Three students selected as Graduate Research Scholars

The School of Medicine has awarded its Graduate Research Scholarships to three PhD candidates: Amanda Barkley-Levenson, Josh Kaplan and Diana Parrish.

These scholarships support PhD stipends for one year and have been provided through the fundraising efforts of the OHSU Foundation team and with the support of OHSU President, Joe Robertson and School of Medicine Dean, Mark Richardson. As Graduate Research Scholars, the students will participate in OHSU Foundation and Graduate Studies fundraising activities during the year. Read about
past winners.

"This year, the Graduate Program Awards Committee received more applications than ever for the Graduate Research Scholarships," said Allison Fryer, PhD, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies. "The Awards Committee had a very difficult task ranking the students and choosing winners."

Scholarship Receipients

parrish62012Diana Parrish
Mentor: Beth Habecker, PhD, Professor, Department of Physiology & Pharmacology

Diana Parrish is entering her 4th year in the Physiology and Pharmacology Graduate Program She works in Dr Beth Habecker's Lab.

"My research is focused on the changes that occur in the sympathetic nerves supplying the heart after a myocardial infarction (MI)," said Diana. " Specifically, I am working on identifying the chemical signals responsible for retraction and loss of sympathetic nerves in the viable area immediately outside the damaged, infarcted myocardium following  MI."

Dr Habecker and others have established that the changes in the sympathetic nervous system are a major contributor to arrhythmias and mortality after MI.However, Diana pointed out that the mechanisms underlying this contribution are not well understood. "I am especially interested in the crosstalk between the nerves and cardiac muscle cells (myocytes) how this communication is altered after MI, and how it contributes to post-MI arrhythmias," said Diana.

After she receives her PhD, Diana hopes to continue studying peripheral autonomic nerves in a position as a principal investigator.

kaplan-62012Josh Kaplan

Mentor: David Rossi, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Behavioral Neuroscience

Josh is entering his 4th year
in the Behavioral Neuroscience program. He works in the David Rossi Lab.

Josh is investigating how an inherited low sensitivity to alcohol-induced loss of coordination contributes to increased alcohol consumption. He is studying whether alcohol differentially affects specific cells in the brain called cerebellar granule cells in rodents that have
markedly different alcohol consumption levels. "I use electrophysiological techniques so study how different responses to alcohol, at the cellular level, are associated with increased risk for developing alcoholism," he said.

Josh became interested in studying alcoholism and drug abuse as the result of an outreach program he participated in during his undergraduate college experience. "Many of the students we worked with had parents or siblings who were alcoholics and many of these students were at risk themselves," he said. "I thus became interested in what genetically inherited brain mechanisms could promote risk for developing abuse problems and dependence."

After his PhD, Josh hopes to work at an institution where he can incorporate both teaching and research. He would like to run his own independent laboratory where he can train future neuroscientists. He also wants to advocate for neuroscience outreach. "I believe that neuroscience education, specifically learning about how drugs affect the brain, is a powerful anti-drug abuse tool."

amanda-62012Amanda Barkley-Levenson
Mentor: John Crabbe, PhD, Professor, Department of Behavioral Neuroscience

is entering her 4th year in the Behavioral Neuroscience program. She works in the John Crabbe Lab, which studies genetic contributions to alcohol abuse and related behaviors using mice.

"I use a mouse model of binge drinking to identify what genetic factors underlie excessive alcohol intake," she said. "In particular, I am interested in a specific neurotransmitter in the brain called neuropeptide Y, and how changes in this neuropeptide and its receptor influence alcohol consumption in mice that are genetically pre-disposed to binge drink."

Amanda finds alcoholism research fascinating because she wants to understand the complex interplay of genetics and environment that lead some people to become addicted while others do not. "I hope that further elucidating the biological basis of addiction will help to reduce societal stigma and identify new treatment options for those struggling with substance abuse," she said.

After completing her PhD, Amanda plans to continue on as a post-doc, with the ultimate goal of being a principal investigator in the field of genetics of addiction.