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The application cycle for the fall 2022 program is now open.

Pharmacology examines and characterizes the action of drugs in humans and animals. It emphasizes the therapeutic responses of drugs, their mechanisms of action, the fate of drugs in the body, potential adverse reactions, and drug-drug interactions. Physiology considers processes that control and regulate the functioning of systems within an intact organism.

Basic physiological processes underlie all fields in biomedical science. Understanding and exploiting the specific actions of drugs can also furnish a way to probe physiological and biochemical processes in both normal and pathological circumstances. Research in pharmacology and physiology provides challenging and exciting opportunities for graduate study.

The Pharmacology and Physiology (PHPH) program offers graduate courses leading to the MS and the PhD. Both degrees require independent research under the direction of faculty members in the department, who are engaged in highly active research programs involving molecular, cellular and behavioral approaches to experimental pharmacology and physiology in a strongly collaborative environment.

Learn more about the curriculum and program requirements

Our Students and Alumni

Experimental Biology Conference 2022 Photo Gallery

Mortensen Lab members at the Experimental Biology conference.
Mortensen Lab members at the 2022 Experimental Biology Conference in Philadelphia.
Mortensen Lab members at the 2022 Experimental Biology Conference in Philadelphia.

Summer 2021 Potluck

The Pharmacology & Physiology graduate students held a potluck to celebrate the return to the lab this summer.

Pharmacology & Physiology program students at a potluck, summer 2021

Welcome to Our First-Year Students

PhD: Simran Gill, Tofunmi Oteju, Sanjita Subramanian, Oyende Yetunde

MD/PhD: Breana Channer

MS: Mohammed Sani Alhassan, Celina Guzman, Deepa Reddy, Dayna Robinson

Melissa Manners, PhD '16

Meet Alum Melissa Manners, PhD '16

Melissa Manners, who successfully defended her doctoral thesis in March 2016, studied the role of the epigenetic regulator methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2) in modulating pain. Mutations in MECP2 cause Rett syndrome and it has been observed that people with Rett syndrome have reduced pain sensitivity. Manners demonstrated the molecular link between MeCP2 and pain. Read more.

Student Achievements

Student Travel Award

Congratulations to Simran Gill, who received the Chapter Recognition Student Travel Award from Association for Women in Science (AWIS) to attend the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego, Calif., in November 2022.

Drexel Emerging Graduate Scholars Conference Award

Rhea Temmermand won 3rd place in the in-person research poster competition of the Drexel Emerging Graduate Scholars Conference. Rhea’s award-winning poster was titled “Development of Glutamate Transporter Modulators as a Novel, Non-Opioid Treatment for Neuropathic Pain.”

Experimental Biology 2022 Award

Jason Wickman won 1st place in the graduate students and post baccalaureate students’ group in the neuropharmacology division at the Experimental Biology 2022 meeting in Philadelphia. Jason’s award-winning poster was titled “miR-106b-25 Dysregulation in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Contributes to T Cell Dysfunction.”

Rhea Temmermand Awarded American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Foundation Grant

Congratulations to Rhea Temmermand (A. Mortensen lab) for being awarded the Art Zwerling grant for her project entitled “Development of glutamate transporter modulators as a novel, non-opioid treatment for chronic pain,” funded by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Foundation.

1st Year Student Rotation Talks

Mohammed Sani Alhassan

Mohammed Sani Alhassan
"The role of CD137 co-stimulation in Multiple Myeloma immune therapeutic approaches"

Simran Gill

Simran Gill
Barker Lab
"Studying the Role of Astrocytic Gq Signaling in Stress-Induced Reinstatement"

Celina Guzman

Celina Guzman
"Evaluating CAR-driven signaling profiles of KLK2 construct variants using Jurkat reporter cell lines"

Tofunmi Oteju

Tofunmi Oteju
Gaskill Lab
"High Content Analysis of Dopamine Mediated Changes in HIV Infection of Macrophages"

Deepa Reddy

Deepa Reddy
Ajit Lab
"Small Extracellular Vesicles From Macrophages As A Therapeutic For Post-Surgical Pain"

Dayna Robinson

Dayna Robinson
Gaskill Lab
"Optimizing Culture Conditions To Investigate Dopamine’s Effect On AKT Signaling In Human Monocyte Derived Macrophages"

Sanjita Subramanian

Sanjita Subramanian
Jackson Lab
"Exploring mitochondrial network dynamics in maturing astrocytes"

Oyende Yetunde

Oyende Yetunde
Fatatis Lab
"CX3CR1 re-expression and phenotypic plasticity of tumor cells"


Dean’s Travel Award

Congratulations to Xuan Luo, winner of the Dean’s Travel Award. The Dean’s Travel Award is meant to partially defray the cost of attending a scientific meeting at which a graduate student is making a presentation, or is related to the student’s graduate study.

