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Previous Trainees

Below is a list of former trainees in the Neurogenomics Training Program.  Click on a person’s name to reveal information on his or her mentor, research focus and current position.

Mentor:  Elaine Sanders-Bush
Research Interest:  Genetic analysis of Htr2c RNA editing in amygdala

Currently, David is currently a Senior Advisor in Neuroscience Discovery/Preclinical Statistics for Eli Lilly.

Mentor:  Lauren P. Jackson
Research Interest:  Biochemical analysis of vesicle coat proteins-AP4 protein complexes

Currently, Tara is currently a Science Teacher at University High School.

Mentor:  Louis Muglia
Research Interest:  The role of transcription factors and axonal growth factors during the development of particular brain circuitry involved in psychiatric disorders including autism, OCD, ADHD and Tourette’s Syndrome

Currently, Melinda is an Instructor at the University of Kansas.

Mentor:  P. Jeffrey Conn
Research Interest:  Role of Group I metabotropic glutamate receptors in learning and memory

Currently, Jessica is a Director Business Development and Senior Scientific Liaison for Bioseb USA.

Mentor:  Roger ​Colbran
Research Interest:  Alterations in signaling cascades of animal models of Parkinson’s disease

Currently, A.J. is an Associate Professor of Biology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Mentor:  Jeffrey Conn
Research Interest:  Agonist enrichment of spinophilin at the cell surface is a2-AR subtype-selective and involves by subunits of Gi proteins

Currently, Ashley is the Assistant Dean of Biomedical Career Engagement and Strategic Partnerships for the ASPIRE Program at Vanderbilt University.

Mentor:  Karoly Mirnics
​Research Interest:  Investigating the molecular and cellular basis of mental illness

Dr. Brown is currently a Senior Scientist and Director of the AMOS Core at Vanderbilt University.

Mentor:  Jonathan Haines
Research Interest:  Genetic epidemiology of Alzheimer’s disease, autism and other neurological disorders

Currently, William works as an Associate Professor in the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences as well as being an Associate Professor in the Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences at Case Western Reserve University.

Mentor:  Elaine Sanders-Bush
Research Interest:  Understand the neurobiological mechanisms of emotion regulation, with special interest in elucidating the pharmacological and biochemical mechanisms mediating cognitive responses to hallucinogenic drugs

Currently, Clint is an Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Mercer University.

Mentor:  Randy Blakely
Research Interest:  Regulation of the serotonin transporter function by protein-protein interactions

Currently, Ana is a Scientific Review Analyst at General Dynamics Information Technology.

Mentor:  Richard Shelton
Research Interest:  Genetics of depression and bipolar disorder

Currently, Jomo works at the U.S. Department of Defense where scientific training is applied in a position officially designated as Intelligence Analyst.

Mentor:  Jeff Balser
Research Interest:  Differences in pain perception during labor
Currently, Dr. Martinez is an Acute Care Physician and Emergency Medicine Physician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Mentor:  Danny Winder
Research Interest:  Effects on stress and cocaine on orexin signaling in the extended amygdala

Currently, Kelly is a Field Medical Director at Ionis Pharmaceuticals.

Mentor:  Peter Mohler
Research Interest:  Endocytosis at the drosophila NMJ, biogenesis of excitable membranes by ankyrin

​Currently, Shane is an Associate Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology & Pharmacology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

Mentor:  Danny Winder
Research Interest:  Investigating the role of BNST GluN2D subunit-containing NMDARs in ethanol-induced plasticity and behavior

​Currently, Marie is a Research Fellow in Dr. Winder’s Lab at Vanderbilt.

Mentor:  Pat Levitt
Research Interest:  Expression and function of RGS4 in the mouse nervous system

Currently, Phil is a Principal Research Scientist at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis.

Mentor:  Michelle Southard-Smith
​Research Interest:  Studying the role of the Sox10 gene in migration and differentiation of neural crest stem cells in the gut

Currently, Angela is the Director of the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt.

Mentor:  Richard Caprioli
Research Interest:  Investigation of protein expression in GBMs by Mass Spectometry.

Currently, Dr. Floyd is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Mentor:  Kevin Ess
Research Interest:  The role of the Tsc1 gene in interneuron development and function

Currently, Dr. Fu is an Assistant Professor in Clinical Neurology in Vanderbilt’s Department of Pediatrics.

Mentor:  Lauren P. Jackson
Research Interest:  Role of Retromer and Snx/BAR Complexes in Membrane Tubule

Currently, Dr. Gadbery is a Review Analyst and Variant Scientist at GeneDx.

Mentor:  Douglas McMahon
Research Interest:  Mediating effects of GRP on circadian rhythms

Currently, Karen is a Vice Chair of Basic Research and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.

Mentor:  Douglas McMahon
Research Interest:  Neural mechanisms of photoperiodic programming of the dorsal raphe serotonin neurons.

