For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Department of Pharmacology & Physiology News

November 2023

Discovery Day 2023

Department trainees contributed 36 posters and 2 platform presentations to this year’s Discovery Day, held at the Philadelphia Convention Center. Our trainees were also recognized for scientific excellence with several awards, including the esteemed Bondi Fellowship.

Discovery Day 2023

Awardees from our department:

  • Xuan Luo (Ajit lab) – Bondi Fellowship
  • Katelyn Reeb (A. Mortensen lab) – 1st place, Outstanding Senior Graduate Student Poster
  • Rohan Dasari (Barker lab) – 2nd place, Outstanding Undergraduate Poster

Platform presentations:

  • “Exploiting ferroptosis in mutant BAP1 uveal melanoma liver metastases”
    Camille Cunanan (Hartsough lab)
  • “Local and systemic T cell dysfunction in the tibia fracture model of complex regional pain syndrome”
    Jason Wickman (Ajit lab)

Poster presentations:

  • “Generation and characterization of murine bone marrow-derived macrophages and their small extracellular vesicles”
    Jason DaCunza (Ajit lab)
  • “Immune regulation by small extracellular vesicles in attenuating inflammatory pain”
    Xuan Luo (Ajit lab)
  • “Morphine induced hyperalgesia in mice induces differential packaging of miRNAs into small extracellular vesicles to attenuate inflammatory pain”
    Deepa Reddy (Ajit lab)
  • “Sex differences in the effects of chronic low-dose ethanol exposure on behavioral response to changes in reward value”
    Christina Curran-Alfaro (Barker lab)
  • “Altered cocaine-seeking behavior and corticolimbic circuit activation in EcoHIV infected mice”
    Rohan Dasari (Barker lab)
  • “Effect of EcoHIV infection on cocaine-induced ΔfosB expression in the NAc”
    Ashly Reyes (Barker lab)
  • “Spared nerve injury alters ethanol reward seeking and prefrontal cortex cFos induction by painful stimulation in female mice”
    Christine Side (Barker lab)
  • “Astrocytic regulation of cocaine locomotor sensitization in EcoHIV infected mice”
    Qiaowei Xie (Barker lab)
  • “Inverse correlation between AR expression/activity and IL-1β secretion and clinical implications for bone metastatic prostate cancer”
    Yetunde Oyende (Fatatis lab)
  • “Examining the impact of microenvironment on dopaminergic immunomodulation in human macrophages”
    Breana Channer (Gaskill lab)
  • “Dopamine-mediated regulation of inflammasome formation and activation in human monocyte-derived macrophages”
    Marzieh Daniali (Gaskill lab)
  • “Cocaine enhances HIV-infection of human iPSC-derived microglia and monocyte-derived macrophages via sigma-1”
    Oluwatofunmi Oteju (Gaskill lab)
  • “The role of ST8SIA2 & ST8SIA4 in melanoma progression and metastasis”
    Amirali Amirfallah (Hartsough lab)
  • “Exploiting pyroptosis in melanoma brain metastases”
    Maria Cavallo (Hartsough lab)
  • “Exploiting the selenoproteome in metastatic uveal melanoma”
    Alyssa Sanders (Hartsough lab)
  • “Astrocyte reactivity in mediating melanoma brain metastases”
    Julia Farnan (Jackson lab)
  • “Disentangling the role of the CAMKK/CAMKIV/CREB signaling pathway in organotypic hippocampal astrocyte cultures following oxygen-glucose deprivation”
    Taylor Gardner (Jackson lab)
  • “Modulating impaired calcium clearance in astrocytes after ischemic stroke regulates CREB activation”
    Geena John (Jackson lab)
  • “Three-dimensional co-culture model of melanoma & astrocytes”
    Steve Rutledge (Jackson lab)
  • “A protocol for adult mice brain slice dissociation and analysis of uninfected EcoHIV CNS cells through flow cytometry”
    Hanna Banta (Klase lab)
  • “A novel method of characterizing cells from ex vivo mammalian brain tissue to study HIV infection of the central nervous system”
    Zachary Capriotti (Klase lab)
  • “HIV-1 infection of monocyte derived macrophages alters miRNA expression targeting β-catenin-TEF/LEF signaling”
    Erick O’Brien (Klase lab)
  • “Exploring benzodiazepine mediated epigenetic regulation of transcriptional control in HIV-1 infected hMDMs”
    Courtney Wallace (Klase lab)
  • “Decoding the CXCL12 effect on dendritic spine dynamics: from turnover to maturation and clustering”
    Chun-Ta Ho (Meucci lab)
  • “Optimization of organotypic human brain slice cultures to study neuroHIV”
    James Johnson (Meucci lab)
  • “Regulatory mechanisms of EAAT2 following ischemic insult”
    Simran Gill (A. Mortensen lab)
  • “EAATs for stroke: to modulate or not to modulate”
    Katelyn Reeb (A. Mortensen lab)
  • “Development of glutamate transporter modulators as a novel, non-opioid treatment for neuropathic pain”
    Rhea Temmermand (A. Mortensen lab)
  • “Bidirectional ERK1/2 modulation in dopaminergic neurons regulates DAT trafficking and function”
    Christina Besada (O. Mortensen lab)
  • “Gender differences in acute cocaine response: exploring DAT regulation through MKP3 overexpression in rats”
    Rashmi Tantri (O. Mortensen lab)
  • “Screening for novel allosteric modulators of human dopamine transporter”
    Adele Yang (O. Mortensen lab)
  • “Harnessing histone deacetylase 6 inhibition: a breakthrough therapy for spastic paraplegia 4”
    Neha Mohan (Qiang lab)
  • “MDSC-mediated immune suppression as a driver of HIV and Melanoma co-morbidity”
    Lindsay Barger (Romano lab)
  • “Novel targeted therapeutic approaches for NF1-mutant ovarian carcinoma”
    Olivia El Naggar (Romano lab)
  • “NMDA receptor-dependent mechanisms controlling NMDA receptor subsynaptic localization”
    Wesley Corey (Sanz-Clemente lab)
  • “Modulating synaptic/extrasynaptic NMDAR trafficking in ischemia-induced glutamate excitotoxicity”
    Sanjita Subramanian (Sanz-Clemente lab)

October 2023

Barker Lab Awarded New Grants

Congrats to Dr. Barker and her PhD student Christina Curran-Alfaro for each earning new funding from NIAAA. Dr. Barker earned a new R21 award for “Prelimbic cortex contribution to ethanol seeking in chronic neuropathic pain” and Christina earned a F31 award for “The effects of low-dose ethanol on reward-value decision making and the basolateral amygdala.”

