Gabriela K. Popescu PhD

Gabriela Popescu

Gabriela K. Popescu


Department of Biochemistry

Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

Specialty/Research Focus

Brain Research; Ion channel kinetics and structure; Molecular Basis of Disease; Neurobiology; Neurodegenerative disorders; Neuropharmacology; Protein Function and Structure; Signal Transduction

Contact Information
955 Main Street
Buffalo NY 14203
Office 4226; Lab 4250
Buffalo, New York 14203
Phone: (716) 829-3807
Fax: (716) 829-2661

Professional Summary:

Dr. Popescu is a leading expert in molecular neuroscience. She studies the activation and modulation of NMDA receptors, which are the most abundant glutamate-stimulated, calcium-conducting channels in brain and spinal cord. These receptors have essential roles in memory formation and learning. Importantly, their dysfunction results in severe neuropsychiatric disorders, including stroke, neurodegenerative conditions, chronic pain and addiction as well as mental disorders such as schizophrenia and epilepsy. Results from Dr. Popescu's research help to establish direct correlations between the biophysical properties of NMDA receptors and mechanisms for synaptic transmission and plasticity in the central nervous system to guide strategies that maintain and restore neuropsychiatric health and wellbeing across the life span.

Dr. Popescu investigates how structural features of the NMDA receptors support their functional output with a range of biophysical and biochemical approaches. Among these are highly specialized biophysical techniques such as patch-clamp electrophysiology, patch-clamp fluorometry, kinetic modeling of single-molecule behaviors, and molecular dynamic simulations. Funds from the NIH have continuously supported Dr. Popescu's research projects and the research of several graduate and postdoctoral fellows while training under her mentorship. Dr. Popescu has been recognized for her clear and sustained impact on improving equity and inclusivity the fields of physiology and biophysics and for sustained service to academic medicine community.

Education and Training:

  • Sabbatical, Structural Biology, Columbia (New York) and Harvard (Boston) (2017)
  • Internship, Fast Application Techniques, Yale University (2005)
  • Fellowship, NIDA F32 Ion Channel Biophysics, University at Buffalo, SUNY (2004)
  • PhD, Biochemistry, University at Buffalo, SUNY (1999)
  • MS, Biochemistry, University of Bucharest (1985)


  • Professor, Biochemistry, University at Buffalo, SUNY (2016-present)
  • Associate Professor, Biochemistry, University at Buffalo, SUNY (2011–2015)
  • Assistant Professor, Biochemistry, University at Buffalo, SUNY (2006–2010)

Awards and Honors:

  • Honorary AAAS Fellow (2024)
  • Distinguished Service Membership (AAMC) (2023)
  • NINDS Outstanding Investigator Award (2023)
  • Sharona Gordon Award for Transformational Leadership (SGP) (2023)
  • UB Exceptional Scholar, Sustained Achievement (2021)
  • Chair, AAMC Council of Faculty (2019)
  • Member, AAMC Board of Directors (2017)
  • AHA, Established Investigator Award (2012)
  • Public Lecture - Glutamate Receptors: the workhorses of your memory (2011)
  • UB Exceptional Scholar, Young Investigator Award (2010)
  • NIH/NINDS Principal Investigator (2006)
  • NIH/NIDA National Research Service Award (2001)

Research Expertise:

  • Electrophysiology
  • Excitotoxicity
  • Learning and Memory
  • Ligand gated ion-channels
  • Molecular neurophysiology
  • Molecular neuroscience
  • Molecular pharmacology
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Neurophysiology
  • Protein Dynamics and Allostery
  • Single-molecule techniques
  • Synaptic plasticity
  • Synaptic transmission

UB 2020 Strategic Strengths:

  • Molecular Recognition in Biological Systems and Bioinformatics

Grants and Sponsored Research:

  • May 2023–April 2031
    Molecular Physiology of NMDA Receptors
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • April 2019–April 2024
    Gating Mechanism of NMDA receptors
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • April 2019–April 2024
    Experience-Dependent Reorganization of Excitatory Synapse Connectivity
    Role: Co-Principal Investigator
  • February 2021–March 2022
    Aptinyx Compound on NMDA receptor
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • March 2016–February 2022
    Permeation Mechanisms in NMDA receptors
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • January 2016–January 2018
    Mechanical Activation of NMDA receptors
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • January 2012–December 2016
    Selective modulation of native NMDA receptors
    AHA Established Investigator Award
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • July 2006–April 2016
    Allosteric Modulation of NMDA receptors
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • September 2010–May 2012
    Calcium modulation of synaptic receptors
    Role: Co-Investigator
  • June 2008–May 2010
    NMDA receptors with restricted mobility of ligand-binding domains
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • July 2005–June 2009
    Modulation of NMDA receptor by neurosteroids
    AHA Scientist Development Grant
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • August 2001–August 2004
    NMDA Receptor: kinetic modeling and mapping of the glutamate-binding domain
    NIH/NRSA F32
    Role: Principal Investigator
See all (2 more)

Journal Articles:

See all (50 more)

Books and Book Chapters:

  • Iacobucci, Gary J and Popescu, Gabriela K. (2022) Glutamate-gated Calcium Currents in the Central Nervous System. In: Calcium Signals - From Single Molecules to Physiology.
  • Iacobucci, Gary J. Popescu, Gabriela K. (2019) N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptors. In: The Oxford Handbook of Neuronal Ion Channels.