Currently, Manuel is a Research Fellow in Dr. McMahon’s Lab at Vanderbilt.

Mentor:  P. Jeffrey Conn
Research Interest:  The biology of mGlu receptors, Rett Syndrome and drug discovery.

Currently, Rocco is an Assistant Professor in the Molecular Pharmacology and Neuroscience Department at Loyola University Chicago Health Sciences.

Mentor: David Sweatt

Research Interest: Understanding long-term repression of Hdac2 by an antisense oligonucleotideac2

Celeste is currently a Research Fellow in Dr. Sweat’s Lab at Vanderbilt.

Mentor:  Pat Levitt
Research Interest:  Neural mechanisms of mammalian socio-emotional development

Currently, Elizabeth is an Associate Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience at The Florida State University.

Mentor:  Randy Blakely
​Research Interest:  Structure/function studies of the human serotonin transporter

Currently, Keith is an Associate Professor in the department of Biomedical Sciences and an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Chemistry department at the University of North Dakota’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Mentor:  Tricia Thornton-Wells
Research Interest:  Genetic and neuroimaging biomarkers of Alzheimer’s Disease

Currently, he is an Associate Professor of Neurology in Vanderbilt’s Memory and Alzheimer’s Center.

Mentor:  Randy Blakely
Research Interest:  Regulation of intracellular trafficking of the high-affinity choline transporter

Currently, Ericka is a Research Statistician at Highmark Health in Pittsburgh.

Mentor: Erin Calapari

Research Interest: The main goal of my research has been to elucidate the genetic mechanisms underlying sex differences in behavioral strategies and learning that may influence differences in several mental health diseases including depression and addiction.

Amy is currently a Research Fellow in Dr. Calipari’s Lab at Vanderbilt.

Mentor:  Alfred George
Research Interest:  Mechanisms of NaV1.1 dysfunction in inherited epilepsy syndromes

Currently, Kris is an Senior Director, Discovery Sciences at Praxis Precision Medicines, Inc.

Mentor:  David Miller
Research Interest:  UNC-24, a stomatin-like protein directs forward locomotion in C. elegans neurons

Currently, Julie serves as the Associate Director, Institutional Giving at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

Mentor:  Bruce Appel
​Research Interest:  The role of perinuerial glia in motor nerve root organogenesis in zebrafish

Currently, Dr. Kucenas is an Assistant Professor in Biology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

Mentor:  Jeffrey Conn
​Research Interest:  Mechanisms of mGlu1 positive allosteric modulator antipsychotic efficacy

Currently, Dr. Luessen is a Research Fellow in Dr. Conn’s Lab at Vanderbilt.

Mentor:  James Sutcliffe
Research Interest:  Screen autism probands and parents for evidence of CNV to identify loci that cause or confer susceptibility for autism.

Currently, Sabata is a Clinical Study Manager at MRIguidance.

Mentor:  Brad Grueter
Research Interest:  Isolation and analysis of serotenoergic synaptic subpopulations.

Currently, Matthew is a Research Scientist at Elanco.

Mentors:  Brian Wadzinski and Ana Carneiro
​Research Interest:  Alpha-4 modulates phosphatases that are important in cell differentiation, proliferation and adhesion

Currently, Monique is an Assistant Professor of Biosciences at Tennessee State University.

Mentor:  Roger Cone

Research Interest:  Neurogenetics of feeding behavior and energy homeostasis in the zebrafish

​Dr. Michel is currently a Group Leader in the Institute of Zoology at the University of Cologne.

Mentor:  Douglas McMahon
Research Interest:  Circadian regulation of mood

Currently, Leigh is an Associate Director, Policy Innovation and Evaluation at The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Mentor:  Kendal Broadie
Research Interest:  Evaluation of HSP70’s role in neuronal preconditioning

Currently, Stephanie is the Chair of Middle School Science at Harpeth Hall School in Nashville.

Mentor:  Sachin Patel
Research Interest:  Substrate-selective inhibition of Cox-2 as a treatment

Currently, Amanda is a Research Associate at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Mentor:  Cody Siciliano and Erin Calipari
Research Interest:  Defining the role of compartment specific dopamine dynamics in reinforcement learning

Currently, Suzanne is a Research Fellow in Drs. Siciliano’s and Calipari’s Labs at Vanderbilt.

Mentor:  Danny Winder
Research Interest:  Models of drug and non-drug addiction in mice

Currently, Christopher is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Mentor:  Christine Konradi

Research Interest:  Mitochondrial dysfunction in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder

Dr. Perna is currently a Research Fellow in the Skelton Lab in Neurology at Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital.

Mentor:  Randy Blakely
Research Interest:  Regulation of the dopamine transporter in C. elegans

Currently, Sarah is a Lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Georgia.

Mentor:  Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele
​Research Interest:  Development of serotonin transporter knock-in mice based upon variants identified in autism

Dr. Rogers is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and College of Behavioral and Health Sciences at Middle Tennessee State University.