September 2023

Medical Cannabis Research Center at Drexel Announces Additional Pilot Study Award for 2023-2024

A new clinical study has been funded by the Medical Cannabis Research Center (MCRC). “Investigating the Analgesic Potential of Cannabidiol Combinations for Chronic Neuropathic Pain,” conducted by Dr. Mitchell Nothem of The Barker Lab will investigate the effects of chronic administration of cannabidiol (CBD) combined with cannabigerol (CBG) and/or cannabichromine (CBC) on chronic neuropathic pain in mice. Read more.

August 2023

Faculty Awarded CURE Formula Grants

Dr. Andréia Mortensen earned a 2022 Formula CURE Grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The grant features Dr. Seena Ajit as a co-investigator and will fund the project: Sex Differences in Neuropathic Pain: The Role of Glutamate Transporters.

Katie Bryant Featured in eNeuro Blog

Recent PhD graduate Katie Bryant from the Barker lab was featured in eNeuro’s Beyond the Paper series, which interviews the authors of recent work published in the journal. Katie talked about her studies on how low-dose alcohol changed reward seeking behavior and discussed her experiences in the lab and future plans. The interview is available in full on eNeuro’s website.

Xuan Luo Earns Dean’s Fellowship

Pharmacology and Physiology senior graduate student Xuan Luo earned a Dean’s Fellowship for Excellence in Collaborative or Themed Research from the Graduate School. The funds will support her innovative research in the Ajit lab on how small extracellular vesicles resolve pain via epigenetic mechanisms.

MOTOR Center Writing Retreat

The MOTOR Center will host an all-day Writing Retreat on Tuesday, August 15 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. All trainees are welcome to participate and work on scientific writing tasks. The event will feature goal setting and sharing, structured writing time and time for reflection. Check the MOTOR center site for a detailed agenda and other info.

July 2023

Summer Seminar Series

The department began a new initiative to host trainee-led seminars in a Summer Seminar Series. The inaugural series featured seminars from four senior PhD students in the department who shared progress on their research projects. See the events page for info on the speakers and topics discussed.

Open Writing Hours Events

The MOTOR Center and Office of Scientific Communications hosted several Open Writing Hours sessions for departmental trainees which provided uninterrupted writing time for a variety of projects. All trainees are welcome to use the hours to work on manuscripts, grant proposals, dissertations, qualifying/preliminary exams and other scientific writing tasks. Additional open writing sessions are coming soon.

June 2023

College of Medicine Faculty Awards

Pharmacology & Physiology faculty members received numerous awards at the annual Faculty Professional Development Day and Awards Ceremony, hosted by the College of Medicine’s Office of Faculty.

  • Daniel V. Schidlow, MD, Transformational Leadership Award
    Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD
  • Angelo Pinto Educator Award
    Joanne Mathiasen, PhD
  • Diversity and Inclusion Impact Award
    Priscila Sato, PhD
  • Early Career Basic Science Investigator Award
    Joshua Jackson, PhD
  • Early Career Mentoring Award for Basic Science Faculty
    Jacqueline Barker, PhD

Several of our educational faculty were also honored with Golden Apple Awards from medical students for outstanding service to the school and the student body:

  • Bob Rosenberg, PhD
  • Joel Horwitz, PhD
  • Michael White, PhD

Dr. Gaskill Receives R61 Grant From NIDA

Congrats to Dr. Peter Gaskill for earning a new R61 grant from the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse. The grant will support a collaborative project titled “Defining molecular mechanisms by which stimulant evoked dopamine drives inflammation and neuronal dysfunction in neuroHIV” with colleagues from Drexel, University of Florida and University of Nebraska Medical Center.

May 2023

Dr. Matt Receives K01 and Travel Awards

Congratulations to Dr. Stephanie Matt, a postdoctoral fellow in the Gaskill lab, for earning a K01 Research Scientist Development Award from the National Institute on Mental Health. The award will support Dr. Matt’s research project “The role of antidepressants in central and peripheral myeloid HIV persistence and inflammation.” Dr. Matt also received a Daniel T. O'Connor Young Investigator Travel Award from The Catecholamine Society, which provides funding to attend the 2023 meeting of American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET).

Barker Lab Publication Featured in eNeuro

The Barker lab recently published a research article in eNeuro that was chosen for the journal’s featured research spotlight. The article is titled “A history of low-dose ethanol shifts the role of ventral hippocampus during reward seeking in male mice” and features a project driven by recently graduated first-author, Dr. Kathleen Bryant.

Katelyn Reeb Earns Dean's Poster Award for Best Research Poster

Katelyn Reeb, PhD student in the A. Mortensen lab, was awarded the Dean’s Award for Best Research Poster Presentation at Drexel’s Emerging Graduate Scholars Conference. Katelyn’s award-winning poster was titled “Positive allosteric modulation of glutamate transporter EAAT2 as a novel therapeutic approach for neurological disorders.”

Pharmacology & Physiology 2023 Graduates

Our graduates were honored at the Drexel University College of Medicine 2023 commencement, held at The Kimmel Center for Performing Arts in Center City, Philadelphia. To top off a strong class of graduates, Kathleen Bryant, PhD was awarded the College’s Amedeo Bondi, PhD Endowed Graduate Award, which recognizes one graduating student for excellence in research performance during the training experience.