Professional Memberships:

  • SGP, Society of General Physiologists (2022–present)
  • ASBMB, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2014–present)
  • ASPET, America Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (2012–present)
  • IBRO, International Brain Research Organization (2000–present)
  • SfN, Society for Neuroscience (1999–present)
  • BPS, Biophysical Society (1999–present)
  • AAAS, American Association for the Advancement of Science (1999–present)
  • UBAA, UB Alumni Association


  • "Of Ketamine and NMDA Receptors" University of Miami, Invited Research Seminar (2023)
  • "Ketamine Actions on NMDA Receptor Signals" Ionotropic Glutamate Receptors Annual Retreat/Chicago, Invited Research Talk (2023)
  • "NMDA Receptors as Molecular Targets for Fast-Acting Antidepressants" Gordon Research Conference on Excitatory Synapses and Brain Function/Switzerland, Invited Research Talk (2023)
  • "Low-dose Ketamine Desensitizes NMDA Receptors" JSMBS Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Invited Research Seminar (2023)
  • "Next Gen Approaches to NMDA Receptor Research" McGovern Medical School/UT Health, Invited Research Seminar (2022)
  • "NMDA Receptors: Narratives from Singles" Baylor College of Medicine, Invited Research Seminar (2022)
  • "NMDA Receptors: Beyond the Textbook" Annual Meeting of the Greater Baltimore Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience, Invited KEYNOTE LECTURE (2022)
  • "NMDA Receptor Inactivation" Ionotropic Glutamate Receptors Annual Retreat/Stony Brook, Invited Research Talk (2022)
  • "Of Calcium and NMDA Receptors" Gordon Research Conference on Ion channels/Mount Holyoke, Invited Research Talk (2022)
  • "NMDA Receptors as Calcium Channels" FRONTIERS in Pharmacology Seminar Series/UC Davis, Invited Research Seminar (2021)
  • "NMDA Receptors in Health and Disease" JSMBS Department of Pediatrics, Invited Research Talk (2021)
  • "NMDA Receptors: Learning from Singles" University of Michigan, Invited Research Seminar (2021)
  • "Implementing Team Science" Buffalo CTSI Professional Development Series (2021)
  • "Pharmacology of NMDA Receptors" Northwestern University, Invited Research Seminar (2018)
  • "NMDA Receptors: From Biophysics to Physiology" University of Florida, McKnight Brain Institute, Invited Research Seminar (2018)
  • "Modeling NMDA receptor activation" Ionotropic Glutamate Receptors Annual Retreat/Yale University, Invited Research Talk (2017)
  • "The place of PhDs in the medical centers of tommorrow" AAMC CFAS Spring Conference/Orlando, Invited Workshop (2017)
  • "Glycinergic Excitatory Receptors" University of Washington, Physiology Seminar Series (2016)
  • "Glycinergic excitatory receptors: NMDA receptors in name only" Gordon Research Conferences on Excitatory Transmission in Brain Function//Switzerland, Invited Research Talk (2016)
  • "Molecular Physiology of NMDA Receptors" Seminar, Neuroscience, Medical College of Wisconsin (2016)
  • "Mechanisms in NMDA receptor signaling" Johns Hopkins University, Physiology Seminar Series (2015)
  • "Why Support Basic Research" AAMC Annual Meeting; AAMC (2015)
  • "NMDA Receptors: learning from singles" Harvard University, Molecular and Cell Biology Seminar Series, Invited Research Seminar (2015)
  • "Participation in Faculty Governance" AAMC/Spring CFAS Meeting; AAMC (2015)
  • "Glycinergic NMDA receptors" Biophysical Society Annual Meeting; Symposium on Molecules of Memory (2015)
  • "Preserving Science" AAMC Annual Meeting; AAMC (2014)
  • "NMDA receptors: Learning from Singles" RIT Student Research Seminar; Rochester Institute of Technology (2014)
  • "New inhibitory interface in NMDA receptors" Gordon Research Conferences/Ion Channels (2012)
  • "Glutamate Receptors: The workhorses of your memory" UB Summer Public Lecture Series (2011)
  • "Modes of NMDA receptor gating" GEPROM Symposium on Membrane Proteins, Montreal (2011)
See all (20 more)

Service Activities:

