ProfessorDepartment of Neurological SciencesDirector, Neuroscience Graduate Program
I am the course director of three graduate courses: Topics in Developmental Neurobiology (ANNB 320), Neurochemistry (ANNB 323), and Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research (ANNB 327). The latter course is a requirement for all graduate students, postdoctoral trainees, and junior faculty supported by training awards from NIH or NSF.
My research focuses on the role of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) and their endogenous prototoxin modulators in neural development and in cancer. Prototoxins are members of the Ly-6 super family of molecules that have 8- 10 cysteine groups spaced such that the molecules fold into a 3 fingered loop structure, which is tethered to the membrane by a glycosylphosphatidyl inositol linkage. We have shown that one such molecule, PSCA modulates activation of a7 containing nAChRs in the avian ciliary ganglion, thereby regulating the magnitude of cell death that occurs through nicotinic activation. In addition, through funding of an ARRA Challenge grant we are examining whether expression of another prototoxin, lynx1 modulates plasticity and susceptibility of adolescents to nicotine, leading to dependence on smoking. Finally, we also have evidence that expression of a specific nAChR subunit, a5 may be linked to transformation of normal sympathoadrenal progenitors, causing neuroblastoma. We are addressing these questions using a multidisciplinary approach using cell culture, transgenic mice, and chicken embryos.
I am the director of the Neuroscience Graduate Program and chair of the steering committee for the new transdisciplinary Neuroscience, Behavior and Health research initiative at UVM.