The Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at Drexel University College of Medicine provides an outstanding academic environment for pursuing multidisciplinary research and training in neuroscience. The department has recently expanded by recruiting 9 new faculty members for a total of 37 faculty member at all levels including 18 funded research laboratories. The department has about 50 research grants with over $8 million in annual grants, as well as several endowments. Recent grant awards include the spinal cord program project, major NIH and DoD grants, and numerous Foundation grants. As of 2017, the department is ranked #24 in NIH funding [PDF] among all medical schools in the U.S (source: brimr.org). The department offers postdoctoral training in individual laboratories and research groups and graduate student training through the Neuroscience program for outstanding individuals preparing for a research career in the biomedical sciences.
The department promotes a highly interactive and collaborative environment that encourages training and research and lab meetings outside the confines of one laboratory, thus providing flexibility and diversity in the training process. In addition, the department is responsible for the teaching of several major courses for medical students including Gross Anatomy, Medical Neuroscience, and Microanatomy with laboratory components. Based on the experience and resources offered in these classes, our educators developed online remediation courses that, in the last seven years, have served medical students from more than 40 medical schools and offered a collaborative Artistic Anatomy course for art students, which is one of its kind in the U.S. and was featured on the Emmy-nominated WHYY-TV's (PBS) Friday Arts program in a story called "The Gross Lab."
Confocal views, provided by Dr. Son, of neuromuscular junctions in the adult mouse muscle. Motor axons (yellow) elaborate fine terminal branches in precise apposition to acetylcholine receptors in the muscle fiber (blue). Motor axons and nerve terminals are capped by Schwann cells (red).
Training can be obtained in all aspects of advanced microscopy and imaging, tissue culture, transplantation techniques, gene therapy and sequencing, behavioral neurobiology, kinematics, intracellular recording, patch clamping, computer modeling of neurobiological processes and robotics. The department has well-equipped shared facilities for confocal microscopy, electron microscopy, image acquisition and processing, small animal surgery, behavioral analysis, biochemistry and molecular biology. Research training is also supplemented by a seminar series featuring faculty, postdoctoral fellows and outside speakers. Journal clubs and discussions of research findings are scheduled regularly and often shared among individual laboratories.
The Program Project Grant on Recovery of Function After Spinal Cord Injury awarded by the NIH involves seven individual faculty with additional support coming from national and international foundations including the Christopher Reeve Research Foundation and EPVA. This program comprises neurobiological research ranging from molecular neurobiology of spinal cord regeneration to functional studies of recovery of motor behavior after spinal cord injury, offering an excellent multidisciplinary training opportunity in the field of spinal cord injury.
Meet Our Faculty
"What I like the most is working with concepts and ideas and discussing data. What we do here at Drexel is perfect for that. We work very closely with experimental biologists and we very often work closely with them while they're actually performing the experiments. We discuss with them what experiments to do and what types of simulations we would need, for example, to understand how the system works. So I get to do all of this planning, and I just don't have to do the experiments."
Dr. Tom is an associate professor at the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy and has been here for 14 years. She started her career in the department as a postdoctoral fellow in Houle lab. Dr. Tom now runs her own laboratory where she studies various aspects of axonal regeneration and plasticity after spinal cord injury. Although she initially aspired to become a Supreme Court Justice, it did not take her too long to fall in love with research.
News & Announcements
Paralyzed patients are closer to one day breathing without a ventilator after Michael Lane, PhD, and Lyandysha Zhoudeva showed they could improve respiratory function in rodents with spinal cord injuries by successfully transplanting a special class of neural cells, called V2a interneurons. Read more.
Scientific dogma holds that the protein tau stabilizes microtubules within brain cells — but new research suggests just the opposite. Tau’s actual role in the neuron is to allow microtubules to grow and remain dynamic, according to Liang Oscar Qiang, PhD, the study’s lead author and a research assistant professor in the College of Medicine. Read more.
Provost Scholarly Activity Award
The Office of Research and the Office of Faculty Affairs recently announced that Peter Baas, PhD, professor of neurobiology and anatomy, was a recipient of the 2018-2019 Provost Award for Outstanding Scholarly Productivity – Career.
