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 2019 News Archive

December 2019

W.W. Smith Grant Awarded to Drs. Hartsough and Jackson

Congratulations to Edward Hartsough, PhD, and Joshua Jackson, PhD, for receiving funding from the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust for their project “Organotypic brain slice co-culture for modeling melanoma brain metastasis.” The W.W. Smith Charitable Trust funds unique projects and researchers who have potential to compete for NIH grant funding.

Student Award Recipients

Congratulations to the following senior PhD students for receiving departmental awards:

  • 2019/2020 Mary Hoffman Shaw Travel Award presented to Jared Luchetta and Emily Nickoloff-Babel
  • 2019/2020 Benjamin Weiss Scholar Award presented to Ramanpreet Kaur
  • 2019 Chair’s Award presented to Stacia Lewandowski

Kudos to all!

DUniBo Kick-Off

The first two Drexel University College of Medicine student ambassadors (Julia Farnan and Anthony DiNatale) visited Bologna, Italy, as part of the Outlooking Scientist project recently awarded to Drs. Olimpia Meucci (Drexel) and Renato Brandimarti (University of Bologna). The goal of this project is to facilitate future international collaborations between the universities.

Employee Milestones

Kudos to the following department members for reaching their 10-year employment anniversaries this month:

  • Seena Ajit
  • Ole Mortensen
  • Liz Kopen

Dr. Meucci Joins National Academy of Inventors

Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD, has been inducted into the National Academy of Inventors. A ceremony honoring all inductees will be held on April 10, 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona.

November 2019

Discovery Day 2019

The department was very well represented at Discovery Day, with numerous poster presentations and an excellent talk by Stacia Lewandowski, who was selected for one of the graduate student platform presentations. Department faculty and postdoctoral fellows generously offered their time as judges. Everyone contributed to the success of the event, helping to share cutting-edge research and support the department mission!

Department of Pharmacology & Physiology members who participated at Discovery Day 2019

Winners from our department at Discovery Day were:

  • Lauren Plyer Buck (Barker Lab) – Second place, technician poster presentation: Dissociation of glutamatergic inputs to the nucleus accumbens shell in the regulation of ethanol seeking behavior
  • Hannah Johnson (Gaskill Lab) – First place, undergrad poster presentation: High content analysis of the neuropathogenesis of HIV infection in the presence of dopamine
  • Ipek Eralp (Meucci Lab) – Second place, junior grad poster presentation: Morphine regulation of the iron-dependent protein ferritin heavy chain in cortical neurons: is there a role for the divalent metal transporter-1?
  • Xiaonan Liu (Toyooka Lab) – Third place, junior grad poster presentation: Glutathione S-transferase pi (Gstp) regulates cortical neurite formation in the developing brain

Participation by the numbers:

  • 1 platform presentation, PhD student
  • 25 posters:
    • 19 MS/PhD students
    • 3 postdocs
    • 2 technicians
    • 1 undergraduate

Platform Presentations

In vivo studies of the role of erk1/2 phosphatase MKP3 in dopaminergic neurons on cocaine associated behaviors, dopaminergic signaling and gene expression
S. Lewandowski (Mortensen Lab)


Investigating the influence of astrocytes and astrocytes-secreted factors in melanoma invasiveness
A. Alharbi (Hartsough Lab)

Development of oral formulation to boost ATP load in erythrocytes for protection from ionizing radiation
A. Arora (Polyak Lab)

Dissociation of glutamatergic inputs to the nucleus accumbens shell in the regulation of ethanol seeking behavior
PRIZE WINNER: L. Plyler-Buck (Barker Lab)

The androgen receptor regulates IL-1B expression in prostate cancer cells
A. DiNatale (Fatatis Lab)

Morphine regulation of the iron-dependent protein ferritin heavy chain in cortical neurons: Is there a role for the divalent metal transporter-1?
PRIZE WINNER: I. Eralp (Meucci Lab)

Gap junction formation between melanoma and astrocytes facilitation pro tumor phenotypes of melanoma brain metastasis
J. Farnan (Jackson Lab)