PhD graduates:

  • Kathleen G. Bryant, PhD
    “A History of Low-Dose Ethanol Alters Behavioral Strategy Selection and Ventral Hippocampus Function”
    Advisor: Jacqueline Barker, PhD
    PhD, Neuroscience
    *Amedeo Bondi, PhD Endowed Graduate Award winner
  • Jared Luchetta, PhD
    “Investigating How the Chemokine CXCL12 Impacts Neuronal Network Function and Structural Plasticity: The Modulatory Role of Inhibitory Neurons”
    Advisor: Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD
    PhD, Pharmacology & Physiology
  • Richa Pande, PhD
    “Role of Macrophage Derived Small Extracellular Vesicles in Regulation of T Cell Mediated Resolution of Inflammatory Pain”
    Advisor: Seena Ajit, PhD
    PhD, Microbiology & Immunology
  • Jonathan Snyder, PhD
    “Pancreatic Islet GRK2 Regulates Insulin Secretion and Glycemic Control by Regulating Metabolism and GPCR Sensitivity in Type 2 Diabetes Model”
    Advisor: Priscila Sato, PhD
    PhD, Pharmacology & Physiology

MS graduates, Pharmacology & Physiology:

  • Mohammed Sani Alhassan
    “The Evaluation of CD137 as a Costimulatory Receptor in Multiple Myeloma Therapy”
    Advisors: Alessandro Fatatis, MD, PhD, Bradley Heidrich, PhD (Janssen), and Dara Reeves, PhD (Janssen)
    *Janssen-Drexel 4D Fellow
  • Celina N. Guzman
    “Evaluation of Functional Performance of KLK2 Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T Cell Designs”
    Advisors: Alessandro Fatatis, MD, PhD and Szeman Ruby Chan, PhD (Janssen)
    *Janssen-Drexel 4D Fellow
  • Deepa Reddy
    *Transitioning to Pharmacology & Physiology PhD program
    Advisor: Seena Ajit, PhD
  • Dayna Robinson
    *Summer thesis defense
    Advisor: Peter Gaskill, PhD

MS graduates, Drug Discovery & Development (in person program):

  • Rohail Bhatti
    *Summer thesis defense
    Advisor: Priscila Sato, PhD
  • Rohan Gupta
    “Machine Learning Models in Drug Discovery and Development”
    Advisor: Ahmet Sacan, PhD
  • Desmond J. Lewis
    “Development of a Prostate 3D Spheroid Model for Assessing Tumor Uptake of Different Antibody Designs”
    Advisors: Alessandro Fatatis, MD, PhD, Theresa McDevitt, PhD (Janssen), and Fei Shen, PhD (Janssen)
    *Janssen-Drexel 4D Fellow
  • Laura Merja
    “Pharmacological CURE Strategy via Targeting the Human Transcription Factor RUNX1 for Latent HIV Reactivation and Immune Stimulation”
    Advisor: Zachary Klase, PhD
  • Ria Patel
  • Victoria J. Perre
  • Yagni Keyur Shah
  • Atif Asad Siddiqui
  • Suhani Mahesh Suthar

April 2023

Dr. Ajit Gives Invited Seminars

Dr. Seena Ajit gave two invited seminars this month, one at the US Association for the Study of Pain (USASP) annual meeting and another at Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine. Her talk at USASP in the symposium on non-coding RNAs, potential biomarkers and targets for chronic pain and itch was titled “Female cell-specific regulation of inflammatory pain by long noncoding RNA Xist.” Her second talk at Temple’s Center for Substance Abuse Research was titled “Attenuation of inflammatory pain by macrophage derived small extracellular vesicles.”

Dr. Jackson Receives His First R01

Dr. Josh Jackson received his first NIH R01 award as a faculty member at Drexel. The award is through the National Institute on Aging, which will support Dr. Jackson’s work on glutamate transporter-dependent neuromuscular coupling in Alzheimer’s disease. This is one of several recent awards for Dr. Jackson, including a new collaborative R21, a DoD Idea Award and other foundation awards. Congratulations and well done, Josh.

Jason Wickman Earns Dean’s Travel Award

Jason Wickman, a PhD student in the Ajit lab, was a recipient of a spring 2023 Dean’s Travel Award from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies.

March 2023

New R21 Supports TRaCES Project

Congratulations to the multi-PI team of Drs. Meucci, Jackson and Klase for receiving a new R21 award from NIDA. Funding from this award will support an ongoing project in our TRaCES facility, titled “Adult human brain tissue cultures to study neuroHIV.” The project also features a collaboration with co-investigators Drs. Alessandro Fatatis and Atom Sarkar of the Global Neurosciences Institute.

Department Faculty Receive DoD Idea Awards

Congratulations to Drs. Josh Jackson and Gabriele Romano for each receiving a Melanoma Research Program Idea Award from the Department of Defense. Dr. Jackson’s award will support a collaborative project with Dr. Hartsough, titled “Role of Perilesional Reactive Astrocytosis in Melanoma Brain Metastases.” Dr. Romano’s award will support his project “Biomimetic Nanoparticle-Mediated Delivery of Immunomodulating Nucleic Acids as a Strategy to Anticipate Melanoma Drug Resistance.”

Romano Lab Student Earns Research Mini Grant

Pearl Diabene, an undergraduate student from the Romano lab, earned an Undergraduate Research Mini Grant from Drexel’s Undergraduate Research and Enrichment Programs. The award supports Perl’s work in the Romano lab for the winter term.

February 2023

Romano Lab News

Dr. Gabriele Romano published his first manuscript as a Drexel PI. His collaborative study, titled “Microparticle-delivered Cxcl9 prolongs Braf inhibitor efficacy in melanoma” was published in Cancer Immunological Research this month. Congrats to the Romano Lab. Dr. Romano was also invited to participate in the NIH study section: “Mechanisms of Cancer Therapeutics A” [MCTA], and he has also become a co-director of Drexel’s Responsible Conduct of Research course. Well done, Dr. Romano.

Dr. Sanz-Clemente Nominated to Leadership Position in PCSfN

Congrats to Dr. Antonio Sanz-Clemente for being nominated as the next vice president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience (PCSfN). The annual PCSfN meeting will be held March 13, 2023, at Temple University. Please see here for additional details.

