Welcome to the Vollum Institute/OHSU Neuroscience Graduate Program

Founded in 1992, the Neuroscience Graduate Program at OHSU has 47 predoctoral students and more than 140 faculty in a broad range of subdisciplines. The program is intended for students planning a career in academic or industry research, but we encourage student to explore the career path that matches their ambitions and expertise. The program is particularly strong in cellular neuroscience, neuronal signaling, gene regulation, biophysics of channels and transporters, sensory systems, and neuroendocrinology with increasing strength in developmental neuroscience and disease-oriented neuroscience research. Faculty members are located within research institutes at OHSU including the Vollum Institute, the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC), Oregon Hearing Research Center, Jungers Center and the Oregon Institute for Occupational Health Sciences; as well as the basic and clinical departments in the OHSU School of Medicine.

Learn More About Our Program


Danielle and Daniela eLifeNGP alumna, Danielle Robinson and current NGP student, Daniela Saderi are attending the first  eLIFE innovation Sprint in Cambridge, UK.  It's a two-day intensive hackathon, in which technologists, researchers, developers, science communicators and more are working together to innovate in scholarly communication. Daniela is personally working with a team of technologists from eLife and other researchers to develop PREreview 2.0 and write a short proposal for a Sloan Foundation grant.  Have a great time you two! 

YoderCongratulations to NGP student, Nate Yoder on his new paper in Nature

For the first time, researchers in the Vollum Institute have determined the atomic structure of an acid-sensing ion channel (ASIC) in a resting state at high pH.  ASICs are expressed in neurons throughout the nervous system and contribute to a variety of neurological processes including pain sensation and fear memory formation. ASICs populate three functional states, existing in a resting state at high pH, opening in response to low pH and desensitizing within milliseconds. In their manuscript, published recently in the journal Nature, Yoder, Yoshioka and Gouaux used a combination of x-ray crystallography and single-particle cryo-electron microscopy to determine the structure of the resting channel. Additionally, the authors were able to determine the molecular mechanisms that allow the channel to respond to changes in pH by comparing the structure of the resting channel with those of the channel in open and desensitized states published in 2014 and 2009, respectively. These findings improve our understanding of how the nervous system responds to pH and provide a blueprint for the design of molecular agents to aimed at targeting these channels. 

OHRC FacultyThe Oregon Hearing Research Center (OHRC) at OHSU is a world leader in studies of auditory neuroscience, ranging from cochlear development to cortical processing.  Many OHRC faculty have joint appointments in the Vollum Institute as well.  An article in today's Oregonian highlights that a number of OHRC faculty are themselves hearing impaired, and so students in NGP learn about hearing disorders and their treatments from lecturers with first-hand experience.  Click here to read today's front page Oregonian article.

Maria PuriceGlia perform important immune functions to defend the brain against toxic insults and minimize damage after injury. In the aging brain, it has been proposed that changes in glial immunity may be related to the onset of some neurodegenerative diseases. We used a well-established acute axotomyassay in Drosophila to examine how key features of glial immunity are altered with age. Our studies show that in the aging brain glial engulfment of neurodegenerative material is dysfunctional due to down regulation of the Draper receptor at the protein level, as a result of decreased PI3K92E activity and translation efficiency. Additionally, we demonstrate that aged Drosophila olfactory nerves are delayed in initiating Wallerian degeneration after injury, similar to what has been previously shown in mammals. However, increasing Draper/PI3K92E activity in the aging brain was sufficient to rescue both reduced Draper expression and delayed glial clearance of severed axons after injury. This work highlights reduced glial engulfment activity as an intriguing candidate mechanism for age-related vulnerability to neural damage and disease.  Congratulations to Maria Purice on her important publication in Nature Communications!

RobinsonWe are proud to announce that Danielle Robinson, a PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program, has been awarded a 2016 Mozilla Fellowship for Science. This highly competitive program supports the work of early career researchers who want influence the future of scientific communication and data sharing within their communities. Already a student leader in this area, Danielle has championed digital literacy, openness, and collaboration as a co-organizer of Open Insight PDX and Science Hack Day Portland. She is also a founding member of Women in Science Portland. 

Throughout her fellowship year, Danielle will receive support from Mozilla to hone her skills, lead outreach initiatives, and develop local resources around open source, data sharing, and science policy through mentorship at Mozilla, the OHSU Library, and the OHSU School of Medicine. We are excited that Danielle will be able to grow her work as thoughtful and passionate advocate for open science, collaborating with OHSU faculty, students, and administrators to support the knowledge and practices that are key to the creation and communication of impactful research.

Congratulations Danielle!

Foster, AntoinetteAntoinette Foster, starting her 3rd year in the Vollum/OHSU Neuroscience Graduate Program, has been awarded a Gilliam Fellowship from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Study program awards a select number of fellowships nationwide to outstanding scientists who are pursuing a PhD in the life sciences and who are committed to increasing diversity among scientists. The 3-year fellowship not only provides financial support, but also the opportunity to attend meetings with HHMI scientists and receive professional development mentoring as part of the program. Antoinette was nominated from OHSU by the directors of the NIH training grant, T32NS007466, "Multidisciplinary Training in Neuroscience" and is pursuing her thesis research in the laboratory of Ben Emery in the Jungers Center. Congratulations, Antoinette!