Astrocytic regulation of reward seeking in ethanol dependent female mice
L. Giacometti (Barker Lab)

Effects of the chemokine CXCL12 on expression of postsynaptic density protein 95 (PSD-95) in rat cortical neurons)
C. Ho (Meucci Lab)

Sex and estrous cycle differences in the effects of D2 agonism on PSA-NCAM expression
F. Huang (Barker Lab)

Polysialylation regulates CADMI tumor suppressive function
Z. Huang (Hartsough Lab)

Morphine increases ferritin heavy chain in cortical neurons by modulating iron release from endolysosomes
E. Irollo (Meucci Lab)

High content analysis of the neuropathogenesis of SIV infection in the presence of dopamine
PRIZE WINNER: H. Johnson (Gaskill Lab)

RGS2 mediates the effect of dietary lifestyle on uterine vascular function
J. Koch (Osei-Owusu Lab)

The role of small extracellular vesicles in chronic neuropathic pain
Z. Lin (Ajit Lab)

Glutathione S-transferase pi (Gstp) regulates cortical neurite formation in the developing brain
PRIZE WINNER: X. Liu (Toyooka Lab)

Examining CXCR4-induced dendritic spine changes using targeted CRISPR Cas knockdown in excitatory and inhibitory cortical neuron
J. Luchetta (Meucci Lab)

Dopamine-mediated conformational changes in CCR5 in HIV infection of myeloid cells
S. Matt (Gaskill Lab)

Signaling mechanisms underlying dopamine-induced increases in HIV entry into macrophages
E. Nickoloff-Bybel (Gaskill Lab)

Time-dependent hyperactivity of primary somatosensory and anterior cingulate cortical neurons in awake rats after spared nerve injury
M. Nothem

Regulation of pro-inflammatory chemokine CXCL5 by microRNA has-miR-605
R. Pande (Ajit Lab)

The role of glutamate transporters in neuroprotection after in vitro stroke and cocaine addiction in vivo
B. Patel (Mortensen Lab)

Changes in dendritic spines induced by morphine and B-amyloid in rat cortical neurons
E. Riggs (Meucci Lab)

Pancreatic GRK2 participates in glucose mediated responses and insulin signaling
J. Snyder (Sato Lab)

Structure/function studies of a dopamine transporter allosteric modulator and its analogs
Y. Xu (Mortensen Lab)

The role of cardiac GRK2 in metabolic substrate utilization in isolated adult cardiomyocytes
R. Zhai (Sato Lab)

October 2019

Stacia Lewandowski to Give Discovery Day Presentation

Stacia Lewandowski, a PhD student in the pharmacology and physiology graduate program, was one of five platform presenters to be highlighted in a news article about the College of Medicine's annual day of research, Discovery Day. Read the article.

Society for Neuroscience Meeting

Artistic image of the entryway to Society for Neuroscience 2019

The department was well represented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience this month, with 13 presentations from students, postdocs and faculty on a variety of topics. Members of the Ajit, Gaskill, Meucci, Mortensen and Van Bockstaele Labs shared their work on HIV-associated neurological complications, pain, stress disorders, addiction, traumatic brain injury and more.

Ajit Lab

  • Zhucheng Lin, third-year PhD candidate, presented a poster: “The role of small extracellular vesicles in chronic neuropathic pain,” authored by Lin, Renée Jean-Toussaint, Yuzhen Tian, Ahmet Sacan and Seena Ajit.

Gaskill Lab

  • Hannah S. Johnson, undergraduate researcher, presented a poster: “High content analysis of the neuropathogenesis of SIV infection in the presence of dopamine.”
  • Emily Nickoloff-Bybel, fourth-year PhD candidate, presented a poster: "Dopamine modulates HIV entry into macrophages via Ca2+-dependent signaling mechanisms.”
  • Stephanie M. Matt, PhD, postdoctoral researcher, presented a poster: “Role of Dopamine-Mediated Conformational Changes of CCR5 in HIV Infection of Macrophages.”
  • Peter J. Gaskill, PhD, assistant professor, presented a poster: “Role of dopamine in the modulation of macrophage-mediated inflammation: Implications for NeuroHIV and drug abuse.”

