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Department of Pharmacology & Physiology 2021 News Archive

December 2021

Faculty Receive W.W. Smith Grants

Congratulations to Drs. Jacqui Barker and Priscila Sato for receiving new grants from the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust. Dr. Barker’s grant, with Dr. Laura Giacometti as co-i, will support their project “Ovarian hormone regulation of drug seeking and astrocyte function in progressive HIV.” Dr. Sato’s grant will support her project “Metabolic Modulation by GLP1 Activation in Human Adult Cardiomyocytes.”

Darin Ipe Promoted to Manager, Research Operations

Ms. Darin Ipe, a long-standing member of the department and former lab manager in the Fatatis lab, has been promoted to manager of research operations in the department. In her new role, Darin will work in the chair’s office to implement initiatives that synergize, facilitate and elevate the research enterprise within the Department Pharmacology and Physiology.

Janssen Day for 4D Fellows

As a part of the 4D fellowship program, Dr. Fei Shen and colleagues organized “Janssen Day,” where our students visited Janssen’s Spring House campus to spend the day interacting with industry staff and scientists.

Janssen Day for 4D Fellows

Dr. Matt Awarded a Cotswold Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship

Congratulations to Dr. Stephanie Matt, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Peter Gaskill’s lab, for receiving a Cotswold Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. The fellowship is intended to foster the career development of Drexel University postdoctoral researchers of outstanding scientific record and promise who are pursuing a career in academic research. Fellowship funds will support Dr. Matt’s project “Epigenetic regulation of dopamine induced by substance abuse and HIV-associated neuroinflammation.”

Pharmacology & Physiology Departmental Awards

This year, the Ben Weiss Scholar Award was given to Jared Luchetta, a PhD student in Dr. Olimpia Meucci’s lab. The Ben Weiss Award was established in honor of Dr. Weiss’ legacy of teaching, research, mentorship, and commitment to the advancement of scientific knowledge.

The Mary Hoffman Shaw Travel Award was shared among three students, including Jon Snyder, a PhD student in Dr. Priscila Sato’s lab, Chunta Ho, a PhD student in Dr. Olimpia Meucci’s lab, and Jason Wickman, a PhD student in Dr. Seena Ajit’s lab. The award was established in honor of Mary Hoffman Shaw, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology, who passed away on May 20, 2004 after a battle with metastatic breast cancer.

Congratulations to all!

November 2021

Jared Luchetta Presented for the Joint NIMH Center Seminar Series

Jared Luchetta, a PhD student in Dr. Meucci’s lab, was invited to present his research this month as a part of the 2021-2022 Joint National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) center seminar series. Jared discussed his most recent work in a talk titled, “Examining how CXCL12 affects structural plasticity and cortical network function.”

Dr. Nash Promoted to Director of Scientific Communications

Dr. Bradley Nash was promoted to a new position as the Director of Scientific Communications within the Department of Pharmacology & Physiology. In addition to his normal duties, Dr. Nash will develop new initiatives in this role to enhance scientific communications across the department.

October 2021

Students Receive Poster Awards at the 2021 MAPS Meeting

Congratulations to Christina Besada and Richa Pande for being recognized in the poster competition at the 2021 Mid-Atlantic Pharmacology Society (MAPS) meeting. Christina, a PhD student in Dr. Ole Mortensen’s lab, earned 2nd place, while Richa, a PhD student in Dr. Seena Ajit’s lab, earned 3rd place.

Dr. Sanz-Clemente Joins the Department

A warm welcome to Antonio Sanz-Clemente, PhD, who comes to Drexel from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, where he was an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology. His elegant research focuses on molecular mechanisms underlying glutamate receptor trafficking in normal and altered conditions, and how dysregulation of these mechanisms leads to synaptic dysfunction and neurological disorders.

Welcome, Dr. Sanz-Clemente!

Jason Wickman Invited to Present at MAPS Meeting

Jason Wickman, a graduate student in Seena Ajit’s lab, was invited to give a presentation as a trainee speaker at this year’s Mid-Atlantic Pharmacology Society (MAPS) meeting. The conference will take place on October 29.