Dr. Klase Presents at AAAS Meeting

Dr. Zachary Klase gave an invited talk at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting. Dr. Klase discussed his work in a talk titled “The effect of benzodiazepines on HIV epigenetics in the CNS and beyond.”

January 2023

Dr. Ajit and Dr. A. Mortensen Give Invited Seminars

Dr. Seena Ajit was invited to give a talk titled “The role of small extracellular vesicles in pain” to the pain interest group meeting hosted by the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Anesthesiology. Dr. Andréia Mortensen was invited to give a talk titled “Allosteric Modulation of Glutamate Transporters: A Possible Avenue for Neuropsychiatric Therapies” to the Drexel’s School of BioMedical Engineering.

Dr. Jackson Receives W.W. Smith Grant

Congratulations to Dr. Josh Jackson for receiving a new grant from the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust. The funds will support Dr. Jackson’s project, “Astrocytic mitochondria control neurovascular coupling.” This is Dr. Jackson’s third W.W. Smith-funded project, including one collaborative grant with Dr. Hartsough.

December 2022

2022 Pharmacology and Physiology Department Report Card

Click on image to view larger image.

Year in Review

The 2022 department report card was distributed at our department retreat this month, but please feel free to pick up another copy from the main office.

Dean’s Graduate Student Travel Awards

Congratulations to Katelyn Reeb (A. Mortensen lab) and Neha Mohan (Qiang lab) for receiving Dean’s Graduate Student Travel Awards for the Fall 2022 award cycle. Katelyn and Neha secured two of the four travel awards this cycle, which were open to students in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Deepa Reddy Selected as Poster Competition Finalist

Congrats to Deepa Reddy (Ajit lab), who was selected as a finalist for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) E-poster competition in the Brain and Behavior category. Deepa will participate in the final round of the competition in Washington D.C. in March 2023.

Katelyn Reeb Awarded PhRMA Fellowship

Well done Katelyn Reeb (A. Mortensen lab) for earning a research fellowship from the PhRMA Foundation. These competitive fellowships provide up to two years of stipend funding to PhD candidates in the pharmaceutical sciences.

Dr. Fatatis Named SKCC Associate Director for Basic Science

Alessandro Fatatis, MD, PhD, has been appointed as the associate director for basic research at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center of Thomas Jefferson University. In this new role, Dr. Fatatis will coordinate basic research and promote collaborations across SKCC’s cancer research programs. Dr. Fatatis was previously co-leader of SKCC’s Translational and Cellular Oncology Research Program.

Pharmacology and Physiology Department Retreat

Pharmacology & Physiology Department Retreat

Thank you to everyone who attended the Pharmacology & Physiology Department Retreat and made the event a success! The retreat showcased the breadth of our department’s research and exceptional trainees, faculty, and staff who contribute to a culture that aims to “disrupt and innovate.” The retreat also featured our annual departmental awards ceremony and the return of the Chair’s awards, in addition to a few special retreat awards.

Retreat Awards:

  • Best Research Talks: Julia Farnan & Amber Jones
  • Best Elevator Talks: Katelyn Reeb & Chun-Ta Ho
  • Fastest Elevator Talk: Anna Zhang
  • Best Question: Gabriele Romano, PhD
  • Don’t Say the Word Game Champions: Clara Xu & Christina Besada

Departmental Awards:

  • Benjamin Weiss Scholar Award: Kathleen Bryant
  • Mary Hoffman Shaw Travel Awards: Xuan Luo, Rhea Temmermand & Deepa Reddy

Chair’s Awards:

  • Exemplary Student Citizen Award: Jonathan Snyder
  • Outstanding Service Award: Liz Kopen
  • Faculty Service Award: Zachary Klase, PhD

Recognition for scientific excellence:

  • Highest impact factor publication: Priscila Sato, PhD
  • Success in collaborative efforts: Peter Gaskill, PhD & Zachary Klase, PhD

November 2022

Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting

Several trainees from the department presented their research at the Society for Neuroscience 2022 annual meeting in San Diego, CA.

Poster Presentations:

  • Bidirectional ERK1/2 modulation in dopaminergic neurons regulates DAT trafficking and function
    Christina Besada (O. Mortensen lab)
  • Allosteric dopamine transporter modulator inhibits cocaine-induced behaviors
    Clara Xu (O. Mortensen lab)
  • Positive allosteric modulation of glutamate transporter EAAT2 as a novel therapeutic approach for neurological disorders
    Katelyn Reeb (A. Mortensen lab)
  • Differential regulation of glutamate transporters following ischemia
    Simran Gill (A. Mortensen lab)
  • Development of glutamate transporter modulators as a novel, non-opioid treatment for neuropathic pain
    Rhea Temmermand (A. Mortensen lab)
  • Effect of the chemokine CXCL12 on dendritic spine maturation, turnover, and clustering
    Chunta Ho (Meucci lab)

Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting

MAPS Meeting Awardees

Several of our trainees received poster awards at the Mid-Atlantic Pharmacology Society annual meeting. In the graduate students’ section, Julia Farnan (Jackson lab) won the 1st place prize and Deepa Reddy (Ajit lab) took home 2nd place. Congrats!

Thank you to our in-house MAPS representatives, Dr. Seena Ajit (Councilor) and Dr. Linda Console-Bram (Treasurer), for their efforts to help make the event a success. Also, thank you to Drexel’s Department of Pharmacology & Physiology for providing the meeting venue and financial support required to host the meeting.

MAPS Meeting Awardees

October 2022

Janssen Day 2022

Janssen Day 2022

The newest class of 4D fellows participated in the second annual Janssen Day event, held at Janssen’s Spring House campus. The event brought together Janssen senior leaders to discuss their work in the oncology therapeutic area, from discovery research to clinical studies.

Discovery Day 2022

The Department had a strong showing at Discovery Day 2022, held in person at the Philadelphia Convention Center. Our trainees were recognized for excellence in both platform and poster presentations, highlighting their efforts at the bench and in communicating their research.