Meucci Lab

  • Elena Irollo, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, presented an abstract: “Morphine modulation of endolysosomal iron stores leads to FHC up regulation and dendritic spines deficits in cortical neurons.”
  • Renato Brandimarti, PhD, research faculty, presented an abstract: “A novel strategy to precisely target individual steps in the APP amyloidogenic processing.”
  • Jared Luchetta, third-year PhD candidate, presented an abstract: “Examining the contribution of excitatory and inhibitory neurons to CXCR4-induced dendritic spine changes using a lentiviral CRISPRi approach.”

Andreia Mortensen Lab

  • Jennifer Green, former Drug Discovery and Development student, and Andreia Mortensen, PhD, presented “Development of broad activity positive allosteric modulator of glial glutamate transporters EAAT1 and EAAT2.” This work was part of Green’s master's thesis, in which she studied a new component of a spider venom that regulates the activity of glial glutamate transporters, and had in vitro neuroprotective properties. In collaboration with chemists from The University of Zurich, the authors were able to elucidate the structure of this compound and to synthetize it.

Ole Mortensen Lab

  • Caitlyn Rice, recently graduated Drug Discovery and Development student, presented a poster: “Behavioral and biochemical studies of novel allosteric modulators of the dopamine transporter with therapeutic potential.”

Van Bockstaele Lab

The following posters were presented by members of the Van Bockstaele Lab:

  • “Ultrastructural localization of serotonergic 5-HT3 receptors in the rat locus coeruleus”
    Horrillo I, Reyes BAS, Lhamo, T., Sarder S, Van Bockstaele EJ
  • “Alcohol reduces the number of myelinated axons in the prefrontal cortex in male adolescent rats”
    Reyes BAS, Lhamo T, Salamanca J, Al-Sibai A, Bengston L, Silva-Gotay A, Tavares E, Richardson H, Van Bockstaele EJ
  • “Sex differences in corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) receptor trafficking in the locus coeruleus of mice conditionally overexpressing CRF; implications for amyloid beta distribution”
    Ross J, Reyes BAS, Risbrough V, Van Bockstaele EJ
  • “Sex differences in endocannabinoid system adaptation to noradrenergic depletion in the murine locus coeruleus”
    Van Bockstaele, EJ, Ross JA, Urquhart M, Chamem T, Thomas SA, Mackie K, Reyes BAS
Elena Irollo, Pharmacology & Physiology postdoctoral fellow, at 2019 Society for Neuroscience
Jared Luchetta, Pharmacology & Physiology third-year PhD candidate, at 2019 Society for Neuroscience
Jennifer Green, former Drug Discovery and Development student, and Andreia Mortensen, Pharmacology & Physiology faculty, at 2019 Society for Neuroscience
Rentao Brandimarti, PhD, Pharmacology & Physiology research faculty, at 2019 Society for Neuroscience

September 2019

Emily Nickoloff Receives Pre-doctoral Fellowship

Emily Nickoloff, third-year Pharmacology & Physiology graduate student, was appointed as 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. Emily is mentored by Peter Gaskill, PhD.

Jennifer Koch Earns Research Fellowship

Congratulations to Jennifer Koch, PhD student in the Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics program, who is the recipient of a 2019-2020 Dean’s Fellowship for Excellence in Collaborative or Themed Research Award. This fellowship is designed to support PhD-track students with innovative research projects to further develop their research experience. These students will receive financial support for one year in the form of a scholarship, in addition to funds for supplies and/or travel. Jennifer is mentored by Patrick Osei-Owusu, PhD.

August 2019

Dr. Osei-Owusu Accepted to Attend AAMC Leadership Seminar

Patrick Osei-Owusu, PhD, was accepted to attend the AAMC Mid-Career Minority Faculty Leadership Seminar in October of this year. The seminar is designed to address the specific needs of mid-career minority faculty while offering skill enhancement and strategies for advancing the attendees' careers in academic medicine.

