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Austin Coley

Austin coley

Drexel faculty mentor: Wen-Jun Gao

I am a 5th year Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Wen-Jun Gao’s Laboratory in the department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at Drexel University. Our laboratory investigates the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in learning, working memory, emotional control and sociability. We aim to understand the molecular and functional underpinnings of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. As an IBRO-USCRC fellow, I will attend and present at the Gordon Research Conference: Modulation of Neural Circuits and Behavior in Les Diablerets, Switzerland (May 2019).

My research focuses on postsynaptic density 95 (PSD-95), a highly abundant protein that is involved in excitatory synaptic transmission, synaptic maturation and plasticity in the central nervous system. We recently published a review article in the journal of Progress in Neuropsychopharmocology and Biological Psychiatry entitled “PSD-95: a synaptic protein implicated in schizophrenia or autism?” However, the effects of PSD-95 deficiency on the synaptic function of prefrontal neurons remain unknown. My project aims to explore how the absence of PSD-95 affects synaptic maturation and function, as well as connectivity and function of the prefrontal cortex by using state-of-the-art techniques, including whole-cell patch clamp recordings, western blotting, optogenetic stimulation, and behavioral analysis. These results will provide novel insights on the roles of PSD-95 deficiency in understanding the development of prefrontal cortex and associated neuropsychiatry disorders.

Outside of the laboratory, I assist in community outreach programs to facilitate minority students into STEM at St. James Middle School and Trenton’s upward bound program in the Philadelphia and New Jersey area, respectively. Additionally, I have given seminar talks at Virginia Union University (VUU), Clemson University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), and Stanford University. Following graduation, I will begin my postdoctoral fellowship at the Salk Institute in Dr. Kay Tye’s laboratory studying the cellular mechanisms and circuitry involved in schizophrenia.

Last updated: April 2019

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Austin Coley Receives First Ever F99/K00 Fellowship from NIH/NINDS - September 2017