Awardees from our department:

  • Jonathan Snyder (Sato lab) – 1st place, Barry Waterhouse Outstanding Platform Presentation
  • Christina Curran-Alfaro (Barker lab) – 2nd place, Outstanding Senior Graduate Student Poster
  • Jason Wickman (Ajit lab) – 3rd place, Outstanding Senior Graduate Student Poster
  • Breana Channer (Gaskill lab) – 3rd place, Outstanding Junior Graduate Student Poster

Platform presentations:

  • Macrophage derived small extracellular vesicles as immunomodulators in inflammatory pain
    Richa Pande (Ajit lab)
  • Islet GRK2 regulates hormone secretion and glycemic control by supporting metabolism and GPCR sensitivity
    Jonathan Snyder (Sato lab)

Poster presentations:

  • Immune regulation by small extracellular vesicles in pain attenuation
    Xuan Luo (Ajit lab)
  • The role of long non-coding RNA XIST in inflammation
    Katherine Quintero (Ajit lab)
  • Macrophage derived small extracellular vesicles as a therapeutic for postoperative pain and inflammation
    Deepa Reddy (Ajit lab)
  • Intrathecal injection of polarized macrophage exosomes reduces mechanical and thermal pain sensation in spinal cord injured rats
    Jason Wheeler (Ajit lab)
  • Skin resident memory T cell dysfunction in the tibia fracture model of complex regional pain syndrome
    Jason Wickman (Ajit lab)
  • Low-dose ethanol exposed mice exhibit sex-specific shifts in sensitivity to changes in magnitude of reward
    Christina Curran-Alfaro (Barker lab)
  • Effects of EcoHIV and antiretroviral treatment on AMPAR expression in mice
    Meghan Hemdal (Barker lab)
  • The impact of EcoHIV infection on cocaine-related behaviors
    Qiaowei Xie (Barker lab)
  • Absence or inactivation of androgen receptor de-represses IL-1β expression in prostate cancer cells
    Allison Toth (Fatatis lab)
  • Subsets of cancer cells expressing CX3CR1 are endowed with metastasis-initiating properties
    Jieyi Zhang (Fatatis lab)
  • Defining the role of liver macrophages in HIV/HBV coinfection and development of HCC
    Alexis Brantly (Gaskill lab)
  • Defining dopaminergic signaling mechanisms underlying myeloid inflammation in the context of HIV infection
    Breana Channer (Gaskill lab)
  • Generation and characterization of HIV stocks for assessing infection of primary human monocyte derived macrophages
    Teresa LuPone (Gaskill lab)
  • Modeling HIV infection of human iPSC-derived microglia in-vitro using high content screening
    Oluwatofunmi Oteju (Gaskill lab)
  • Dopamine increases Akt through D1-like receptor activation of PI3 kinase
    Dayna Robinson (Gaskill lab)
  • Exploiting pyroptosis in melanoma brain metastases
    Maria Cavallo (Hartsough lab)
  • Exploiting the selenoproteome in metastatic uveal melanoma
    Alyssa Sanders (Hartsough lab)
  • Astrocyte reactivity activates neural crest programming in melanoma brain metastases
    Julia Farnan (Jackson lab)
  • HIV-1 infection of monocyte derived macrophages alters miRNA expression
    Erick O'Brien (Klase lab)
  • Pharmacological CURE strategy via targeting the human transcription factor RUNX1 for latent HIV reactivation and immune stimulation
    Laura Merja (Klase lab)
  • Investigating epigenetic regulation of viral transcription in HIV infected monocyte derived macrophages
    Courtney Wallace (Klase lab)
  • Effect of the chemokine CXCL12 on dendritic spine dynamics: maturation, turnover, and clustering
    Chunta Ho (Meucci lab)
  • Positive allosteric modulation of glutamate transporter EAAT2 as a novel therapeutic approach for neuropsychiatric disorders
    Katelyn Reeb (A. Mortensen lab)
  • Development of glutamate transporter modulators as a novel, non-opioid treatment for neuropathic pain
    Rhea Temmermand (A. Mortensen lab)
  • Bidirectional ERK1/2 modulation in dopaminergic neurons regulates DAT trafficking and function
    Christina Besada (O. Mortensen lab)
  • Allosteric dopamine transporter modulator inhibits cocaine-induced behaviors
    Clara Xu (O. Mortensen lab)
  • Novel treatment strategies for HIV and cancer co-morbidity
    Lindsay Barger (Romano lab)
  • Exploring novel combinations of targeted therapies for NF1 mutant ovarian carcinoma
    Olivia El Naggar (Romano lab)
  • ERK-mediated phosphorylation of GRK2 leads to reduced pyruvate dehydrogenase activity and alters pyroptotic signaling
    Ruxu Zhai (Sato lab)

Faculty Attend Eureka Institute Translational Medicine Course

Dr. Andréia Mortensen and Dr. Gabriele Romano were selected to attend the Eureka Institute’s International Certificate Course in Translational Medicine. The course, which runs in late October, aims to prepare mid-career professionals for interdisciplinary work in translational medicine. This year, the course will be held in Siracusa, Italy.

September 2022

Maria Cavallo Earns Conference Travel Award

Maria Cavallo (Hartsough lab) was selected as a Travel Award recipient by the Society for Melanoma Research. This competitive award will support Maria’s attendance at the annual congress of the Society for Melanoma Research this November.

Dr. Ajit Receives New RF1 Grant from NINDS

Congratulations to Dr. Seena Ajit for receiving a new RF1 grant from the NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The grant will fund a new project as part of the NIH HEAL Initiative, titled: “Immune modulating therapies to treat complex regional pain syndrome.”

Drs. Mortensen and España Receive a New R21 Grant

Congratulations to Dr. Ole Mortensen and co-investigator Dr. Rodrigo España for receiving a new R21 award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The award will fund a new, collaborative project titled: Selective real-time activation of ERK1/2 signaling in dopamine neurons.