July 2019

Dr. Osei-Owusu to Serve NIH Study Section

Congratulations to Patrick Osei-Owusu, PhD, who has accepted an invitation to serve as a member of the Cardiac Contractility, Hypertrophy and Failure Study Section of the Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health. His term will last from July 1, 2019, until June 30, 2025. Members are selected based on their demonstrated competence and achievement in their scientific discipline, as evidenced by the quality of their research accomplishments, publications in scientific journals, and other significant scientific activities, achievements and honors.

June 2019

Anthony DiNatale Presents at Prostate Cancer Retreat

Anthony DiNatale, an MD/PhD student in the Fatatis Lab, presented his work during the Prostate Cancer Program Retreat, held by the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, on Friday June 28, 2019. The title of Anthony’s talk was "AR Regulates IL-1beta Expression in Prostate Cancer Cells.” It was part of the Basic-Translational Studies in Prostate Cancer session.

Anthony DiNatale, MD/PhD student in the Fatatis Lab, presenting at the Prostate Cancer Program Retreat

Department Well-Represented at Faculty Day

The College of Medicine's Faculty Professional Development Day was held on June 7. The department participated through presentations from several faculty members, as well as inclusion in expert panels on translational research.

Edward Hartsough, PhD, gave a talk on "Mechanisms of Melanoma Metastasis and Susceptibility to Targeted Inhibitors."

During the Faculty Leadership Implementation Plan (FLIP) poster session, Seena Ajit, PhD, presented “Increasing Drexel Presence and Student Participation at Local Scientific Meetings,” and Patrick Osei-Owusu, PhD, presented “Establishing a Center of Excellence for Multi-Disciplinary Cardiovascular Research.”

Alessandro Fatatis, MD, PhD, Peter Gaskill, PhD, and Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD, participated in the speed networking event, discussing translational research with colleagues.

Dr. Ajit Appointed to NIH Study Section

Seena Ajit, PhD, has been appointed to the Somatosensory & Pain Systems Study Section at the Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health. She will serve as a member for a four-year term.

Dr. Giacometti's Research Honored

Laura Giacometti, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Jacqueline Barker’s lab, has received a Junior Investigator Award from the Research Society on Alcoholism. She will present her findings on "Sex Differences in the Effect of Chronic Alcohol Exposure on Inflexible Ethanol Reward Seeking in Mice" this June during the society's annual meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

May 2019

Dr. Shenoda's Research Honored

Botros Shenoda, MD, former graduate student of Seena Ajit, PhD, and current internal medicine resident at Drexel, had his abstract chosen for oral presentation in the Resident Original Research category for the 11th annual Department of Medicine Research Day, which was held on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. Dr. Shenoda won first prize for his presentation.

NIDA Funding for Dr. Barker

Congratulations to Dr. Jacqueline Barker, who has been awarded a two-year, R03 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse for her project "Alterations in corticostriatal control of cocaine seeking in HIV infection."

Dr. Matt Receives Fellowship Award

Dr. Stephanie Matt, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Peter Gaskill’s lab, has been awarded a Brody Family Medical Trust Fund Fellowship from the Philadelphia Foundation. This funding will support Dr. Matt’s research in the field of "incurable diseases," specifically her project titled "Mechanisms of dopamine-mediated conformational changes in CCR5 in HIV infection of macrophages."

April 2019

Dr. Barker's Lab Publishes Research on Ethanol-Seeking

Dr. Jacqueline Barker and her lab have published their first article featuring research completed here at Drexel:

"Sex differences in ethanol reward seeking under conflict in mice"
Xie Q, Buck LA, Bryant KG, Barker JM
Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research (in press)

First author Qiaowei Xie is a Drug Discovery and Development student who will defend this spring; this work is part of her thesis. The study results show sex differences in ethanol-seeking under conflict, such that females exhibit more ethanol-seeking despite an aversive experience. The lab also shows sex-specific effects of chronic alcohol exposure, where ethanol-dependent females (but not males) exhibit more ethanol-seeking behavior in the absence of conflict but are also more sensitive to aversive experience than non-dependent females.

