University of Vermont

Neuroscience Graduate Program

Current NGP Students

Kim Albert

Mentor: Paul Newhouse, Psychiatry

I grew up in Los Angeles, California and began my undergraduate education at Los Angeles Pierce College, where I majored in psychology and worked as a supplemental instructor and tutor for the college. While at Pierce, I had the opportunity to intern during the summer at UC Berkeley on an imaging study of emotion and cognition. I finished my undergraduate degree after transferring to Johns Hopkins as a neuroscience major, and worked for two years in the Holland lab there, studying the role of the amygdala and connections to the substantia nigra in motivation and attention. My interests are in systems neuroscience and neurological conditions involving memory and attention. I am enjoying living in Vermont; I have a big yard for my two dogs and love the year round outdoor lifestyle.

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Rehan Ali

Mentor: Christopher Berger, Molecular Physiology & Biophysics

I did my BS in Biology from LUMS School of Science and Engineering, Lahore, Pakistan. While there,  I worked on actin filaments dynamics as an independent research project and did my final year thesis work on hepatitis C virus (HCV) genome network analysis. I decided to pursue a career in research and became interested in exploring the molecular processes controlling the workings of the nervous system. I joined the neuroscience graduate program in 2012 and its been an amazing (although short) journey till now. 


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James Bishop

Mentor: Magdalena Naylor, Psychiatry and Helene Langevin, Neurological Sciences

As an undergraduate at Virginia Tech I explored interests in engineering before majoring in biological sciences. Upon graduation I moved to Boston, MA and started as a research technician at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in stem cell biology. The aim of the project was to determine if there were pluripotent stem cells present in amniotic fluid that could be differentiated into hematopoietic cells. Seeking research on a macro level, I joined the P.A.I.N. (Pain Analgesia Imaging Neuroscience) Group at Harvard Medical School under mentors Dr. David Borsook and Dr. Lino Becerra. Over the next 4 years, I became involved in both clinical and non-clinical research at several institutions. Clinically, at Boston Children’s Hospital I worked on pediatric neuroimaging of CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome). At McLean Psychiatric Hospital I performed pharmacological magnetic resonance imaging (phMRI) of opioids to predict their clinical efficacy. Non-Clinically, at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and Massachusetts General Hospital, I conducted awake animal (Rat) fMRI and phMRI utilizing in vivo optogenetic techniques and animal models of pain and migraine. The culmination of my undergraduate coursework and postgraduate research experiences has led me to the University of Vermont to pursue graduate work in translational neuroscience.

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Kutibh Chihabi

Mentor: Tony Morielli, Pharmacology & John Green, Psychological Science

I received my bachelors degree from UCLA with a major in Neuroscience and spent several years at UCLA conducting research under Dr. Scott Fears.  While I was there I worked on volumetric analysis of MRI's to determine genetic heritability for bipolar disorder. Ever since childhood I have been fascinated by the brain's remarkable abilities to comprehend and process the world around us, and my interests in particular are in learning and memory disorders such as Alzheimer's. 

Currently I am working on a project in collaboration between the labs of Dr. Tony Morielli in the Pharmacology Department and Dr. John Green in the Psychology Department. My project is looking at the role that the regulation of Potassium Ion Channels have on Learning and Memory in the Cerebellum.

Having recently moved to Vermont, my long-time telescope hobby has been reignited with Vermont's dark skies (when it's not cloudy that is!). I currently live with my wife in Essex Junction and am enjoying the small village life!

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Gene Cilento

Mentor: Tony Morielli, Pharmacology

The Morielli lab focuses on the dynamic regulation of voltage gated potassium channels, and my work is centralized through the technology of mass spectrometry (MS) and proteomic analysis of Kv1 channels in the mammalian cerebellum.  This technology has allowed me to map out post-translational modification (PTM) sites of several Kv1 channels, and I am currently using quantitative MS to investigate stimuli induced changes of various PTMs in live tissue (AQUA) or cultured cells (SILAC).  Additionally, MS has provided my work with a novel link to a well-documented protein involved in various disease states, including point mutations involved in two autosomal recessive disorders.  Other tools used in my research include flow cytometry, immunocytochemistry confocal and live multiphoton imaging, immunoprecipitation and western blot analysis, and development of an in vivo lentivirus mutation system. 

Outside of the lab, I devote most of my remaining time to my art, which consists of pencil drawing with Adobe Photoshop enhancment, to now Autodesk Maya 3D modeling and animation.  Additionally, I have been actively practicing American Style Nunchaku for over 10 years, and recently worked with a film major to produce a soon to be released choreographed video.   

