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Faculty & Staff

The Neuroscience faculty are dedicated to an intra-disciplinary approach to the study of how the brain functions, endowing humans with the capacity to know, to feel, and to value. We are also committed to giving you the research and publication opportunities you need for a comprehensive learning experience and to become successful graduate school and career candidates.

Prof. Mark Barsoum

Mark Barsoum
Ph.D. University of California, San Diego

My overarching research interests include science education, neurodegenerative disease, and cellular physiology. Much of my current research focuses on effective pedagogy in biology that helps students better achieve learning outcomes in the undergraduate classroom. My doctoral dissertation and post-doctoral research focused on the cellular pathways leading to neuronal dysfunction and loss in many central neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's, and ischemic stroke. We discovered that mitochondrial morphology changes and dysfunction obligatorily precede neuron degeneration and death and may provide a viable target for treatment of neurodegenerative disease.

Prof. Rachid El Bejjani

Rachid El Bejjani
Ph.D. University of Arizona

My research interests include molecular mechanisms of nervous system maintenance and axonal regeneration. I use C. elegans genetics for mutant analysis, transgenic approaches, laser surgery in living worms and genome editing in my research and teaching. C. elegans is a microscopic, non-parasitic, transparent soil nematode that is one of the best characterized genetic model organisms. The vast genetic, genomic and anatomical resources available in this organism and the world-wide network of scientists that use this animal make it a very powerful model to study the nervous system.

Headshot of Phil Icard

Phil Icard
Ph.D. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

I teach courses in human neuropsychology, focusing on the relationship between brain function (and dysfunction) and behavior. I also offer mentorship opportunities for psychology majors interested in attending graduate school in psychology.

Prof. Barbara Lom

Barbara Lom
Ph.D. Northwestern University

I am a developmental neurobiologist. My laboratory investigates how individual neurons wire themselves together into a precisely interconnected and functional nervous system. Students in the lab study axon extension and innervation, growth cone dynamics, and the elaboration of axonal and dendritic arbors using tadpoles and zebrafish embryos. Recent research students in my lab have examined the role of the cholinergic signaling in developing spinal neurons as influenced by pesticides, the role of Stitrks, a novel family of genes implicated in neuronal wiring, and the influence of estrogen mimicking plasticizers, such as BPA, on tyrosine hydroxylase expression in the developing tadpole brain.

Prof. Julio Ramirez

Julio Ramirez (Director)
Ph.D. Clark University

My research interests include the recovery of function after central nervous system injury, with an emphasis on determining the functional significance of hippocampal neuroplasticity. My students and I have been exploring whether axonal sprouting contributes to the recovery of memory function after brain injury in rats. To date, we have shown that accelerating hippocampal sprouting can indeed enhance recovery of memory function after cortical injury. Our work in this research area raises interesting possibilities for therapeutic interventions in cases of stroke, traumatic brain injury, or degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer's disease.

Prof. Andrea Robinson

Andrea Robinson
Ph.D. Dartmouth College

My previous dissertation research focused on investigating the effects of physical exercise on cognitive functioning. More specifically, I compared the effects of physical activity to commonly prescribed ADHD medications in an animal model of the disorder. These studies showed that exercise is as effective as common pharmacotherapies in treating some ADHD-like behaviors and may have promising use as a therapeutic intervention in treating developmental disorders. My current area of research examines the effects of physical activity and social contact on drug self-administration. I joined the psychology department in 2015 as a postdoctoral fellow in the behavioral pharmacology laboratory.

Prof. Mark Smith

Mark Smith
Ph.D. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

My primary line of research focuses on the behavioral effects of opioids and cocaine. A major focus of this research involves identifying the variables contributing to differences in drug sensitivity across individuals. My research has shown that these variables fall along a number of dimensions that include characteristics of the user (i.e., biological), characteristics of the drug (i.e., pharmacological) and characteristics of the setting and situation in which the drug is administered (i.e., environmental). In my laboratory, my students use a number of animal models to examine potential behavioral and pharmacological interventions that may serve to reduce drug self-administration.


Rachael Murdock

Rachael Murdock
Administrative Assistant
M.A. DePaul University

I provide administrative assistance to the Neuroscience Program, which includes budget management, support for the director, and other projects essential to the work of the program.