Honors from the Mid-Atlantic Pharmacology Society

Congratulations to Christina Besada who won the second-place prize for her poster and Jason Wickman for being selected for an oral presentation at the 2021 Mid-Atlantic Pharmacology Society (MAPS) meeting held on October 29, 2021.

Congratulations Discovery Day 2021 Winners

  • Julia Farnan (Jackson Lab), Second Place, Barry Waterhouse Outstanding Platform Presentation
  • Breana Channer (Gaskill Lab), Third Place, Outstanding Junior Graduate Student Poster

Congratulations 4D Fellowship Awardees

Pharmacology & Physiology graduate program students Mohammed Sani Alhassan and Celina Guzman received Janssen-Drexel 4D fellowships for diversity in drug discovery and development.

Congratulations Katelyn Reeb

Student Katelyn Reeb was a runner-up in the Science Sketch Competition of the Philadelphia chapter of the Society for Neuroscience (PCSFN) for her submission titled, “The mechanism of allosteric modulation of glutamate transporters.” To view her entry please visit

Congratulations Discovery Day 2020 Winners

  • Anthony DiNatale (Fatatis lab), Second Place, Barry Waterhouse Outstanding Platform Presentation
  • Julia Farnan (Jackson Lab), Honorable Mention, Outstanding Senior Graduate Student Poster

Jared Luchetta Awarded National Research Service Award

Congratulations to Jared Luchetta (Meucci lab) for being awarded a National Research Service Award (NRSA) pre-doctoral fellow on Drexel University’s Interdisciplinary and Translational Research Training Grant in NeuroAIDS, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Stacia Lewandowski Serves as Guest Editor

Stacia Lewandowski served as guest editor of the June 2020 newsletter of the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society in the section on diverse voices – LGBTQIA+.

Stacia Lewandowski Awarded International Behavioral Neuroscience (IBNS) Travel Award

Congratulations to Stacia Lewandowski for being awarded an IBNS Travel Award for the 2020 meeting in Glasgow, Scotland.

Recent Student Publications

"Differential RNA packaging into small extracellular vesicles by neurons and astrocytes"
Luo X, Jean-Toussaint R, Sacan A, Ajit SK
Cell Commun Signal. 2021 Jul 10;19(1):75. doi: 10.1186/s12964-021-00757-4

"GRK2 contributes to glucose mediated calcium responses and insulin secretion in pancreatic islet cells"
Snyder J, Lackey AI, Brown GS, Diaz M, Yuzhen T, Sato PY
Sci Rep. 2021 May 27;11(1):11129. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-90253-z

"Uptake of Fluorescent Labeled Small Extracellular Vesicles In Vitro and in Spinal Cord"
Gupta R, Luo X, Lin Z, Tian Y, Ajit SK
J Vis Exp. 2021 May 23;(171). doi: 10.3791/62537

"Dopamine levels induced by substance abuse alter efficacy of Maraviroc and expression of CCR5 conformations on myeloid cells: implications for NeuroHIV"
Matt, S.M., Nickoloff-Bybel, E., et al.
Frontiers in Immunology, May 19, 2021. DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.663061.

"Individual differences in dopamine uptake in the dorsomedial striatum prior to cocaine exposure predict motivation for cocaine in male rats"
Shaw JK, Pamela Alonso I, Lewandowski SI, Scott MO, O'Connor BM, Aggarwal S, De Biasi M, Mortensen OV, España RA.
Neuropsychopharmacology. 2021 May 5. doi: 10.1038/s41386-021-01009-2.

"Therapeutic and prophylactic effects of macrophage-derived small extracellular vesicles in the attenuation of inflammatory pain"
Jean-Toussaint R, Lin Z, Tian Y, Gupta R, Pande R, Luo X, Hu H, Sacan A, Ajit SK.
Brain Behav Immun. 2021 May;94:210-224. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2021.02.005.

"High-throughput kinase inhibitor screening reveals roles for Aurora and Nuak kinases in neurite initiation and dendritic branching"
Blazejewski SM, Bennison SA, Liu X, Toyo-Oka K.
Sci Rep. 2021 Apr 14;11(1):8156. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-87521-3.

"Glutathione S-transferase Pi (Gstp) proteins regulate neuritogenesis in the developing cerebral cortex"
Liu X, Blazejewski SM, Bennison SA, Toyo-Oka K.
Hum Mol Genet. 2021 Mar 25;30(1):30-45. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddab003.

"Chemogenetic Manipulation of Dopamine Neurons Dictates Cocaine Potency at Distal Dopamine Transporters"
Brodnik ZD, Xu W, Batra A, Lewandowski SI, Ruiz CM, Mortensen OV, Kortagere S, Mahler SV, España RA.
J Neurosci. 2020 Nov 4;40(45):8767-8779. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0894-20.2020.

"HIV neuropathogenesis in the presence of a disrupted dopamine system"
Nickoloff-Bybel, E., et al.
The Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, June 6, 2020.

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