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Department of Pharmacology & Physiology 2018 News Archive

December 2018

Stacia Lewandowski Awarded Pre-doctoral Fellowship

Stacia Lewandowski, a PhD student in the laboratory of Ole Mortensen, PhD, received a pre-doctoral fellowship in pharmacology/toxicology from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Foundation. The award includes a stipend of $20,000 per year for two years, and is intended to provide support for students in advanced stages of training and thesis research, particularly those "whose research will attempt to integrate information on a drug or chemical’s mechanism of action at the molecular or cellular level with a drug’s effect in a human or laboratory animal."

October 2018

Pharmacology & Physiology at Discovery Day

The department was well represented at Discovery Day, the College of Medicine's annual day of research, with participation of trainees, staff and faculty.

Renee Jean-Toussaint won second place in outstanding platform presentations, and Stacia Lewandowski received second place in outstanding senior student poster presentations.

Congratulations to Renee and Stacia—and their mentors, Drs. Ajit and Dr. Mortensen respectively—for their much-deserved awards!

Ben Weiss and Mary Shaw Awards

The Ben Weiss Merit Award and the Mary Shaw Travel Award recognize the hard work and accomplishments of graduate students working in the department. Congratulations to the following students for receiving the 2018 – 2019 awards:

Ben Weiss Merit Award Recipient
Chen Qian

Mary Shaw Travel Award Recipients
Anthony DiNatale
Rachel Nolan

Many thanks to the selection committee (Seena Ajit, chair, and Jacqueline Barker and Ole Mortensen) for their thoughtful review of the applications for these awards.

September 2018

MERIT Award for Dr. Meucci

Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology & Physiology, has been selected by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to receive a Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Award for a research grant application entitled "Role of chemokines in neuronal function and survival." The NIH MERIT Award was created by the National Institutes of Health in 1986. The program comprises an initial MERIT Award and the opportunity for a five-year extension, totaling up to 10 years of funding.

Less than 5% of NIH-funded investigators are selected to receive MERIT awards. The objective of this prestigious program is to provide long-term, stable support to investigators whose research competence and productivity are distinctly superior and who are likely to continue to perform in an outstanding manner. It is expected that the provision of this support will foster the investigator’s continued creativity and lessen the administrative burdens associated with the preparation and submission of regular research grant applications. Unlike most NIH grant awards, investigators cannot apply for the MERIT Award. Instead, candidates are nominated by the funding NIH institute from a large pool of competing award recipients and endorsed by the institute’s advisory council and director.

Congratulations to Dr. Meucci on receiving this prestigious award!

Welcome Drs. Hartsough & Jackson

The department welcomed its newest members, Edward Hartsough, PhD, and Joshua Jackson, PhD, on September 1.

Dr. Hartsough joins us from Thomas Jefferson University where he was a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Andrew Aplin. Dr. Hartsough’s research focuses on studying the role of cell adhesion molecule 1 (CADM1) in melanoma tumor progression.

Prior to joining our Department, Dr. Jackson held the position of scientist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the lab of Dr. Michael Robinson. Dr. Jackson was involved in studying the regulation of glutamate transporters, with a main focus on calcium-dependent processes and mitochondria.

August 2018

Welcome New Students

The department welcomes the incoming classes, including eight students in the Pharmacology & Physiology programs (five PhD and three MS students) and nine students entering the Drug Discovery & Development (DDD) master’s program. The DDD group includes a Fulbright Scholar whose award is supported by the department. Additionally, there are 19 students enrolled in the DDD online program. Orientation sessions and research presentations were hosted in the department in August to introduce the students to their respective programs, peers and faculty mentors.

Pharm/Phys PhD

Shelby Dahlen
Alethia Edwards
Julia Farnan
Xiaonan Liu
Jonathan Snyder

Pharm/Phys MS

Ipek Eralp
Chunta Ho
Shunyi Zhao


Abeer Alharbi
Anmol Arora
Sofia Castelli
Fangi Huang
Zongguan Huang
Bhumi Patel
Neha Rana
Yibin Xu
Ruxu Zhai

New NIH Award for Dr. Van Bockstaele

Congratulations to co-PI Dr. Elisabeth Van Bockstaele who, along with her collaborator, Dr. Steven Thomas (University of Pennsylvania), received a two-year NIH R21 award for their project entitled “Norepinephrine: A Novel Regulator of Amyloid Beta-42 Peptides.”

Postdoc Sujay Ramanathan to Speak at 2018 Gordon Research Seminar on Extracellular Vesicles

Sujay Ramanathan, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Seena Ajit's laboratory, was selected to present an abstract at the 2018 Gordon Research Seminar on Extracellular Vesicles. Dr. Ramanathan's research is titled "Role of immune cell-derived exosomes in chronic pain and inflammation."

A Cure for Cancer's Spread?