Hendricks and YoderCongratulations to 2nd year NGP students Nathan Yoder (Gouaux lab) and Will Hendricks (Schnell lab) who received NIH F31 predoctoral fellowships in 2016. They join 12 other current upper level NGP students (above year 2) that have received individual NSF or NIH fellowships, nearly 50 % of those eligible.

Borghes Merjane CoverCongratulations to NGP Alumna (2015) Carolina Borges-Merjane on her paper "ON and OFF Unipolar Brush Cells Transform Multisensory Inputs to the Auditory System" published in Neuron for this year's OHSU Award for Outstanding Journal Article by a Graduate Student.


VaagaCongratulations to NGP students, Reena Clements (photo below) and Christopher Vaaga, on their 2015 LaCroute Neurobiology of Disease Fellowships (formerly known as the OBI Fellowship). Out of 24 applications, these were the two selected by the OBI Research Committee.  Congratulations to both of you!

ClementsReena Clements, a 3rd year NGP student in Dr. Kevin Wright’s lab, was selected to participate in the OMSI Science Communication Fellowship Program. As a Fellow, Reena will participate in professional development workshops to hone her skills at communicating science to a general audience. She will also participate in OMSI’s “Meet a Scientist” program, where she will be able to share her research with museum visitors. Reena is very dedicated to science outreach and currently volunteers with middle and high school students through the Brain in the Box and OnTrack programs at OHSU. She is excited for the opportunity to share her passion for science with the broader community as an OMSI Fellow.

Robinson photoDanielle Robinson, a 5th year Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP)student, has been selected to attend OpenCon 2015 with a full travel scholarship, in Brussels, Belgium this November. Shelley Mason, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Cell, Developmental & Cancer Biology and founder of UnpublishableScience.com, was also selected to attend. The travel award is made possible by a grant awarded to the OHSU Library, "Catalyzing a Culture of Open Science", funded by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, and is part of a year-long project to support scientific communication education and Open Science advocacy.  

OpenCon is a small conference that brings scientists together with other academic professionals to discuss issues of Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education. Organized by the Right to Research Coalition, the conference is focused on skills development and facilitating connections with policymakers and Open Science leaders. 2015 speakers include Michael Eisen (UC Berkeley, HHMI) and Patrick Brown (Stanford), co-founders of the Public Library of Science (PLOS).

Danielle first became aware of the Open Access movement through reading Open Access publications like eLife, where NGP Program Director Gary Westbrook is a senior editor. At OpenCon, she will receive mentorship and training in critical communication and technical skills to bring back to OHSU and advance the cause of Open Science in the Pacific Northwest. Danielle is interested in bringing speakers and events to campus to help early career scientists build practical data transparency and data sharing skills, particularly critical in light oft he Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), which is sponsored by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and recently received unanimous committee approval. She is also interested in bringing workshops to campus to strengthen computer programming skills to allow researchers to take advantage of the latest open access data analysis and visualization methods.

Danielle is a PhD Candidate in the lab of Fred Robinson (no relation) where she studies the inherited peripheral neuropathy Charcot-Marie-Tooth type 4B2 (CMT4B2). She is an NSF Graduate Research Program Fellow and an ARCS Scholar. She is also a founding member of the OHSU Women in Science Organization, the Science Policy Discussion Group, and the Data Science Interest Group.

ZevEinhornAn update from Zev Einhorn, Class of 2012. 

Hope all is well in lovely Portland. I wanted to give you a brief update. I completed my Ph.D. with Teresa Nicolson in November 2012 and started a postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania. I switched from neuroscience to immuno-oncology for which I proposed to study how macrophages interact with invasive cells in a cancer-like model. I got a competitively funded fellowship grant from  NIH, the F32 NRSA. In my third year of the postdoc I'm about to submit my first co-first author paper and expect to have another first author paper submitted by the end of the year.

As you know the landscape for all levels of scientists has shifted and I had the privilege of talking with Dr. Bruce Alberts about how science can be reformed. Despite all the gloom and doom sentiments often expressed there are many opportunities for Ph.D.s and outstanding resources that can be easily found. One of the many clear sighted aspects of my training at OHSU was the requirement to give 2 talks a year. This pushed me to overcome my fear of speaking pretty quickly, at first at the Vollum and then later externally, and by the end I really enjoyed giving talks. As I'm applying for positions, it is essential to showcase that I have interacted with key leaders in my field, and the requirement to give talks is a great starting place. My own choice is to apply for positions as a Medical Science Liaison, or life specialist consultant, as well as scientist positions in Pharma/Biotech. Thanks for all the support over the years. I would be happy to talk with Ph.D.candidates who might want to know more about the versatility of a Ph.D. I have discovered a lot of tools and resources that can help those interested would be happy to share.