An early online view is available from Wiley Online Library.

Drexel Well-Represented at 25th Annual SNIP Conference

Several members of the department represented Drexel at the 25th Annual Society on NeuroImmune Pharmacology (SNIP) Conference in Portland, Oregon.

  • Dr. Peter Gaskill presented a talk at the 2019 NIDA Satellite Symposium on Unraveling NeuroAIDS in the Presence of Substance Abuse Disorder, titled "HIV Immunopathogenesis in the Presence of a Disrupted Dopaminergic System."
  • Dr. Stephanie Matt, postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Gaskill’s lab, presented a talk during the young investigators in training symposium, for which she won the young investigator award for outstanding presentation. Her talk was "Role of Dopamine-Mediated Conformational Changes Of Ccr5 in Primary Human Macrophages."
  • Three posters were presented by Dr. Gaskill’s lab at the meeting:
    • "Role of Dopamine in the Modulation of Macrophage-Mediated Inflammation: Implications for NeuroHIV and Drug Abuse"
      Rachel Nolan, Kaitlin Runner, Yi Rong, Peter J. Gaskill.
    • "Dopamine Modulates HIV Entry Into Macrophages via Ca2+-Dependent Signaling Mechanisms"
      Emily Nickoloff-Bybel, Philip Mackie, Kaitlyn Runner, Rachel Nolan, Stephanie Matt, Habibeh Khoshbouei, Peter J. Gaskill.
    • "Role of Dopamine-Mediated Conformational Changes of CCR5 in HIV infection of Macrophages"
      Stephanie M. Matt, Yi Rong, Margaret O’Connor, Nicholas Radio, Peter J. Gaskill.

Dr. Meucci's Grant Renewed

Congratulations to Dr. Meucci on the renewal of her NIDA R01 grant,"Effects of opiates on neurons and their impact on HIV neuropathology." This award, covering the next five years of research, will support studies in the Meucci Lab investigating mechanisms of opiate-induced neuronal dysfunction causing alteration of synaptic plasticity, which may contribute to HIV-associated neurocognitive impairment as well as other cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

March 2019

Stephanie Matt Receives Travel Award

Congratulations to Dr. Stephanie Matt, a postdoc in Dr. Peter Gaskill’s lab, who received a travel award to present a short talk at the upcoming Society for Neuroimmune Pharmacology Meeting Portland, Oregon, in April. Dr. Matt will talk about the impact of dopamine on CCR5 expression in macrophages.

Qiaowei Xie, Sex and Gender Research Forum

Qiaowei Xie Earns Poster Recognition

Kudos to Qiaowei Xie, a Drug Discovery & Development student in the Barker Lab, who received an Outstanding Graduate Student Poster award at the Drexel Sex & Gender Research Forum held March 13, 2019. Her abstract was titled "Sex difference in ethanol reward seeking under conflict in mice."

February 2019

Golden Apple Teaching Award Recipients

Two faculty members from the department have been selected to receive Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Michael White, PhD, received recognition from the MD program Class of 2022. Joel Horwitz, PhD, was honored by the MD program Class of 2021.

Seena Ajit Receives CURE Award

Faculty member Seena Ajit, PhD, has received a 2019 Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (CURE) grant for her project "Macrophage-derived Exosomes as Pain Therapeutic for Spinal Cord Injury." Her co-investigator is Megan Detloff, PhD, Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy.

January 2019

New Award to Support Drexel/Bologna Student Exchange

Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD, professor and chair, Department of Pharmacology & Physiology, received a grant from the University of Bologna, Italy, to support a project, The Student Ambassador, which is intended to foster scientific collaborations between the institutions. Up to two graduate students from Drexel and Bologna will travel abroad to spend eight to ten weeks working on a research project at each other's school. Learn more about the program.

 Back to Top

Elements of a laboratory experiment.