Ms. Aurora Miller Joins the Department

Welcome to Ms. Aurora Miller, who joins the front office as executive assistant to the chair. Aurora brings experience from her previous roles in the education sector, most recently as a human resources specialist at Haverford College. Aurora’s office is in the newly renovated space on the 8th floor, suite 8102-8118.

Dr. Sato Nominated Chair of Diversity & Inclusive Excellence Committee

Dr. Priscila Sato was nominated to serve as the chair of the College of Medicine’s Committee for Diversity & Inclusive Excellence. The committee supports a mission for excellence in education, clinical practice and research innovation by promoting diversity, equity and inclusion. Congrats, Priscila!

Xuan Luo Presents Invited Seminar

Xuan Luo, a PhD candidate in the Ajit Lab, was invited to give a webinar presentation on her research by Canopy Biosciences. Xuan discussed how she uses ChipCytometry technology in a talk titled "Investigating Immune Regulation by Small Extracellular Vesicles to Attenuate Chronic Pain Using High-Plex Spatial Imaging."

Drexel Will Host Annual MAPS Meeting

This year’s Mid Atlantic Pharmacology Society (MAPS) meeting will be hosted at Drexel! The meeting is scheduled for Friday, November 4, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m, at New College Building in Center City. This year’s theme is dopamine pharmacology, and talks will be available both in person and online. The meeting will also feature an in-person poster competition, and the deadline to submit an abstract is Friday, October 14. Please see the MAPS web page for additional information.

Several of our faculty helped organize this year’s meeting, including Dr. Seena Ajit (MAPS councilor) and Dr. Linda Console-Bram (MAPS treasurer).

Dr. Gaskill and Dr. Klase Obtain Collaborative R01 Award

Congratulations to Dr. Peter Gaskill and Dr. Zachary Klase for receiving a new R01 award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The award will fund a collaborative project that leverages the strengths of both labs, titled, "Benzodiazepine mediated mechanisms of transcriptional semi-quiescence in discrete myeloid populations."

August 2022

Dr. Romano Receives Extramural Grant

Congratulations to Dr. Gabriele Romano for being selected to receive an Institutional Research Grant from the American Cancer Society. This grant provides seed funding that will support Dr. Romano’s new project, "Inhibition of CCR5/CCL5 recruitment axis as an adjuvant strategy to treat melanoma in people living with HIV." This is Dr. Romano’s first extramural support since he started his independent career as PI in the department less than a year ago.

Concluding the Inaugural Year of the Janssen-Drexel 4D Fellowship

The inaugural class of Janssen-Drexel 4D fellows successfully completed their first year in Drexel graduate programs, capping off a great start to their educational journey and to the entire 4D program. The occasion was marked by a 4D Fellowship event at Janssen’s Spring House facility, where the inaugural fellows presented their research progress and the incoming fellows introduced themselves to Janssen scientists. Read more.

Dr. Ajit and Dr. Fatatis Both Secure New R01 Awards

Congratulations to Dr. Seena Ajit and Dr. Alessandro Fatatis for each receiving a new R01 award! Dr. Ajit’s R01 from NINDS will support her project “Small extracellular vesicles mediated signaling and pain,” and Dr. Fatatis’ R01 from NCI will support his project “Interleukin-1beta and AR-negative tumor cells in metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer.”

Dr. Sato Publishes High-Profile Research

Dr. Priscila Sato, along with her trainee Ruxu Zhai and other collaborators published a high-profile study titled “Loss of Nuclear Envelope Integrity and Increased Oxidant Production Cause DNA Damage in Adult Hearts Deficient in PKP2: A Molecular Substrate of ARVC.” The article is freely available in the journal Circulation, one of the top journals for cardiovascular systems research.

Dr. Barker Awarded DP2 Supplement

Congrats to Dr. Jacqui Barker for receiving a new DP2 supplement from NIH-NIDA! The supplement will support Dr. Barker’s postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Mark Namba, as he works on a project titled: Investigating the effects of cocaine exposure and abstinence in a model of preclinical HIV infection.

Dr. White Named Associate Editor for Journal

Dr. Michael White was named an Associate Editor for Frontiers in Physiology in the Membrane Physiology & Membrane Biophysics section. This section publishes work on all functional and structural aspects of biological membranes, ranging from the function of membrane proteins at atomic resolution to changes in membrane function in human diseases.

July 2022

Dr. Sato Elected Fellow of the American Heart Association

Congratulations to Dr. Priscila Sato for being elected as a Fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA)! The FAHA credentials recognize scientific and professional accomplishments, volunteer leadership, and service by one of the world’s most eminent organizations of cardiovascular and stroke professionals.

June 2022

Dr. Sato Wins New Investigator Award

Congratulations to Dr. Priscila Sato, who received a New Investigator Award from Drexel University College of Medicine! This award recognizes a promising and outstanding evolving investigator in the early stages of their career.

Dr. Ross Receives Pilot Funding

Dr. Jennifer Ross, Research Assistant Professor in the Van Bockstaele lab, received pilot funding from the Drexel University Medical Cannabis Research Center! The award funds will support Dr. Ross’ project: Clinical efficacy of medicinal marijuana for stress-related disorders. Drexel's Medical Cannabis Research Center funds pilot research studies proposed by Drexel faculty in areas of research where the therapeutic use of medical cannabis has produced promising patient health outcomes, including HIV, chronic pain, and opioid dependence as well as some broader domains.

Julia Farnan Earns Dean’s Travel Award

Congrats to Julia Farnan, PhD student in the Jackson lab, for earning a Dean’s Travel Award from the Graduate School. The award aims to partially defray the cost of attending a scientific meeting at which a graduate student presents original research.

May 2022

Pharmacology and Physiology 2022 Graduates

This year, the department had two new graduates from our graduate programs. Dr. Zhucheng Lin, a student in the Ajit lab, graduated from the Pharmacology & Physiology PhD program. Zhucheng’s PhD thesis was titled “The role of serum-derived small extracellular vesicles in pain.” Ms. Sam Stine, a student in the Barker lab, graduated from the Drug Discovery & Development MS program. Sam’s MS thesis was titled “Facilitated binge-like eating following chronic ethanol exposure in females.” Additionally, Ms. Geena John, a Pharmacology & Physiology MS student, will transfer to our PhD program with advanced standing starting this fall. Congratulations to our graduates!