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CurryWillie Curry

Mentor: Rod Scott, Neurological Sciences

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, I grew up in the modest towns of West Memphis and Marion, Arkansas on the other side of the Mississippi River. I earned my B.A. in Psychology at the University of Arkansas, where I aided Dr. William Levine in the investigation of activation of negated concepts in the mental representation of sentences. Unsatisfied with lay explanations of emotion and motivation, I experienced a revelation in the form of a behavioral neuroscience class, which turned me on the path to what I considered a more empirical approach to human cognition and behavior. Also, I really needed a change of location. While I understand that it is quite a jump to enter the world of Neuroscience without a biology or chemistry background, I welcome the challenge and am absolutely ecstatic to do so with the facilities and amazing faculty present at UVM.

Besides brain stuff, I love reading (mostly sci-fi and Edwardian/Victorian literature), video games, and all facets of Japanese culture. I also have an (un)healthy obsession with music; my ongoing projects include writing a rock opera, assembling a sound installation, and thinking of ways to be Pete Townshend.

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DAlbertoNicholas D'Alberto

Mentor: James Hudziak, Psychiatry

I grew up in a small town just outside of Saratoga called Stillwater, New York. I earned my B.S. in Psychology from Hobart College in Geneva, New York.  I became interested in Neuroscience because it provided a medium between Psychology and Biology.  Also, I find the brain incredibly interesting. During my final year at Hobart, I was able to work under the joint advisory of Dr. Jeffrey Greenspon form Hobart College and Dr. Mark Mapstone from the University of Rochester to complete a senior honors thesis.  My project examined the effect of reward on inhibitory control with implications to Parkinson’s disease, using Electroencephalography (EEG) and Event-related potential (ERP) measurements.   

I chose the University of Vermont because of the wide range of faculty research and the high level of interaction between research departments.   Outside from school I enjoy playing golf, fishing, hiking, and being outdoors.  I am looking forward to my future with the University of Vermont.

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Adrian Dutkiewicz

Mentor: Undecided

I grew up in Connecticut and enlisted in the US Marine Corps out of high school in 2004. I served in the Marine Corps Security Forces Regiment, as well as an infantryman with 1st Battalion 1st Marine Regiment. I have also served a 7-month deployment for the latter unit in the Al Anbar province of Iraq in 2007.

After I left the Marine Corps in 2008, I decided to pursue a career in biology research because I had a longstanding fascination with science. I wanted to understand behavior, and the more personally-satisfying aspects of this field led me to more reductionist approaches to understand the underlying biology. I gradually began to orientate myself towards neuroscience as a way of combining biology with my interest in psychology. I was able to acquire the essential skills of research with the help of the excellent Biomolecular Sciences and Biology faculty members at Central Connecticut State University, where I earned my B.S. and M.A. in Biomolecular Sciences.

I chose UVM because of the impressive array of research projects here, as well as the welcoming atmosphere of UVM's faculty and Vermont.

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Eric Gonzalez

Mentor: Margaret Vizzard, Neurological Sciences

I earned a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience from Muhlenberg College in May of 2010.  At Muhlenberg College, I managed, conducted and presented an undergraduate research project investigating the neural 
substrates of learning and memory.  Following graduation, I joined the labs of Drs. Rae Nishi and Felix Eckenstein at the University of Vermont where I worked on an interdepartmental NIH Challenge Grant proposing that nicotine exposure alters adolescent cholinergic signaling resulting in long-term changes in rewarding pathways and 
cholinergic maturation. I joined the Neuroscience Graduate Program at the University of Vermont on August of 2011 and I am excited to immerse myself in the expanding field of Neuroscience.

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David Harris

Mentor: Eugene Delay, Biology

I grew up in Newton and Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Wanting to get away, I went to Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota for my undergraduate education.  I chose to study neuroscience thinking it would be a way to incorporate a number of my scientific interests, but I had no idea how much it would end up grabbing me.  I voraciously took as many neuroscience courses as I could, but when it came time to decide what I wanted my thesis to be about, I couldn’t settle on anything.  I decided to see if I could work in some of my non-scientific interests into my thesis research project.  I love food and cooking, so I decided to research taste neuroscience.  I was hooked and hope to continue looking into the mysteries of the taste system here, back on the east coast, at UVM. 