  • Biophysical Society, President (2024–2025)
  • ZRG1 MBBC-H(02); Ad hoc Reviewer (2023)
  • SUNY STRIVE Task Force; Co-Lead for Mind and Brain Subgroup (2023–2024)
  • Faculty Council; President (2023–2024)
  • Biophysical Society, President-elect; President-elect (2023–2024)
  • Seminar Speakers - Viviana Moje-Galvan (UB, Chemical Engineering), Swetha Murthy (Vollum Institute), Linda Nowak (Cornell University), Claudio Grosman (UIC, Urbana-Champaign), Derek Bowie (McGill University); Host (2023)
  • Faculty Council; President-elect (2022–2023)
  • NIH/F04B Study Section - Chair (2021)
  • Ad-Hoc Professorial Promotion Committee, School of Nursing, (2021)
  • AAAS Steering Committee Section N (Medical Sciences); Member at large (2020–2024)
  • Biophysical Journal, Associate Editor (2020–present)
  • Biochemistry, Seminar Program; Coordinator (2019–present)
  • CTSI KL2 Mentored Career Development Program; Mentor/Facilitator (2018–present)
  • LCME Self-Study Taskforce (2018–2019)
  • Faculty Council Standing Committee on Medical Curriculum (2017–2022)
  • Faculty Council Standing Committee on Faculty Tenure and Promotions Policy; Chair (2017–2022)
  • Provost’s Decanal Review of School of Nursing; Chair (2017–2018)
  • AAMC, Board of Directors, Member; Board Member (2017–2021)
  • MD/PhD Admissions Committee; Member (2017–2020)
  • AAMC, Council of Faculty and Academic Societies, Chair; Chair (2017–2023)
  • LCME Diversity Task Force (2017–2018)
  • LCME Academic Environment Task Force (2017–2018)
  • President's Search Committee for Head of the Health Sciences Library (2017–2016)
  • Faculty Council Executive Committee; Basic Science Representative (2016–2018)
  • President’s Executive Search Committee for Dean of Dental Medicine; Member (2015–2016)
  • Provost’s Decanal Review of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; Member (2015–2016)
  • Biophysical Society, Committee on Professional Opportunities for Women (CPOW), Chair; Chair (2015–2021)
  • Biophysical Society, Council Member; Councilor (2015–2018)
  • Faculty Council, Standing Committee on Faculty Tenure and Promotions Policy (2014–2016)
  • Faculty Senate; Committee on Tenure, Promotion, and Priviledges; Chair (2014–2015)
  • Faculty Council, Steering Committee on Tenure and Promotions; Basic Research Representative (2014–2017)
  • NIH/Neurotransmitter Receptors and Calcium Signaling Study Section; Panel Member (2014–2020)
  • UB Neuroscience Program Steering Committee; Member (2014–2016)
  • President's Search Committee for Vice President of Faculty Affairs; Member (2014)
  • Journal of Neurochemistry, Associate Editor (2013–2016)
  • Biochemistry, Graduate Affairs Director; Director (2013–2014)
  • ; JSMBS Faculty Representative to the AAMC (2013–2023)
  • NIH/Neurotransmitters and Calcium Signaling Study Section; Ad Hoc Reviewer (2013)
  • Faculty Senate Executive Committee; Member (2013–2017)
  • Search Committee for Vice President of Communications; School Representative (2013)
  • UB2020 Faculty Liaison Committee; School Representative (2013)
  • NIH; BPNS Study Section; Ad Hoc Reviewer (2012–2014)
  • British Research Council, Reviewer; Grant Reviewer (2012)
  • Biophysical Society, Career Conversations, Panelist; Panel Member (2012)
  • Biophysical Society, Committee on Professional Opportunities for Women (CPOW), Member; Member (2011–2015)
  • Biochemistry, Graduate Affairs Committee (2010–2013)
  • SUNY REACH, Neuroscience Consortium, Focus Group on Receptors and Brain Development; University Representative (2010–2016)
  • Society for Neuroscience, Buffalo Chapter; President (2009–2010)
  • Search Committee for HJKRI Director; Member (2009–2010)
  • ZRG1-MDCN;; Ad Hoc Reviewer (2009–2010)
  • AHA/R1 Electrophysiology Study Section; Panel Member (2008–2012)
  • Biochemistry, Seminar Program; Coordinator (2007–2008)
  • Advisory Committee on Postdoctoral Education; Member (2006–2009)
  • SfN Buffalo Chapter Steering Committee; Member (2006–2011)
  • Annual Student Poster Competition; Judge (2006–present)
  • American Heart Association; CHE Study Section; Ad Hoc Reviewer (2006–2018)
  • NIH/NEA4; Panel Member (2006–2007)
  • UB Postdoctoral Education, Steering Committee; Member (2005–2008)

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Contact Information

955 Main Street
Buffalo NY 14203
Office 4226; Lab 4250
Buffalo, New York 14203
Phone: (716) 829-3807
Fax: (716) 829-2661