NGP Alumni Profiles
The Neuroscience Graduate Program was founded in 1992 and with 133 graduates as of 2015. Research areas range from molecular to behavioral neuroscience, and many areas in between. Below are recent graduates with the names of their mentors and a link to published articles based on their theses.
The Neuroscience Graduate Program at OHSU was a wonderful and rigorous training program that prepared me to be an independent thinker and a successful research scientist. The experiences and opportunities available to me as a student at OHSU allowed me to not only successfully completed my PhD, publish papers, and attend top research meetings, but also discover my passion for clinical medicine. Read More
I earned my PhD from the Neuroscience Graduate Program in 2001. I worked as an
electrophysiologist in the lab of Ed McCleskey (now a Senior Science Officer at
HHMI) studying acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs), molecules that contribute to
the sensation of pain. Although I was successful at research, I knew even as a
graduate student that I did not wish to run a research lab, or even continue to
do experiments myself. Read More
Rebecca Seal, PhD, was among the first students to enter the Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP) at OHSU, in 1993. She began her research career by studying the structure and function of glutamate transporters in the lab of then-NGP faculty member Susan Amara. In her own lab at the University of Pittsburgh, Seal now studies a once “oddball” vesicular glutamate transporter that turned out to be a key player in hearing. Read More
Recently, Neuroscience Graduate Program alums Jennifer Petersen and Jill Wentzell got together to take a break from their postdoctoral research and catch up with one another for a relaxing weekend. The two women became fast friends as graduate students, and they have maintained their friendship by meeting up in a city near their new jobs—in London.
Ilia Halatchev, like most graduates of the Neuroscience Graduate Program, feels he is “not the typical grad student.” Perhaps it is because Halatchev is among just 15 NGP alums with an MD-PhD (although three members of the 2011-2012 class are seeking the double degree), or perhaps it’s due to the fact that he has three undergraduate degrees from the University of Washington (in Neuroscience, Cell & Molecular Biology, and Biochemistry). But Halatchev is not just after a string of degrees; rather, he’s pursuing “the best of both worlds” as a physician-scientist. His endeavour now continues in the Physician-Scientist Training Program at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. The program includes a residency in internal medicine, a clinical subspecialty, and several years conducting research in addition to ongoing clinical duties. Click to Read More
Jason Christie has an enviable career path, which many of usmight envision when starting graduate school: successful projects in hisgraduate and postdoctoral labs, a string of publications in relevantpeer-reviewed journals, a faculty position at an illustrious researchinstitute. But we all know that, especially these days, it's no longer a giventhat you'll be conducting your own research in an independent lab.Nevertheless, last year Christie snagged a job as Group Leader of SynapsePhysiology at the Max Planck Florida Institute.He credits his good fortune with hard work and excellent training at OHSU'sVollum Institute.
Melissa Herman graduated with her PhD from the Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP) in 2009 and left Craig Jahr’s lab on the second floor of the Vollum Institute for a postdoc in a lab half-way around the world at Charite Universitätsmedizin in Germany. While it might seem like a radical change, Herman has found many parallels with her new life in Berlin and her time at OHSU. One contributing factor: her new boss, Christian Rosenmund, also earned his PhD on the Vollum’s second floor.
Dan Beacham Ph.D. works as a Senior Scientist in the Cellular Systems Division of Life Technologies, a company that encompasses Invitrogen and employs over 10,000 people. Beacham works at the Eugene, Oregon, campus, which once was a small company of about 300 employees called Molecular Probes, well known for developing dyes that have revolutionized biological inquiry.
In 2009, Sonal Das took a job that requires a particular skill that suits her perfectly: networking. As an Associate Director on the 16-person Research Programs team at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research in New York, she helps direct the Foundation’s funding and research programs. Then, she stays in close contact with academic and industry scientists who carry out the research, which seeks to speed progress toward better treatments for Parkinson’s disease (PD). Das helps awardees troubleshoot projects that have hit a snag or brainstorm new directions around unexpected findings. She also helps foster key collaborations and schedules workshops among researchers, whether they’re new to PD research or experts in the field. “The Foundation has a birds-eye’s view of the field, so one of our major roles is to strategically link up related efforts.”
When Ngan Vo started the Neuroscience Graduate Program at OHSU in 1997, she was no stranger to Portland or even to the Vollum Institute. A Portland native and graduate of Reed College, Vo worked as an undergraduate in the lab of John Scott, a former Vollum scientist. That bench work prepared her for her lab rotations and her graduate research on transcriptional regulation in Richard Goodman's lab. The topic of her doctoral work took her by surprise. If you had asked her starting out in graduate school about the focus of her future thesis work, Vo says, "transcription would probably be the least likely idea. But I liked the lab, the way it worked, and I liked the field." So, after rotations, she decided that was the best place for her. Vo—like many other NGP graduates—stresses that the research problem itself is not always the most important factor in choosing a graduate lab.
Some may look at Christopher Fiorillo’s career path—graduate degree, postdoctoral training positions, a faculty appointment—as conventional, but he sees it as anything but. “It might have been simpler if I’d stayed with what I worked on in graduate school,” Fiorillo says. Instead, his journey has taken him around the world geographically and, in another sense, from one end of the neuroscience spectrum to the other. Some may look at Christopher Fiorillo’s career path—graduate degree, postdoctoral training positions, a faculty appointment—as conventional, but he sees it as anything but. “It might have been simpler if I’d stayed with what I worked on in graduate school,” Fiorillo says. Instead, his journey has taken him around the world geographically and, in another sense, from one end of the neuroscience spectrum to the other.
The vast majority of students who matriculate through the Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP) at OHSU come with a degree in the biological sciences. So when Jeff Dzubay entered the NGP in 1993, he stood alone as the program's only Physics major. A Neuroscience class sparked his interest as an undergrad at the University of Washington. He remembers that with his physics and math background, his classmates "had more trouble with the Nernst equation than I did." Dzubay decided to pursue a graduate degree in research, and "took the path of least resistance" to an electrophysiology lab on the second floor of the Vollum Institute. Pun intended.