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Abbie Chapman Johnson

Mentor: Marilyn Cipolla, Neurological Sciences

I grew up in Bar Harbor, Maine where I enjoyed all aspects of simple island life- gorgeous landscapes, ocean currents, crazy tourists, and cold, snowy winters. I feel fortunate to come from such a unique place, with Acadia National Park on my left and the immense intellectual presence and resources of The Jackson Laboratory on my right. Little island, big scene. I didn’t travel too far from my salty island sanctuary to attend college, and in May of 2008 I received my BS in Biology with a concentration in Neuroscience from the University of Maine at Orono. I moved to Burlington that October to work as a technician in Dr. Marilyn Cipolla’s laboratory within the Department of Neurology here at UVM. I conducted experiments on isolated and pressurized cerebral arteries and veins to determine structural and functional differences, along with changes in permeability during pregnancy. I became quite impressed with the Neuroscience Graduate Program, having been just a few steps down the hall, and am very excited to be a part of it.


  • Johnson AC, Tremble SM, Chan SL, Moseley J, LaMarca B, Nagle K, Cipolla MJ. Magnesium sulfate treatment reverses seizure susceptibility and decreases neuroinflammation in a rat model of severe preeclampsia. PLoS One. 2014; 9(11):e113670.doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113670.

  • Chapman AC, Cipolla MJ, Chan SL. Effect of pregnancy and nitric oxide on the myogenic vasodilation of posterior cerebral arteries and the lower limit of cerebral blood flow autoregulation. Repro Sci. 2013; 20(9): 1046-54.

  • Cipolla MJ, Pusic AD, Grinberg YY, Chapman AC, Pynter MY, Kraig RP. Pregnant serum induces neuroinflammation and seizure activity via TNFα. Exp Neurol. 2012; 234 (2): 398-404.

  • Chan SL, Chapman AC, Sweet JG, Gokina NI, Cipolla MJ. Effect of PPARg inhibition during pregnancy on posterior cerebral artery function and structure. Front. Physio. 2010; 1:130. doi:10.3389/fphys.2010.00130.

  • Amburgey OA, Chapman AC, May V, Bernstein IM, Cipolla MJ. Preeclamptic Plasma Increases Blood-Brain Barrier Permeability By Activation of VEGF Receptors. Hypertension. 2010;56(5):1003-08.

  • Roberts TJM, Chapman AC, Cipolla MJ. PPAR-γ agonist rosiglitazone reverses increased cerebral venous hydraulic conductivity during hypertension. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2009; 297 (4): H1347-53.

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Gregory Johnson

Mentor: Undecided

I became interested in neuroscience after being involved in strength and conditioning at the collegiate level and asking questions about motor control and coordination. My studies in undergraduate biology and neuroscience at Williams College then got me interested in the neuroanatomical correlates of learning disorders that I came to study for two years in the lab of Doctors Albert Galaburda and Glenn Rosen in Boston. I now find myself interested in the effects that extrinsic factors such as stress, exercise, and nutrition have on brain function. Thus far, UVM seems like the perfect place for me to study aspects of science that interest me and enjoy the amazing outdoor landscape that Vermont has to offer.

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Alisha Linton

Mentor: Undecided

I grew up in the small town of New Windsor, Maryland. For undergrad I attended Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY. I originally attended Ithaca as a Film and Photography major, hoping to explore my creative passions and travel the world. After realizing that wasn't the career for me, I became very interested in science. My undergraduate research on cardiac neurons and heart disease initiated my interest in neuroscience. I am very excited to be at UVM! Outside of science I enjoy ballroom dancing, horseback riding, photography, baking and being in nature.


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Matthew McCabe

Mentor: Undecided

I grew up in Quincy, Illinois, a small town in central Illinois along the Mississippi river. For my undergraduate education, I attended the University of Missouri in Columbia where I earned a B.S. in Psychology. During my time in Missouri, I worked in the lab of Dr. Matt Will studying the effects of exercise on the mesolimbic reward pathway. For my senior thesis project I wanted to be exposed to a new world of research, so I conducted my thesis project under the supervision of Dr. Todd Schachtman. We designed projects studying the phenomenon of “specific hunger,” which is an animal’s drive to consume a particular flavor after it has been associated with recovery from nutritional deficiency. I chose the University of Vermont because of the diversity of research being conducted, the rich collaborative environment, the superb education available, and the beautiful scenery. Outside of the lab, I enjoy soccer, music, hiking, and Ultimate Frisbee.

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John McInnis

Mentor: Undecided

I received my B.S from Trinity College in Hartford CT, where I did a thesis on the oligodendrocyte signaling response to endoplasmic reticulum stress. After graduating, I worked for two years as a research assistant at Boston Children's Hospital. The lab was primarily interested in studying oligodendrocytes, other glia, and ErbB4 signaling. Outside of lab I spend most of my time rock climbing, skiing, or doing other various sports.