Discovery Day 2021

Members of the Department of Pharmacology & Physiology at Discovery Day 2021

Drexel University College of Medicine returned to the Philadelphia Convention Center for this year’s Discovery Day on October 21.

Awardees from our department:

  • Julia Farnan (Jackson Lab) – 2nd place, Barry Waterhouse Outstanding Platform Presentation
  • Breana Channer (Gaskill Lab) – 3rd place, Outstanding Junior Graduate Student Poster
  • Luke McCutcheon (Jackson Lab) – honorable mention, Outstanding Medical Student Poster

Platform presentations:

  • Investigating astrocyte reactivity in promoting melanoma brain metastases
    Julia Farnan (Jackson Lab)
  • Effects of low dose ethanol exposure on reward seeking and motivation in mice
    Kathleen Bryant (Barker Lab)

Poster presentations:

  • miR-106b-25 dysregulation in complex regional pain syndrome contributes to T cell dysfunction
    Jason Wickman (Ajit Lab)
  • Small extracellular vesicles induced gene expression changes in microglia
    Xuan Luo (Ajit Lab)
  • The role of serum-derived small extracellular vesicles in pain
    Zhucheng Lin (Ajit Lab)
  • Regulation of CD4⁺T cells by macrophage derived small extracellular vesicles
    Richa Pande (Ajit Lab)
  • The impact of EcoHIV on cocaine seeking behaviors
    Qiaowei Xie (Barker Lab)
  • Alterations in VTA astrogliosis in progressive HIV and cocaine exposure
    Michelle Willis (Barker Lab)
  • Facilitated binge-like eating following chronic ethanol exposure in females
    Sam Stine (Barker Lab)
  • Mice exposed to chronic low-dose ethanol exhibit reduced sensitivity to changes in magnitude of reward
    Christina Curran-Alfaro (Barker Lab)
  • Subsets of cancer cells expressing CX3CR1 are endowed with metastasis initiating properties
    Jieyi Zhang (Fatatis Lab)
  • Optimizing culture conditions for measurement of human monocyte derived macrophage inflammatory activity
    Breana Channer (Gaskill Lab)
  • Inhibiting antiphagocytic functions in uveal melanoma
    Camille Cunanan (Hartsough Lab)
  • Enhancing therapeutic sensitivity by exploiting pyroptosis in melanoma brain metastases
    Maria Cavallo (Hartsough Lab)
  • Investigating the role of calcium-dependent NFAT activation in reactive astrocytes
    Luke McCutcheon (Jackson Lab)
  • Regulation of dendritic spine maturation and clustering by the chemokine CXCL12
    Chunta Ho (Meucci Lab)
  • Examining how CXCL12/CXCR4 chemokine signaling affects cortical network function using in vitro microelectrode arrays
    Jared Luchetta (Meucci Lab)
  • Modulation of glutamate transporters as a potential therapeutic intervention for neurological disorders
    Katelyn Reeb (A. Mortensen Lab)
  • The regulation of glial glutamate transporters after in-vitro ischemic stroke
    Simran Gill (A. Mortensen Lab)
  • MKP3 overexpression in dopaminergic neurons regulates DAT trafficking and function
    Christina Besada (O. Mortensen Lab)
  • Developing tools to investigate dopamine transporter regulation by MAP kinase ERK1/2
    Sreya Muchivolu (O. Mortensen Lab)
  • Allosteric dopamine transporter modulator decreases cocaine-induced hyper-locomotion
    Clara Xu (O. Mortensen Lab)
  • Modeling hereditary spastic paraplegia-SPG4 using CRISPR-based human induced pluripotent stem cells
    Neha Mohan (Qiang Lab)
  • Pancreatic islet GRK2 supports islet development and insulin secretion
    Jonathan Snyder (Sato Lab)
  • Myo1c regulates neurite formation in mouse cortical neuron
    Xiaonan Liu (Toyo-oka Lab)

Dr. Hartsough and Collaborators Awarded DoD Funding

Edward Hartsough, PhD, with co-investigators Drs. Joshua Jackson and Emad Alnemri (Thomas Jefferson University) were awarded a three-year grant from the Melanoma Research Program at the United States Department of Defense. The funding will support their project “The Role of GSDME in Melanoma Brain Metastases,” which will investigate how GSDME (gasdermin E)-driven pyroptosis affects melanoma brain metastasis progression and treatment susceptibility.

