Pharmacology & Neuroscience

Peter W. Abel, Ph.D.

Research Interests:  Research in my laboratory focuses on understanding the actions of G protein-coupled receptors including adrenergic receptors and neuropeptide receptors. Current projects focus on α1-adrenergic receptor subtypes, α2-adrenergic receptor subtypes and the calcitonin gene related peptide receptor family. We are interested in identifying and characterizing receptor subtypes to aid in the design and testing of agonist and antagonist drugs that act at these receptors. The role of the sympathetic nervous system and the immune system in the regulation of receptor functions is also under study.

For more information on Dr. Abel: Website

Shashank Dravid, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Research Interests:  Glutamate, one of the fundamental amino acid building blocks of proteins, is also a major excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system (CNS).  Neurons synthesize and package glutamate into presynaptic vesicles for release into the postsynaptic cleft where it binds to receptor proteins. Glutamate receptors are encoded by 18 genes and are subdivided into four major families on the basis of pharmacology and sequence homology.  Our laboratory focuses on studying the members of this glutamate receptor family with regards to how they function as single-molecule machines and also in understanding their functional role in the CNS.  We utilize a range of electrophysiological, calcium imaging, and molecular biology techniques to investigate our aims.   

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Jee Yeon Hwang, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Research Interests: Research in our laboratory addresses molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of neurological diseases and disorders such as stroke, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease with the goal of identifying novel therapeutic strategies for these devastating diseases. Our current work focuses on the role of epigenetic regulation, microRNAs, and protein regulation and degradation such as ubiquitination and autophagy in neurodegeneration and cognitive deficits.


Yaping Tu, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Research Interests:  My research focuses on the regulation of the interaction among G protein coupled receptor (GPCR), G proteins and RGS (Regulators of G Protein Signaling) proteins in cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer. GPCR/G protein-mediated signaling controls many cellular processes. G proteins stimulate intracellular signaling proteins (effectors) when they bind GTP in response to receptor. RGS proteins can act as GTPase-Activating Proteins (GAPs) and may accelerate the deactivation of G proteins by 1000-fold. It is important to understand how RGS proteins can act as tightly regulated modulators and integrators of multiple GPCR/G protein signaling pathways. This elucidation will not only help us understand the roles RGS proteins play in physiology and diseases, but has the potential to provide crucial information for RGS-target drug development.

For more information on Dr. Tu: Website

Timothy Simeone, Ph.D.


Research Interests: The hippocampus is a brain structure involved in learning and memory. Our laboratory examines hippocampal function during normal and pathologic conditions in young and adult mice. We use a mouse model to study two related but distinct focuses: 1) Discerning the role of natural neuronal population rhythms in the development and expression of epileptiform activity, and 2) Investigating the role of ion channels of the mitochondrial inner membrane in pathological processes and in potential neuroprotective strategies.

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Christina Simeone, Ph.D.


Research Interests: Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder affecting more than 60 million people worldwide. A detrimental co-morbidity associated with epilepsy is sleep disorders. Unfortunately, drugs do not control seizures in 30% of people with epilepsy. Of these, 1:150 are at risk for Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). To improve the lives of folks with seizures, we study sleep problems associated with epilepsy, novel anti-seizure therapeutics, and ways to predict and prevent SUDEP. We employ a multi-disciplinary approach including techniques that examine molecular neurobiology, cell-signaling, electrophysiology, and behavior.

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Holly Stessman, Ph. D.


The focus of the Stessman laboratory is to identify and functionally characterize genetic “drivers” of complex human diseases to find new drug targets that may stop disease progression and improve patient quality of life. Specifically we focus on genetic diversity in two disease systems, autism spectrum disorder and hereditary cancer. As a functional genomics laboratory, we utilize a diverse array of tools, including next-generation sequencing technologies, mouse and zebrafish modeling, human cell line modeling, CRISPR genome-engineering, high-throughput small-molecule screening, and classical molecular and cellular biology approaches. Computational resources also play a central role in multiple aspects of our research.

For more information on Dr. Stessman: Website.