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Galen Missig

Mentor: Victor May, Neurological Sciences

I grew up in southern New Jersey. After graduating from Salesianum High School in Wilmington, I attended the University of Delaware. While there I became fascinated by the way a universe full of oscillating particles and waves can be transformed by the nervous system into such things as senses, thoughts, and emotions.  As an undergraduate I joined Dr. Jeff Rosen’s Neurobiology of Emotions lab, studying Oxytocin’s effects on fear and anxiety from a behavioral neuroscience perspective. Currently I am working in Dr. Victor May’s lab investigating the mechanisms linking the peptide pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) and stress.


Ayers L.W., Missig G., Schulkin J., & Rosen J.B. (2011). Oxytocin Reduces Background Anxiety in a Fear-Potentiated Startle Paradigm: Peripheral vs. Central Administration. Neuropsychopharmacology, 36, 2488-2497.

Missig, G., Ayers, L. W., Schulkin, J., & Rosen, J. B. (2010).  Oxytocin Reduces Background Anxiety in a Fear-Potentiated Startle Paradigm. Neuropsychopharmacology, 35, 2607-2616."

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Michelle McNamara

Mentor: Cynthia Forehand, Neurological Sciences

Michelle spent her first seventeen years in San Diego, California. She attended Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana where she played soccer and majored in Biology and Sociology. She is a member of the Forehand lab. 



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Vanessa Ochoa

Mentor: Rae Nishi, Neurological Sciences

I was born and raised in Southern California. I received my BS in Biology with a minor in Neuroscience from the University of California Riverside. As an undergraduate student, I worked in a biochemistry lab where the main focus was biochemical aspects of plant hormones. In this lab I realized that I could see myself doing research for a very long time. Since my passion is Neuroscience, I decided to pursue a PhD. I commuted as an undergraduate and lived at home in California my whole life, so I wanted to take a chance and explore other areas. Of course, being in California you don’t see snow, so I decided I wanted to live on the East coast of the U.S. I looked into many schools but UVM caught my attention for their friendly staff and students plus the personal attention needed for each individual student. The transition to Vermont has been difficult, but possible because of the beautiful scenery Vermont has to offer and the nicest/helpful people I have meet here at UVM.

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Roman Popov

Mentors: Jesse Jacobs, Rehabilitation & Movement Science and Joshua Bongard, Computer Science

I am from Russia and I received my Bachelor's Degree in Statistical Physics. I studied optimization of signal recognition in "noisy" environments which is generally applied in telecommunication but the principles themselves can be used in any dynamic system which sends signals back and forth. While finishing undergraduate studies I expanded my interests from Physics to Neuroscience recognizing the similarities between electronic devices and nervous systems. After graduation I felt obligated to try and become a part of this great cohort that scrutinizes the most mysterious organ in our bodies. That's how I ended up at UVM.
I am happy to be chosen by UVM's Neuroscience Graduate Program, I do feel that the size of the program, the width and breadth of faculties interests, the professionalism of everybody I have met is a perfect match for my goals. I look enthusiastically towards learning the fundamentals of our body and its nervous system, and have yet to decide which exact direction I should pursue. My ultimate goal in Neuroscience and one thing I really appreciate about it is to participate in the research that has potential to be applied clinically in a reasonable amount of time.
I am from a big city in Central Russia and I have always dreamt of getting away from cars' exhaust and exhausted people rushing by. That's why I am absolutely in love with Burlington area and state of Vermont, and I am looking towards winter with much anticipation (yes, I am Russian after all). Hopes are out there that I will have a chance to squeeze in some hiking and skiing in between studies. My other hobbies are reading popular science books and sci-fi and attempting to write fiction myself.

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SherwinCasey Sherwin

Mentor: George Wellman, Pharmacology

Growing up just 45 minutes from Burlington in Stowe, VT, I am so excited that UVM has given me the opportunity to come back and continue my education in my home state. I spent my undergraduate years in Geneva, NY at William Smith College where I received a BS in Biology and minors in psychology as well as cognition, language and logic. Under the tutelage of Dr. Jeffrey Greenspon at William Smith, I conducted behavioral neuroscience research that investigated music cognition and the relationship between language and music processing. Additionally, I spent a summer with the Laboratory of Inherited Kidney Disease at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston where I was able to experience research at a cellular level.  These experiences solidified my decision to pursue a PhD where I hope to continue research at the cell/molecular level with an emphasis on translational neuroscience research.   