Dr. White Receives the George B. Koelle Award

Michael White, PhD, was the recipient of this year’s George B. Koelle Award from the Mid-Atlantic Pharmacology Society. The Koelle Award is presented each year at the MAPS annual meeting to a local scientist who most closely emulates the outstanding qualities exemplified by Dr. Koelle: a profound commitment to teaching, a fondness for encouraging students, excellence in research and a strong devotion to the science of pharmacology. Well done, Dr. White!

Dr. Meucci Honored by the Italian American Medical Awards Organization

Dr. Meucci Honored by the Italian American Medical Awards Organization

Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD, was selected as one of the inaugural awardees of the first annual Italian American Medical Awards (IAMA). The IAMA organization acknowledges outstanding individuals of Italian-American origin who, thanks to their pioneering spirit and lifetime commitment, have honored their country of origin and given a significant contribution to research, leadership, and mentorship in the medical community. Congrats, Dr. Meucci!

September 2021

A Distinguished Month for Dr. Irollo

This month, Elena Irollo, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Meucci Lab, enjoyed two outstanding events. She was promoted to a new position as a research assistant professor in the department, and more importantly, she has tied the knot with her husband. Congratulations, Elena & Jonathan!

Dr. Sato Receives an NIH Grant

Priscila Sato, PhD, was awarded an R56 grant from the NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to support her project “Non-canonical role of GRK2 in mediating cardiac function.” Her collaborative team will explore how GRK2 (G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2) regulates crosstalk between the pancreas and heart. Well done, Dr. Sato!

Jackie Shepeski Joins the Front Office

A warm welcome to Jackie Shepeski, who has joined our front office as an Executive Assistant II! Jackie joins our department from the Office of Faculty at Drexel, where she supported faculty throughout the College of Medicine.

Dr. Nothem Selected for IASP Data Blitz Event

Mitch Nothem, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Jacqueline Barker’s lab, was selected to participate in a data blitz event organized by the International Association for the Study of Pain’s (IASP) Special Interest Group on Neuropathic Pain. Dr. Nothem was selected through a competitive application process and will present a data blitz titled “Primary Somatosensory and Anterior Cingulate Single-Unit Activity is Increased After Peripheral Nerve Injury and Altered by Gabapentin.”

August 2021

Dr. Jackson Receives Extramural Funding

Joshua Jackson, PhD, received a three-year grant from the Whitehall Foundation to support his project “Role and Regulation of Astrocytic Mitochondria at the Synapse.” Congrats, Dr. Jackson!

Gaskill and Meucci Labs Publish a Collaborative Review Article

Drs. Peter Gaskill and Olimpia Meucci, and their former graduate students Drs. Emily Nickoloff and Lindsay Festa, published a new review article titled “Co-receptor signaling in the pathogenesis of neuroHIV” in the journal Retrovirology. The article is open access and freely available.

Dr. Sato Honored at AHA Basic Cardiovascular Sciences Meeting

Dr. Priscila Sato was awarded second place in the Academy of Cardiovascular Research Excellence’s Junior Faculty Platform Competition, which was held at AHA’s Basic Cardiovascular Sciences Meeting. Dr. Sato presented work from her graduate student Ruxu Zhai, who also presented a poster at the conference titled “Myocardial GRK2 Negatively Impacts Fatty Acid Metabolic Flux And β-adrenergic Receptor-mediated Mitochondrial Responses.”

Welcome New Students and 4D Fellowship Awardees

The department welcomes new students this month in the Pharmacology & Physiology and Drug Discovery and Development graduate programs. In addition, three new students received Janssen-Drexel 4D fellowships for diversity in drug discovery and development!

