Gabriela K. Popescu PhD

Gabriela Popescu

Gabriela K. Popescu


Department of Biochemistry

Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

Specialty/Research Focus

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:

We investigate the activation mechanisms of fast neurotransmitter receptors. We seek to define the activation pathway, modulatory mechanisms and structure-function relationships of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor to better understand the roles played by this protein in the brain.
NMDA receptors are the most abundant glutamate-stimulated, Ca2+-conducting ion channels in brain and spinal cord. They are the predominant molecular devices for controlling synaptic development and plasticity and govern memory and learning processes. Understanding the mechanisms that control their activity may lead to more effective strategies to treat neuropathies including stroke, neurodegenerative conditions, chronic pain and addiction as well as mental disorders such as schizophrenia and epilepsy.

Education and Training:

  • Fellowship, Biophysics, University at Buffalo, SUNY (2005)
  • PhD, Biochemistry, University at Buffalo, SUNY (1999)
  • MS, Biochemistry, University of Bucharest (1985)


  • Adjunct Faculty, Anesthesiology, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (2005-present)
  • Professor, Biochemistry, University at Buffalo, SUNY Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (2014-present)
  • Adjunct Faculty, Physiology, University at Buffalo, SUNY Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (2005-present)

Awards and Honors:

  • 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 Scholars, Young Investigator Award (2010)
  • NIH/NINDS Principal Investigator (2006)
  • NIH/NIDA NRSA (2001)

Research Expertise:

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

UB 2020 Strategic Strengths:

  • Molecular Recognition in Biological Systems and Bioinformatics

Grants and Sponsored Research:

  • April 2019–April 2024
    Gating Mechanism of NMDA receptors
    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

Journal Articles:

See all (43 more)

Professional Memberships:

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


  • "NMDA Receptors: Learning from Singles" University of Michigan, Pharmacology Seminar Series (2021)
  • "Implementing Team Science" Buffalo CTSI Professional Development Series (2021)
  • "The place of PhDs in the medical centers of tommorrow" AAMC CFAS Spring Conference; AAMC; CFAS (2017)
  • "Glycinergic Excitatory Receptors" University of Washington, Physiology Seminar Series (2016)
  • "Glycinergic excitatory receptors: NMDA receptors in name only" Gordon Research Conferences/Excitatory Transmission in Brain Function (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 (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 (5 more)

Service Activities:

  • NIH/F04B Study Section - Chair (2021)
  • AAAS Steering Committee Section N (Medical Sciences); Member at large (2020–2024)
  • Biophysical Journal; Associate Editor (2020–2022)
  • AAMC, Council of Faculty and Academic Societies; Chair (2017–2023)
  • AAMC, Board of Directors, Member; Board Member (2017–2021)
  • Admissions Committee; Member (2017–2020)
  • AAMC, Council of Faculty and Academic Societies, Chair; Chair (2017–2023)
  • Decanal Review Committee; Member (2016–2017)
  • JSMBS Faculty Council, Basic Science Representative; Member (2016–2018)
  • Search Committee for Dean of Dental Medicine; Member (2015–2016)
  • Search Committee for Junior Faculty in Biochemistry; Member (2015–2016)
  • Biophysical Society, Committee on Professional Opportunities for Women (CPOW), Chair; Chair (2015–2021)
  • Biophysical Society, Council Member; Councilor (2015–2018)
  • Faculty Senate; Committee on Tenure, Promotion, and Priviledges; Chair (2014–2015)
  • Faculty Council, Steering Committee on Tenure and Promotions; Member (2014–2017)
  • NIH/Neurotransmitter Receptors and Calcium Signaling Study Section; Panel Member (2014–2020)
  • UB Neuroscience Program Steering Committee; Member (2014–2016)
  • Search Committee for Vice President of Faculty Affairs; Member (2014)
  • Journal of Neurochemistry; Associate Editor (2013–2016)
  • AAMC, CFAS Administrative Board; Member (2013–2016)
  • NIH/Neurotransmitters and Calcium Signaling Study Section; Ad Hoc Reviewer (2013)
  • Faculty Senate Executive Committee; Member (2013–2017)
  • Faculty Senate; School Representative (2013–2017)
  • BCH Graduate Affairs Committee; Director (2013–2014)
  • Biochemistry, Graduate Affairs Committee; Director (2013–2014)
  • Search Committee for Vice President of Communications; School Representative (2013)
  • UB2020 Faculty Liaison Committee; School Representative (2013)
  • Search Committee for Chairperson in Biochemistry; Member (2013)
  • NIH; BPNS Study Section; Ad Hoc Reviewer (2012–2014)
  • MSTP, Admissions Committee; Member (2012–2018)
  • 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)
  • PPBS, Steering Committee; Member (2010–2012)
  • Search Commitee for Chairperson in Microbiology and Immunology; Member (2010–2011)
  • BCH Graduate Affairs Committee; Member (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)
  • Search Committee for Junior Faculty in Pharmacology; Member (2008–2009)
  • 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)
  • 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