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ShipmanMegan Shipman

Mentor: John Green, Psychological Science

I grew up in Barre, Vermont and am excited to be back in my home state! I majored in psychology at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, and spent the past two years in Boulder, Colorado. During college, I knew that I was interested in research and immediately got involved in Dr. Kinho Chan’s lab. There, I explored the effects of hippocampal lesion on trace conditioning and investigated how a high fat diet can affect cognitive performance. I presented at conferences and found that I loved being part of a lab. During the summer of 2010, I worked as a SNURF (summer neuroscience undergraduate research fellow) at the University of Vermont, where I examined how exercise can affect the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, an anxiety center of the brain. Outside of neuroscience, I enjoy hiking, playing soccer and snowboarding.

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SpearEstelle Spear

Mentor: Gary Mawe, Neurological Sciences

I grew up in Chardon, Ohio and attended Allegheny College in western Pennsylvania where I earned my B.S. in Neuroscience. As an undergraduate I conducted research on the neonatal mouse response to carbon dioxide with implications on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, under the supervision of Dr. Lee Coates. My senior thesis was completed at the Cerebrospinal Fluid Research Lab at the Cleveland Clinic, directed by Dr. Mark Luciano and Dr. Stephen Dombrowski. I used immunohistochemistry to evaluate astrocytic gliosis and axonal injury as a result of high frequency, low volume oscillations of intracranial pressure.

Through my undergraduate experiences, I came to enjoy the challenges and rewards of research, and decided that I'd venture from the Midwest (or, as they say up here, "The Flatlands") for graduate school. I chose Vermont because of the beautiful location and friendly atmosphere among the faculty and students. I recently joined Dr. Gary Mawe's lab, where I am investigating gastrointestinal dysfunction in the EAE model.

Aside from Neuroscience, other interests include hiking, skiing, knitting, and crocheting.

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Stephanie Spohn

Mentor: Gary Mawe, Neurological Sciences

I grew up in Michigan where I attended the University of Detroit Mercy and worked at Michigan State University. Through my undergraduate studies, I was able to work for two wonderful labs. At the University of Detroit Mercy I worked for Mark Benvenuto, Ph.D., studying the elemental composition of Korean coins and testing kelp supplements for heavy metals. During my summers I worked for Dr. Mark Kadrofske, MD, Ph.D., at Michigan State University studying intestinal epithelial wound healing. After earning my B.S., in biochemistry from the University of Detroit Mercy, I decided to continue my education and have joined the Neuroscience Graduate Program here at the University of Vermont. I joined the lab of Gary Mawe, Ph.D., in 2011 and have enjoyed the unique opportunity to study neuroscience in the gut. My thesis project will look at the role of the 5-HT4 receptor in animal models of colitis.

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Stephanie Staszko

Mentor: Undecided

I grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and attended college “up North” at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi. During my undergraduate career, I double majored in pre-pharmacy and psychology with an initial interest in psychopharmacology and mood disorders. I worked under Dr. Kenneth Sufka, whose lab focuses on the development, validation, and utilization of animal models, including models of anxiety and depression, addiction, pain, and migraine. My senior thesis focused on the development and validation of a rat model of migraine.  Validation of the migraine model is ongoing in this laboratory.

Additionally, I had the opportunity to intern at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Cambridge, MA, where I became interested in translational neuroscience. Upon my return to Oxford, I changed my focus from pharmacology to neuroscience, and earned my B.A. in Biology and Psychology. I am very excited to be part of such a translational and collaborative environment at UVM, and I look forward to exploring my broad interest in mood disorders.

Outside of the sciences, I enjoy kayaking, yoga, jogging, and cheering for the Ole Miss Rebels on gameday.

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St.ClairRiley St. Clair

Mentor: Bryan Ballif, Biology

I grew up in Red Lodge, Montana and attended the University of Montana where I earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in Biology and Psychology. While here, I joined a neurobiology lab, studying the mechanisms underlying glutamate receptor trafficking in ischemic stroke. I was also a teaching assistant for introductory chemistry and psychology courses where I discovered my love for teaching.

This year, I joined Dr. Bryan Ballif's lab, where we study cellular signaling pathways involved in neuronal migration during development.

When I’m not studying, I love hiking, the Seahawks, and rock climbing. I also like to dabble in jewelry making and am teaching myself to play the guitar.


Byrnes, N, St. Clair, R, Beske, P, Jackson, D. Oxygen-Glucose Deprivation/Reperfusion Triggered Increase in GluR2 Ser880 Phosphorylation Involves NADPH Oxidase. Society for Neuroscience, 2012.

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Last modified December 16 2014 09:27 AM