Mohammed Sani Alhassan: “I am humbled and appreciative of the fact my dreams of becoming a clinical researcher will be achieved because of the Janssen-Drexel 4 D fellowship. This program will help propel me into the drug discovery industry which bridges the gap between scientific experiments and the clinical use of drugs. I am excited and optimistic of this new journey.”
Desmond Lewis: “The Janssen-Drexel Diversity in Drug Discovery and Development fellowship will help me realize my goal of eliminating cancer by providing me with mentors and research experience in the pharmaceutical industry. The fellowship will also allow me to focus on my academics by providing full financial support.”
Celina Guzman: “This fellowship has given me an opportunity to dedicate myself to cancer research. It will allow me to achieve my goals, promote my professional growth, connect me to a large network of peers, and remove financial limitations. Now I can confidently serve as the first person in my family to go to graduate school and enter the field of science. Thank you!”

2021 4D Fellowship Awardees

July 2021

Dr. Hartsough Receives SKCC Pilot Funding

Dr. Ed Hartsough, along with co-investigators Drs. Joshua Jackson and Andrew Aplin (Dept of Cancer Biology, TJU), received a pilot grant from the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University to support their project “The role of CADM1 in mutant BAP1 uveal melanoma.”

Ajit Lab News

Dr. Seena Ajit was invited to a panel discussion at the National Institutes of Health Virtual Workshop on Approaches to Effective Therapeutic Management of Pain for People with Sickle Cell Disease. Her panel was titled “Molecular mechanisms underlying acute and chronic pain, with emphasis on epigenetics.”

Dr. Ajit also presented at this year’s Cell and Experimental Biology virtual meeting. Her presentation was titled “Xist attenuates acute inflammatory response by female cells.”

Xuan Luo, a graduate student in the Ajit Lab, published a first-author paper titled “Differential RNA packaging into small extracellular vesicles by neurons and astrocytes.” The work is open access and features a video abstract.

Faculty Appointments and Promotions

Congratulations to Dr. Jacqueline Barker and Dr. Peter Gaskill, who were both promoted to associate professor on the tenure track! And further congratulations to Dr. Jennifer Ross, who was appointed as a research assistant professor in the department!

Dr. White Receives the Lindback Teaching Award

Dr. Michael White earned the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. This is Drexel’s most prestigious award given to full-time faculty members who have demonstrated the highest achievements in teaching over their careers. Well deserved congratulations to Dr. White!

Dr. A. Mortensen Receives a Scholarly Materials and Research Equipment Award

Dr. Andréia Mortensen earned a Scholarly Materials and Research Equipment Award for Tenure/Tenure Track Faculty. This award from the Office of Faculty Advancement is for the acquisition of materials, equipment, software, systems, library collections or other non-personnel items that will enhance the research enterprise. Well done Dr. Mortensen!

Dr. Sato Awarded a Mary Dewitt Pettit Fellowship

Congratulations to Dr. Priscila Sato, who received a 2021 Mary DeWitt Pettit, MD Fellowship! The fellowship provides two years of funding to support Dr. Sato’s project “GRK2-Gender Differences in Diabetic Human Hearts and Adult Cardiomyocytes.”

Barker Lab News

Katie Bryant, a PhD student in the Barker Lab, received an F31 fellowship from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), for their project titled “Low dose ethanol effects on reward learning and motivation.”

Qiaowei Xie, a PhD student in the Barker Lab, had her abstract selected for an oral presentation at the Philadelphia Chapter Society for Neuroscience meeting. Her presentation was titled “The impact of EcoHIV on cocaine seeking behaviors.”

Graduate Student Celebration

The graduate students in the department held a potluck to celebrate the return to the lab this summer.

Pharmacology and Physiology Graduate Student Celebration July 2021

June 2021

Drexel and Janssen Announce Fellowship Program

A joint effort between Janssen Oncology and Drexel’s Pharmacology and Physiology Department will provide full support to underrepresented minority students enrolled in graduate programs at Drexel University College of Medicine. This fellowship will cover tuition expenses and provide a stipend for living expenses while students complete coursework and research to help them prepare for a career in drug discovery and development.

Please click here for additional information on how to apply.