2019 Golden Apple Awards
A number of the department's faculty and staff were recognized for excellence in teaching and outstanding service at the 2019 Golden Apple Award Ceremony. Golden Apple recipients included Theresa Connors, Janet Smith and Judy Rae Churchill.
Other Golden Apple nominees included Dennis DePace, Haviva Goldman, Richard Gonzalez and Francis Sessler.
Thousands of U.S. soldiers returned from the 1991 Persian Gulf War with a mysterious, incurable illness. To find answers, College of Medicine researchers are reprogramming veterans' cells. eXel Drexel University Research Magazine (2018)
Researchers from Drexel University College of Medicine and the University of Texas at Austin improved respiratory function in rodents with spinal cord injuries after successfully transplanting a special class of neural cells, called V2a interneurons. Their results, published this week in the Journal of Neurotrauma, indicate that these lab-grown cells have the potential to one day help paralyzed patients breathe without a ventilator. Science Magazine / Drexel News
2018 Faculty Awards
The following faculty members were the recipients of 2018 faculty awards:
- Wen-Jun Gao, MD, PhD – Julian Marsh Faculty Scholar Award
- Kimberly Dougherty, PhD – Young Investigator Award
See all 2018 faculty awardees.
MD/PhD Student Linda Chamberlin Wins at Colloquium of Scholars
Linda Chamberlin, an MD/PhD student currently in the Neuroscience program, won first place at the Philadelphia Psychiatric Society's annual Colloquium of Scholars on April 14, 2018. Linda and colleagues Yasmin Mohabbat (psychiatry resident), Brielle R. Ferguson (former Neuroscience PhD student), and Wen-Jun Gao, PhD, professor of neurobiology and anatomy, were honored for their poster "Restoring Prefrontal Inhibition to Treat Cognitive Symptoms of Schizophrenia."
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. (September 2017)
As a doctoral candidate in neuroscience at Drexel University College of Medicine, Zak Brodnik's work focuses on the biology underlying drug-use disorders, and he has a message he wants to deliver alongside his research. (September 2017)
College of Medicine researchers shed light on the neurological consequences of exposure to low-levels of nerve agents and suggest that drugs like tubacin could treat some of the toxins' neurological effects. (June 6, 2017)
For researchers at Drexel University College of Medicine, the acquisition of two new confocal microscopes provides an unprecedented view into the human body — and fresh insights into conditions such as autism, neuroinflammation, HIV-associated neurocognitive impairment, heart attacks, cancer and more. Pulse (Spring 2017)
In the Media
October 5, 2018: An obituary remembering Marion Murray, PhD, who co-founded Drexel’s Spinal Cord Research Center, appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Itzhak Fischer, PhD, chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, was quoted.
September 20, 2018: Jessica Barson, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy, was quoted in a Philadelphia Inquirer story about the effects of alcohol on the teenage brain and how that science may inform allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
July 2, 2018: Bruce Hirsch, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy, was quoted in an Artsy story that featured the New York Academy of Art’s “Advanced Artistic Anatomy” course, an intensive set of drawing classes held at Drexel’s gross anatomy lab, which allows art students to study and draw cadavers being dissected by medical students.
June 29, 2018: Peter Baas, PhD, a professor, and Liang Oscar Qiang, PhD, a research assistant professor, both in the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy, were quoted in a GEN News article about their recent study that found Alzheimer’s drugs targeting the tau protein may actually exacerbate the disease.
June 27, 2018: Rodrigo España, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy, was quoted in a Science News story about how hypocretin, a brain chemical that regulates wakefulness and arousal, may also be involved in addiction.
June 7, 2018: Michael Lane, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy, was quoted in a story in Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News about his new study that improved breathing paralysis in rats with spinal cord injuries. He was also quoted in a MedGadget story about the study.
December 29, 2017: Michael Lane, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy, was interviewed on an episode of the SCI Curecast about his research involving cell and rehabilitation therapies to improve breathing in spinal cord injury patients.
October 22, 2017: A study about potential treatments for Gulf War Illness by Peter Baas, PhD, a professor in the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy, was mentioned in a Laboratory Equipment story.
June 6, 2017: A study about a possible treatment for Gulf War Illness by Peter Baas, PhD, a professor in the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy, was featured in a Laboratory Equipment news article.
See all College of Medicine faculty in the Media
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