A drug compound in development at Drexel would give breast cancer patients the gift of precious time, by keeping metastatic cells from seeding deadly new tumors. Read more in Exel: Drexel University's Research Magazine (2018).

July 2018

Funding Continues for Dr. Meucci

Congratulations to Dr. Meucci on the awarding of her project entitled “Role of chemokine receptors in neuronal function and survival,” which is now entering its 16th year of funding from the NIH. This award, covering the next five years of research, will support studies in the Meucci Lab investigating the mechanism whereby the CXCL12/CXCR4 chemokine/receptor axis regulates spatiotemporal expression of dendritic spines in prefrontal cortex neurons and the resulting effect on cognitive function. Additionally, the proposed studies will determine how opioids and HIV impact this pathway and shed light on the relationship of the observed spine changes with HIV-associated cognitive decline.

Faculty Promotions

Congratulations to Drs. Seena Ajit and Patrick Osei-Owusu for their well-deserved promotions to associate professor in the department, effective July 1, 2018!

June 2018

Faculty Professional Development Day Honors for Dr. Osei-Owusu

Patrick Osei-Owusu, PhD, received a Young Investigator Award, which was presented during Faculty Professional Development Day on June 1. Dr. Osei-Owusu also presented a "Faculty Snip-It" to attendees at the event.

May 2018

Faculty Presentations at Neuroscience Retreat

During the Neuroscience Retreat and Research Day held on May 16, 2018, at Queen Lane, the following Pharmacology & Physiology faculty presented:

  • Seena Ajit, PhD: “A protective role for exosomes derived from macrophages in attenuation of pain”
  • Huijuan Hu, PhD: “Store-operated calcium channels and pain plasticity”

Teaching Award for Dr. Mathiasen

Dr. Joanne Mathiasen has won the teaching award for the Division of Interdisciplinary and Career-Oriented Programs within the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies. She received the award at a reception at the Logan on May 10, 2018.

April 2018

Thesis Defense

Congratulations to Lindsay Festa, who successfully defended her thesis entitled “Defining the molecular pathways involved in CXCL12-mediated rescue of dendritic spines and cognitive deficits in an animal model of neuroHIV” on April 4. Lindsay is a former graduate student of Dr. Olimpia Meucci and will be doing postdoctoral work in Dr. Meucci’s lab.

SNIP Meeting and Presentations

Members of the Barker, Gaskill and Meucci Labs attended the 2018 Annual Society on NeuroImmune Pharmacology Meeting held in Chicago, Illinois, at the Swissotel Chicago. Presentations included:

  • Abstract (Gaskill Lab): Alternative Dopamine Signaling in Macrophages Mediates Increased HIV Infection
  • Abstract (Gaskill Lab): Role of macrophage dopamine receptors in mediating cytokine production and neuroinflammation
  • Abstract (Meucci Lab): Amyloid precursor protein processing can be altered with molecular tools containing the raft targeting protein US9 from Herpes Simplex Virus: Implications for HAND
  • Abstract (Meucci Lab): Recovery of thin spine density is essential for rescuing cognitive function in a rodent model of HAND: role of the chemokine CXCL12 and the Rac1/PAK pathway

March 2018

Welcome Dr. Sato

The department welcomes its newest member, Priscila Sato, PhD. Dr. Sato joins us from Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine where she was a research instructor in the Center for Translational Biology. Dr. Sato studies the role of the G-protein coupled receptor kinase 2 in the mitochondrion.

NeuroAIDS Grant for Dr. Gaskill

Congratulations to Peter Gaskill, PhD, who has received a Comprehensive NeuroAIDS Center Pilot Grant Award for his project entitled “Evaluating the interaction of dopamine and microglia in HIV-associated neuroinflammation”

February 2018

Publication from Kim Lab

Christina Maher, graduate student in Felix Kim’s lab, first authored an article published in Molecular Cancer Research. It was a select highlighted article for the February 2018 issue and a figure from the article was the issue’s cover image:

Drs. Osei-Owusu and Tom Receive RO1 Award

A grant submitted by Drs. Patrick Osei-Owusu (Pharmacology & Physiology) and Veronica Tom (Neurobiology & Anatomy) was selected for funding by the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke Council. This is an R01, multi-year award.

January 2018

Dr. Kim Quoted in the Inquirer

Felix Kim, PhD, was mentioned in a Philadelphia Inquirer story about the sale of Argo Therapeutics to Context Therapeutics, the startup pharmaceutical company that Kim co-founded in 2015. Context is developing drugs to treat prostate and metastatic breast cancers.

Dr. Hu's Publication Reaches Key Milestone

Dr. Huijuan Hu’s article “Orai1 and Orai3 Mediate Store-Operated Calcium Entry Contributing to Neuronal Excitability in DRG Neurons,” published in December 2017 in Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, reached the important milestone of over 1,000 total views this month. Frontiers in Neuroscience is the most cited and largest open-access publisher of neuroscience articles. Congratulations to the Hu Lab!

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