Dr. McGonigle Receives Faculty Award

Congratulations to Dr. Paul McGonigle, this year’s recipient of the Angelo Pinto Basic Science Educator Award from Drexel University College of Medicine! The award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated commitment and excellence to the education of graduate and/or medical students through innovative educational programs.

Dr. Sato Presents at Faculty Development Day

Dr. Priscila Sato represented our department at this year’s SNIP-it presentations for Faculty Professional Development Day. The title of her talk was “GRK2: beyond receptor regulation.”

May 2021

Sato Lab Publishes First Research Manuscript at Drexel

The Sato lab published their first research manuscript as a part of Drexel University! The paper is titled “GRK2 contributes to glucose mediated calcium responses and insulin secretion in pancreatic islet cells” which is open access and freely available in Scientific Reports.

Ajit Lab News

The Ajit lab recently published a new study titled “Hsa-miR-605 regulates the proinflammatory chemokine CXCL5 in complex regional pain syndrome” in the journal Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. The study is open access and freely available.

Additionally, Dr. Ajit presented her research as an invited speaker for the Indo-US Workshop on Pain Mechanisms & Therapeutics, which was organized by the Indian Institute of Technology (BHU). The title of her talk was “Role of small extracellular vesicles in inflammation and pain.”

April 2021

Dr. Sato Receives Pilot Funding

Congratulations to Dr. Priscila Sato for the award of a pilot grant from the Diabetes Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine! The funding will support her project “The functional role of GRK2 in regulating islet function,” and open new collaborative opportunities with colleagues at Penn.

Awards from the Research Society on Alcoholism

Two members of the Barker lab received awards from the Research Society on Alcoholism 2021 virtual scientific meeting, which were funded by NIAAA. Katie Bryant, a student in the neuroscience PhD program, won the Research Society on Alcoholism Student Merit Award. Dr. Laura Giacometti, post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, won the RSA Junior Investigator Award.

Congratulations Katelyn Reeb

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

Dr. Bob Rosenberg Appointed as Teaching Faculty

Welcome to Bob Rosenberg, PhD who was appointed as a faculty member of the Department of Pharmacology & Physiology. Dr. Rosenberg will serve as a full educator primarily based at the Tower Health-Drexel University Medical School campus in Reading.

March 2021

Dr. Ajit’s Article Recommended at Faculty Opinions Website

Dr. Seena Ajit’s recently published article “Therapeutic and prophylactic effects of macrophage-derived small extracellular vesicles in the attenuation of inflammatory pain” was highlighted by the article recommendation service Faculty Opinions.

Pharm/Phys Alumni Featured in COVID-19 Vaccine Documentary

Larissa Falcao, MS in Pharmacology & Physiology, was filmed in a National Geographic documentary on COVID-19 vaccine development called “Mission Impossible: The Race for a Vaccine.”

February 2021

Dr. Klase in the Media

Dr. Zachary Klase was invited by WPVI-TV (6-abc) to discuss the WHO's investigation into coronavirus, and was quoted in an article by the Philadelphia Inquirer titled “How to prepare for your COVID-19 vaccine appointment.”

Meucci Lab Publishes Open-Access Review Article

Dr. Meucci’s group published a review article titled “Mechanisms of neuronal dysfunction in HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders” that is freely available from Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences.

Dr. Ajit Invited for a Seminar

Dr. Seena Ajit was invited by The University of Pittsburgh Center for Pain Research to participate in their seminar series. The title of her talk was “Exosome Mediated Intercellular Communication in Pain.”

Dr. Sato Serves on Study Section

Dr. Priscila Sato was invited to serve on the American Heart Association Fellowships Cardiology 3 Study Section.

January 2021

Dr. Mathiasen Serves on Study Section

Dr. Joanne Mathiasen served as a scientist reviewer on the Chronic Pain Management Research Program (CPMRP) Study Section for the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP).

Dr. Klase Interviewed for Radio Podcast

Dr. Zachary Klase was interviewed for a KYW Newsradio podcast titled “Mutant coronavirus strains are emerging around the world. How serious are they?”

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Elements of a laboratory experiment.