pueblo, Dr. Gómez was nurtured in the perfect conditions to incubate a neuroscientist. She received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Colorado State University and a Ph.D. in developmental genetics from New York University. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Basel in Switzerland, Dr. Gómez has returned to the U.S. in this fiery year of 2020 to start her lab at UC Berkeley. She devotes her time thinking about why animals with the same number of genes can have vastly different brain complexities. These efforts have led her to discover molecular programs that instruct for the synaptic organization of the brain. Dr. Andrea Gómez was named a European Molecular Biology Organization Postdoctoral Fellow in 2015 and a Brain and Behavior Research Foundation Young Investigator in 2020. She is a member of the Society for Neuroscience, American Indian Science and Engineering Society, and the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in the Sciences. She is also an amateur woodworker specializing in unintentional, crooked furniture.

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Speaker: Elva Díaz, PhD
Professor
Department of Pharmacology
Chair, Neuroscience Graduate Program
UC Davis School of Medicine

Title: Molecular mechanisms of excitatory synapse development and plasticity
Date: September 16, 2020

Biography: Dr. Elva Díaz is a professor in the Department of Pharmacology and chair in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at UC Davis School of Medicine. Dr. Díaz has a broad background in biochemistry, molecular and cell biology and genomics in studies of the mammalian nervous system. She was born and raised in San Jose, California to parents originally from Mexico. Dr. Díaz’ interest in science and math in high school eventually led her to a career in biomedical research. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in Biochemical Sciences in 1993. Following a summer internship at Merck & Co at Rahway, NJ, she pursued graduate studies at Stanford University and earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1999. Her graduate studies involved the molecular mechanisms of receptor trafficking in non-neuronal cells. As a postdoctoral scholar, Dr. Elva Díaz switched fields into developmental neurobiology and worked on functional genomics of nervous system development at UC Berkeley and UCSF. In 2003, she became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology at UC Davis School of Medicine and in 2010 she was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. She was promoted to Full Professor in 2018. Recently, Dr. Elva Díaz was appointed Chair of the Neuroscience graduate program.

 

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Speaker: Carlos Aizenman, PhD
Professor
Department of Neuroscience
Brown University

Title: A role for matrix-metalloprotease 9 in neural development and neurodevelopmental disorders
Date: September 23, 2020

Biography: Dr. Carlos Aizenman is a professor of Neuroscience at Brown University. Dr. Aizenman interest in neuroscience began as an undergraduate in Brown University, where he worked in visual cortical synaptic plasticity in the laboratory of Mark Bear. As a PhD student in Johns Hopkins with David Linden, he studied plasticity of inhibitory inputs and of intrinsic excitability of deep-cerebellar nuclear neurons. His postdoctoral work was done in the lab of Holly Cline, where he combined his interest in the visual system withhis interest in the regulation of neural excitability. Now, Dr. Aizenman’s lab studies how early experience shapes developing sensory circuits and how dysregulation of these processes leads to neurodevelopmental disorders. This year, Dr. Carlos Aizenman, was selected as one of the 100 the most inspiring Hispanic/Latinx scientists working in the United States.

Speaker: Sandeep Robert Datta, MD, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Neuroscience
Harvard Medical University

Title: “Unveiling brain function through Motion Sequencing”
Date: September 30, 2020

Biography: Sandeep Robert Datta obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biochemistry and Biophysics from Yale University, and his M.D./Ph.D degree from Harvard University. After working as a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University with Nobel laureate Richard Axel, he joined the Harvard Medical School Department of Neurobiology in 2009. Dr. Datta’s lab focuses on understanding how sensory cues — particularly odors — are detected by the nervous system, and how the brain uses information about the presence of salient sensory cues to compose complex patterns of motivated action on a moment-to-moment basis. This work involves studying genes involved in detecting odors, revealing the patterns of neural activity deep in the brain that encode sensory maps of the outside world, exploring motor circuits that transform sensory codes into action, and probing the fundamental statistical structure of behavior itself. Dr. Datta has published numerous articles on his research in journals including Cell, Science and Nature, is a reviewer and an editor at multiple scientific journals, is an Associate Member of the Broad Institute, and is a Principal Investigator in the Italian Institute of Technology/Harvard Medical School joint program in the neurosciences. Dr. Datta has received the NIH New Innovator Award, the Burroughs Welcome Career Award in the Medical Sciences, the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, the Searle Scholars Award, the Vallee Young Investigator Award, the McKnight Endowment Fund Scholar Award and has been named a fellow of the National Academy of Science/Kavli Scholars program. In addition, Dr. Sandeep Robert Datta is a cofounder of Optogenix (which manufactures biocompatible optical fibers for recording/manipulation of the brain), Syllable Life Sciences and Abelian Therapeutics.

Speaker: Bill Rebeck, PhD
Professor
Department of Neuroscience 
Co-director of NIH Jointly Sponsored Institutional
Predoctoral Training Program T32
Georgetown University

Title: “APOE and Alzheimer’s disease”
Date: October 14, 2020

Biography: Dr. Bill Rebeck is a Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Georgetown University. He grew up in Cincinnati, OH, and attended Cornell University. After graduating, he worked for three years as a chemist at an agricultural products company and then earned a PhD in Toxicology at Harvard University in 1990. He spent one year on a Fulbright fellowship in Heidelberg, Germany, pursuing research on Alzheimer’s disease in the lab of Konrad Beyreuther. He then began research at Massachusetts General Hospital with Brad Hyman. He moved his lab to Georgetown University in 2003. For over 25 years, Dr. Rebeck, has been interested in genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, specifically variants of the APOE gene. His lab uses cell culture and mouse models to examine the effects of APOE isoforms on normal brain function prior to the accumulation of Alzheimer’s lesions. He has been very involved in graduate education, serving as assistant director of the MS in Integrative Neuroscience, director of the PhD program in Neuroscience for eight years, and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for 18 months. In 2017, Dr. Rebeck received the Georgetown Presidential Distinguished Scholar-Teacher award.