Austin Coley Receives First Ever F99/K00 Fellowship from NIH/NINDS
September 21, 2017
Austin Coley, a neurobiology PhD student in the laboratory of Wen-Jun Gao, PhD, is the recipient of the first ever F99/K00 fellowship from the NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Unlike other fellowships, this program funds two years of PhD study followed by four years of postdoctoral work.
The program, called the NIH Blueprint Diversity Specialized Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Advancement in Neuroscience (D-SPAN) Award, is geared toward supporting minority researchers on their path to full-time faculty positions.
Austin came to Drexel after receiving an undergraduate degree in biology from North Carolina Central University and a master’s at Case Western Reserve University, where he worked to understand pH transporters in serotonin-releasing neurons. He came to Drexel in search of a robust and competitive neuroscience program that focused on student development. "Drexel was at the top of my list," notes Austin. He found Dr. Gao’s laboratory to be a natural fit for his interests, and Dr. Gao enthusiastically accepted him in the lab due to his strong research background.
Austin is currently studying the ways in which psychiatric disorders such as autism and schizophrenia play out in the prefrontal cortex. Specifically he is focused on a protein called postsynaptic density 95 (PSD-95), which has been shown to be involved in these disorders. However, the mechanism of effect of this protein is not well understood. He says, "My project aims to explore how the absence of PSD-95 affects synaptic maturation and function, as well as connectivity and function of the prefrontal cortex."
"The fellowship is a great honor, but it also means I have a great responsibility as a researcher and role model for the community," he says. The funding that continues through his postdoctoral years will be a valuable source of support financially, but the program also serves as a blueprint for his path to success as an academic faculty member, providing support and guidance as he transitions from student to teacher.
Austin Coley, neurobiology PhD student, working in the laboratory of Wen-Jun Gao, PhD, aims to understand the role of a protein called PSD-95 in psychiatric disorders such as autism and schizophrenia
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