Pharmacology Students Earn Dean’s Fellowships

This year, the department had two trainees that earned Dean’s Fellowships for Excellence in Collaborative or Themed Research from the Graduate School. These fellowships support PhD-track students with innovative research projects to further develop their research experience. Xiaonan Liu, a trainee in the Toyooka lab, earned a fellowship to support her project “Myo1c-Adnp regulates the transportation of actin bundling protein Actn4 to the cell membrane during neurite initiation in neurons.” Jason Wickman, a trainee in the Ajit Lab, also earned a fellowship to support his project “Immune modulating therapies to target resident memory T-cells in complex regional pain syndrome.” Congrats Nan and Jason!

A. Mortensen Lab Trainees Earn Awards

Congratulations to Rhea Temmermand, who was awarded a grant from the Art Zwerling Memorial Fund of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Foundation! The grant will support Rhea’s project “Development of glutamate transporter modulators as a novel, non-opioid treatment for chronic pain.” Further congrats to Simran Gill, who received a Chapter Recognition Student Travel Award from the Philadelphia chapter of the Association for Women in Science! Simran will use the award funds to attend the Society for Neuroscience 2022 annual meeting in San Diego, CA.

Dr. Meucci’s MERIT Award Renewed for a Second Term

Dr. Olimpia Meucci received a new five-year grant as an extension of her current R37 MERIT (method to extend research in time) award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The extension will support the last phase (2023-2028) of her longtime project “Role of chemokines in neuronal function and survival” that has been continuously funded by NIDA since 2001.

Dr. Barker Wins Drexel Provost Award

Congratulations to Dr. Jacqueline Barker, who was honored with a Provost Award for Early Career Outstanding Scholarly Productivity. The Provost Award recognizes faculty who have demonstrated unusual excellence in their scholarly field and who are considered emerging leaders in these fields.

Dr. White Honored with Golden Apple Award

Congratulations to Dr. Michael White, who received a Golden Apple award for outstanding service to the medical student body at the 27th annual Golden Apple awards ceremony! Dr. White was also nominated for four additional Golden Apple awards for excellence in teaching by the medical school classes of 2024 and 2025.

Graduate School Faculty Awards

Congratulations to our faculty members that were honored at Drexel’s Graduate School Faculty Awards ceremony! In the Interdisciplinary and Career Oriented Programs section, Dr. Paul McGonigle received the Best Professor Award and Dr. Joanne Mathiasen received the Best Mentor Award. In the Biomedical Science Programs section, Dr. Jacqueline Barker received the Best Advisor/Mentor Award and was also recognized with the Best Student Advocate Award.

Congratulations to our faculty members that were honored at Drexel’s Graduate School Faculty Awards ceremony!

Dr. Ajit Gives Invited Seminar

Dr. Seena Ajit gave an invited seminar as part of the MD Anderson Pain Research Consortium Seminar Series at MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. Her talk was titled “The role of mouse serum-derived small extracellular vesicles in pain.”

April 2022

Dr. Sato Receives an NIH R01 Grant

Congratulations to Dr. Priscila Sato for securing her first R01 grant from the NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The new and well-deserved grant will support Dr. Sato’s exciting research project “Dysregulation of cardiac signaling in disease and stress.” Additionally, Dr. Sato has become a member of the Early Career Committee of the Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences (BCVS) within the American Heart Association.

Dr. Fatatis Receives Pilot Funding

Dr. Alessandro Fatatis was awarded new funding from the Rolling Pilot Award Program of the Philadelphia Prostate Cancer Biome Project. The funds will support Dr. Fatatis’ project “Direct and combinatorial anti-tumor effects of CX3CR1 antagonists in prostate cancer.”

Dr. Console-Bram Joins the Department

Welcome to Dr. Linda Console-Bram, who joins the Department of Pharmacology & Physiology this month as a full-time tenure track faculty at the West Reading COM campus. In addition to her extensive experience in teaching pharmacology to medical and graduate students, Dr. Console-Bram has a long history as researcher in the field of cannabinoids and substance use research.

Barker Lab Trainees Earn Travel Awards

Several trainees from Dr. Barker’s lab received NIMH-funded awards from the Research Society on Alcoholism to attend the society’s annual meeting. Dr. Mitch Nothem received the RSA Junior Investigator Meeting Award for the 2022 RSA Scientific meeting, while Katie Bryant and Christina Curran-Alfaro each received RSA Student Merit Awards.

Rhea Temmermand Recognized in Poster Competition

Congratulations to Rhea Temmermand, a PhD student in Dr. Andréia Mortensen’s lab, who received 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.”

Pharmacology Trainees Present at the ASPET/Experimental Biology Meeting

Our department was well represented at the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) annual meeting, which was held in conjunction with Experimental Biology 2022 in Philadelphia. Trainees from multiple labs presented their research and participated in the meeting’s poster competition.

Awardees from our department:

  • Jason Wickman – 1st place in the graduate students and post baccalaureate students’ group in the neuropharmacology division

Poster presentations:

