Outstanding Neuroscience Scholars Win 2014 Bishop Fund Awards

Published July 11, 2014

In recognition of their research accomplishments, scholars in the University at Buffalo’s Neuroscience Program have received awards from the Beverly Petterson Bishop and Charles W. Bishop Neuroscience Fund.

Harvard-Bound Researcher Wins Thesis Award

Ryan McCarthy, PhD ’14, who will begin work as a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School in August, received a $500 thesis award.

McCarthy was mentored by Daniel J. Kosman, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of biochemistry.

McCarthy’s doctoral research involved studying the blood-brain barrier; he focused on determining how iron from the blood is trafficked into the brain. 

His research, supported by a pre-doctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association, has culminated in multiple abstracts and several first-author publications. His data enabled him to co-invent a potential therapy for plaque and iron accumulation in the brain.

Researchers Win Travel Awards to Attend Conferences

Six scholars from the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences won Bishop travel awards. Researchers from the medical school are:

Kirstie A. Cummings

Cummings, a candidate in the biochemistry doctoral program, received a travel award to present her research at the Ion Channels Gordon Research Conference in July.

Cummings, who is mentored by Gabriela K. Popescu, PhD, professor of biochemistry, will present a poster about the function of glycinergic N-methyl-D-aspartate brain receptors. 

Her research investigates how the receptors can be modulated under both normal and pathological conditions, including high levels of brain activity, stroke and schizophrenia.

Jia Cheng

Cheng, a doctoral candidate in the neuroscience program, will present research on molecular mechanisms underlying long-term severe stress at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in November. 

Cheng’s data suggests that long-term severe stress may induce sustained changes in synaptic transmission via DNA methylation, which may contribute to behavioral abnormality related to mental disorders.

Zhen Yan, PhD, professor of physiology and biophysics, is Cheng’s mentor.

Mariapaola Sidoli

Sidoli, a biochemistry doctoral candidate, will present the poster “Conditional Ablation of Perk in Schwann Cells Improves Myelination in S63del/CMT1B Mice” at the American Society for Cell Biology meeting in December.

Sidoli, whose research is focused on the role of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in neurons and glial cells in the pathogenesis of demyelinating neuropathy, is investigating the hypothesis that ER stress interferes with promyelinating signals and causes demyelination.

Lawrence Wrabetz, MD, professor of neurology and biochemistry, is Sidoli’s mentor.

Changyi Ji

Ji, a doctoral candidate in biochemistry, presented the poster “Roles of SLC39A8 (Zip8) in Neuronal Iron Uptake,” at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s Trace Elements in Biology and Medicine conference in June.

Ji conducted research showing that Zip8, an iron and zinc transporter, plays an important role in iron influx in primary hippocampal neurons.

Kosman is Ji’s mentor.

Amy M. Gancarz, PhD

Gancarz, a postdoctoral scholar in pharmacology and toxicology and a fellow in the UB Research Institute on Addictions postdoctoral program, will present “Activin/Smad3 Induction in the Nucleus Accumbens Mediates Cocaine Relapse” at the Society for Neuroscience meeting.

Gancarz’s research focuses on long-term changes that may underlie craving and relapse in people with drug addictions. Her findings demonstrate that activin receptors and Smad signaling pathways are critical in the reorganization of the “addicted brain” and may be potential targets for future drug treatment of cocaine addiction. 

She is mentored by David Dietz, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology.

Yannick Poitelon, PhD

Poitelon, a postdoctoral biochemistry scholar and a research scientist at the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute, will attend the July Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory meeting on Glia in Health and Disease. 

Poitelon — mentored by M. Laura Feltri, MD, professor of biochemistry — will present research titled “Spatial Mapping of Juxtacrine Axo-glial Interactions Reveals Novel Molecules in Myelination.”

His findings reveal novel insights in the spatial organization of the advancing myelin membrane and identify novel players in myelination.

One Awardee in College of Arts and Sciences

Jessica Santollo, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology, also won a Bishop travel award.

Bishop Legacy Supports Neuroscience at UB

The Bishop Fund supports university-wide efforts and excellence in neuroscience, and helps ensure that neuroscience remains a major focus at UB.

Charles W. Bishop, PhD, established the fund in honor of his wife, Beverly, a member of the UB faculty from 1957 until her death in 2008, and a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of physiology and biophysics.

Beverly Petterson Bishop, PhD ’58, was known for her significant contributions to neurophysiology research and for her dedication to teaching.

Awardees are recognized during UB’s Neuroscience Research Day, held each fall.