Mentor:  Todd R. Graham
​Research Interest:  Examining P4-ATPase Deficiency in Drosophilia Nervous System

Dr. Roland is currently a Scientist II in Antibody Development at Abalone Bio.

Mentor:  Kendal Broadie
​Research Interest:  FMRP-NBEA actin cytoskeleton misregulation in a Fragile X syndrome model

Dr. Sears is currently a Research Fellow in Dr. Broadie’s Lab at Vanderbilt.

Mentor:  Maureen Hahn
Research Interest:  Central and autonomic function in A457P norepinephrine transporter knock-in mice

Currently, Jana is a Team Lead at the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical & Translational Research (VICTR)

Mentor:  Roger Colbran
​Research Interest:  CaMKII regulation of striatal endocannabinoid plasticity

Currently, Brian is a Clinical Scientist in Clinical Development at Jazz Pharmaceuticals.

Mentor:  Heidi Hamm
Research Interest:  Regulation of protein acetylation by G-proteins

Bryan is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Physics at Rider University.

Mentor:  Roger Colbran
Research Interest:  Physiological effects of novel ASD-associated mutation in CaMKII

Jason is currently a Medical Science Liaison at Novocure.

Mentor:  Randy Blakely
Research Interest:  Functional and behavioral characterization of novel neuropsychiatric disease

Adele is currently a Research Assistant Professor in the College of Medicine, Biomedical Science department at Florida Atlantic University.

Mentor:  Roger Colbran
Research Interest:  The role of CaMKII in autism spectrum disorder

Currently, Jessica remains as a postdoc in the Colbran Lab.

Mentor:  Alfred George
Research Interest:  The influence of alternative splicing of voltage gated sodium channels on susceptibility to anticonvulsant drugs

Currently, Christopher is a Research Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Mentor:  Ronald Emeson
Research Interest:  Determine the molecular bases of mRNA editing-dependent changes in serotonin receptor 2c-subtype gene expression

Currently, Randi an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences at Missouri State University.

Mentor:  P. Jeffrey Conn
Research Interest:  In vitro pharmacological characterization of modulators for muscarinic acetylcholine transporters

Thomas is a Senior Licensing Officer for life science technologies in the Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization at Vanderbilt.

Mentor:  Randy Blakely
​Research Interest:  Development of serotonin transporter knock-in mice based upon variants identified in autism

Dr. Veenstra-VanderWeele is currently the Suzanne Crosby Murphy Professor of Developmental Neuropsychiatry at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Mentor: Danny Winder

Research Interest: I’m interested in understanding the interaction between NMDA receptors and corticotropin releasing factor within the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in alcohol use disorders. Specifically, I’m examining whether a signal injection of ketamine can be protective against anxiety and depression during withdrawl in animals with a history of alcohol use disorders.

Oliver is currently a Medical Science Liaison for Zogenix, Inc.

Mentor: Jeff Conn

Research Interest:  Psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia are associated with hyperactive dopaminergic signaling in striatal and mesocortical pathways. Currently available treatments for schizophrenia are often effective in ameliorating psychotic symptoms but induce adverse parkinsonian-like effects that limit their long-term utility. Given the shortcomings of current antipsychotics, novel therapeutic approaches are needed that exhibit clinical efficacy with reduced adverse effect liability. Activation of the muscarinic M4 receptor has previously been demonstrated to have antipsychotic-like efficacy in several preclinical models. Recently the Conn laboratory reported that these antipsychotic effects are mediated through a novel wherein activation of M4 receptors reduces dopamine release through a CB2 cannabinoid-dependent mechanism. We present new data suggesting that metabotropic glutamate 1 receptor (mGlu1) plays a critical role in mediating these M4-dependent dopaminergic effects. A key role for mGlu1 in regulating DA release could provide important new insights into mechanisms by which loss of mGlu1 signaling could contribute to symptoms observed in schizophrenia patients. Interestingly, substantial preclinical and clinical evidence has implicated mGlu1 in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (nsSNPs) of GRM1 (the gene that encodes mGlu1) are enriched in schizophrenic populations. Through use of both ex vivo and in vivo fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV), application of a mGlu1 positive allosteric modulator (PAM) reduces striatal DA release and possesses antipsychotic-like efficacy in rodent models of schizophrenia, suggesting that mGlu1 selective compounds may alleviate the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. Through an integrated approach of electrophysiological and behavioral studies, Samantha hopes to determine the mechanism whereby mGluR activation alters striatal dopamine (DA) signaling and ultimately exerts antipsychotic-like effects. Developing an understanding of these mechanisms will provide insights into signaling pathways with the potential to mediate antipsychotic efficacy and will assist a drug discovery efforts aimed at developing novel treatments for schizophrenia.

Samantha is currently in Medical Communications at Karuna Therapeutics.