  • Small Extracellular Vesicles Induced Gene Expression Changes in Microglia
    Xuan Luo (Ajit lab)
  • Immune Cell Regulation by Macrophage Derived Small Extracellular Vesicles in Pain
    Richa Pande (Ajit lab)
  • miR-106b-25 Dysregulation in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Contributes to T Cell Dysfunction
    Jason Wickman (Ajit lab)
  • MKP3 Overexpression and ERK1/2 Phosphorylation in Dopaminergic Neurons Regulate DAT Trafficking and Function
    Christina Besada (O. Mortensen lab)
  • Allosteric Dopamine Transporter Modulator Inhibits Cocaine-Induced Behavior
    Yibin Xu (O. Mortensen lab)
  • The Regulation of Glial Glutamate Transporters After In-Vitro Ischemic Stroke
    Simran Gill (A. Mortensen lab)
  • Modulation of Glutamate Transporters as a Potential Therapeutic Intervention for Neurological Disorders
    Katelyn Reeb (A. Mortensen lab)
  • A History of Low Dose Ethanol Modulates Ventral Hippocampus Activity During Motivated Behavior
    Kathleen Bryant (Barker lab)
  • Mice Exposed to Chronic Low-Dose Ethanol Exhibit Reduced Sensitivity to Changes in Magnitude of Reward
    Christina Curran-Alfaro (Barker lab)
  • The Effect of Spared Nerve Injury on Ethanol Reward Seeking and Reinstatement
    Mitch Nothem (Barker lab)
  • The Impact of HIV Infection in Cocaine Seeking Behaviors
    Qiaowei Xie (Barker lab)
  • Defining Dopamine-Mediated Changes in NLRP1, NLRC5, NLRC4, and AIM2 Inflammasomes in Human Myeloid Cells
    Joanna Canagarajah (Gaskill lab)
  • Dopamine May Exacerbate Neuroinflammation in the Context of HIV by Driving Inflammatory Phenotypes in Macrophages
    Breana Channer (Gaskill lab)
  • Dopamine-Driven Increase in IL-1β in Myeloid Cells is Mediated by Differential Dopamine Receptor Expression and Exacerbated by HIV
    Stephanie Matt (Gaskill lab)
Anna Zhang Presents at the AACR Annual Meeting

Anna Zhang Presents at the AACR Annual Meeting

Anna Zhang, a PhD student in Dr. Alessandro Fatatis’ lab, presented her work in a talk at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting in New Orleans, La. Anna presented in the molecular principles of cancer metastasis symposium. Her presentation was titled “Subsets of cancer cells expressing CX3CR1 are endowed with metastasis-initiating properties and resistance to chemotherapy.” Well done, Anna!

Welcome Sebastian S. Sanz

Congratulations to Dr. Antonio Sanz-Clemente and family for the successful arrival of Sebastian S. Sanz!

March 2022

Dr. Fatatis Receives Funding from the SKCC Multi-PI Grant Program

Congratulations to Dr. Alessandro Fatatis and co-PI Dr. Gino Cingolani of Thomas Jefferson University for receiving new funding from the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center (SKCC) Consortium Multi-PI Collaborative Grant Program. The funds will support Drs. Fatatis and Cingolani’s project: Atomic structure of FX-68 bound to CX3CR1 reconstituted in lipid nanodiscs.

February 2022

Faculty Receive CURE Grants

Drs. Ole Mortensen and Zachary Klase were each awarded funding from the Pennsylvania CURE grant program. Dr. Mortensen’s award will support his project “Real-time Ex Vivo Modulation of ERK1/2 Signaling in Dopamine Neurotransmission” in collaboration with Dr. Rodrigo España. Dr. Klase’s award will support his project “Development of Novel HIV-1 Tat Inhibitors: From Latency to Cure” in collaboration with Drs. Rachel Van Duyne, Michael Nonnemacher and Simon Cocklin.

Xuan Luo Selected as AAAS Poster Competition Finalist

Xuan Luo, a PhD student in the Ajit Lab, was selected as a finalist for the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) e-poster competition. Xuan was one of three finalists selected from the Graduate Biochemistry and Molecular Biology poster group that participated in a 30-minute discussion about their research. Congrats Xuan!

Barker Lab Trainees Receive Travel Awards

Congrats to Christina Curran-Alfaro and Qiaowei Xie, both members of the Barker Lab, for receiving travel awards to attend the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) annual meeting. This year, ASPET’s annual meeting will be held in conjunction with the Experimental Biology 2022 conference from April 2–5.

January 2022

Drs. Mathiasen and McGonigle Receive Thank a Teacher Notes

Dr. Joanne Mathiasen and Dr. Paul McGonigle both received thank you notes from students that participated in Drexel’s Thank a Teacher Program. The program provides an opportunity for Drexel students to publicly say “thank you” to teachers who have made the true Drexel difference to them. For more information, please visit Drexel’s Teaching and Learning Center website.

Richa Pande Receives Dean’s Fellowship

Congratulations to Richa Pande, a PhD student in Dr. Seena Ajit’s lab, for receiving the Spring 2022 Dean's Fellowship for Excellence in Collaborative or Themed Research. The fellowship provides Richa with financial support for six months in the form of a scholarship, stipend and $1500 for supplies and/or attendance at virtual conferences.

Carol Imbesi Promoted to Grant and Research Coordinator

Carol Imbesi, a long-standing member of our front office team, has been promoted to a new position as a grant and research coordinator. In this senior position, Carol will continue to support the chair and faculty with a variety of administrative tasks related to the preparation and processing of grant applications and reports, and work with institutional and external offices to facilitate grant submissions and the overall departmental research enterprise.

Louise Greenberg, PhD

In Memory of Louise Greenberg, PhD

Louise Greenberg, PhD, a former faculty member in the Department of Pharmacology of Medical College of Pennsylvania (later to become Drexel University College of Medicine) passed away on January 12, 2022. Dr. Greenberg worked in the laboratory of Benjamin Weiss, PhD, where she made major contributions to understanding how aging regulates adrenergic receptor responsiveness in the brain, and how these molecular changes can reduce adaptation to stress in aged individuals. In addition to her research, Dr. Greenberg held other positions in the pharmaceutical and executive search industries and served on the Alumni Council and the Board of Trustees of her alma mater, Dickinson College. Outside of her professional duties, Dr. Greenberg was a passionate choral singer who participated in and founded several choral groups in the Philadelphia area and southeast Florida.

Dr. Greenberg was held in high praise, as her former mentor Dr. Weiss noted that “Louise not only was an outstanding scientist, she also was, in every way, an exceptional individual, having the highest character and integrity.”

Please click here to view Dr. Greenberg’s obituary.

2021 News

2020 News

2019 News

2018 News

2017 News

2016 News

 Back to Top

Elements of a laboratory experiment.