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