Kelly Monk, Ph.D.

  • Professor, Vollum Institute
  • Co-Director and Senior Scientist, Vollum Institute
  • Program Director, Neuroscience Graduate Program, School of Medicine
  • Neuroscience Graduate Program, School of Medicine


Kelly Monk is a senior scientist and co-director of the Vollum Institute. After earning her B.S. degree in Biochemistry from Elmira College in 2001, Monk pursued doctoral studies at the University of Cincinnati and was awarded her Ph.D. in Cell Biology in 2006. She did postdoctoral training in the lab of William Talbot at Stanford University School of Medicine. In 2011, she was appointed as an assistant professor in the Department of Developmental Biology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and was promoted to associate professor in 2016. Monk joined the Vollum Institute in 2017 and was named director of the Vollum/OHSU Neuroscience Graduate Program in 2018.

The myelin sheath surrounding axons is one of the most exquisite examples of a specialized cell-cell interaction in the vertebrate nervous system. Myelin is formed by glial cells called oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system and Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system. These cells associate with axons, and elaborate massive amounts of cytoplasm, ultimately wrapping axons to form the myelin sheath. While progress has been made to determine how glial cells make myelin, there is still much we do not understand.

How do glial cells transition from simple axonal ensheathment to membrane spiraling? What are the signals between glial cells and axons that regulate myelination? How is myelin maintained once it is formed? When myelin regenerates in disease or after injury, do the same developmental pathways that regulate myelination regulate remyelination? Or are there additional pathways necessary for this process, specific to adult tissue?

The Monk lab uses mouse and zebrafish models to better understand how myelinated axons are formed, maintained, and regenerated.

Education and training

    • B.S., 2001, Elmira College
    • Ph.D., 2006, University of Cincinnati

Areas of interest

  • Glial cell biology
  • Neuron-glial interactions
  • Glial-glial interactions
  • Myelination and remyelination
  • Zebrafish

Honors and awards

  • NIH Bridging Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) Scholar Award (2012)
  • Washington University Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award (2015)
  • American Society for Cell Biology Emerging Leader Prize Finalist (2015)
  • Washington University Distinguished Faculty Award (2016)
  • National Multiple Sclerosis Society Harry Weaver Neuroscience Scholar Award (2016)



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