Research Program Mentors

We strongly believe that the quality of mentorship is likely the most important factor in the long-term success of trainees. Accordingly, we carefully select dedicated, experienced, and successful research mentors, and we have developed a robust, multilayered mentorship structure. Moreover, the Research Training in Neuroendocrinology Program comprises highly collaborative and internationally recognized research mentors, including 12 PhDs, seven MDs, and four MD/PhDs. Thus, the program achieves a critical mass of interactive physicians and scientists that can provide comprehensive and interdisciplinary research training; and all trainees enjoy significant interactions with both clinical and basic researchers. This rich training milieu produces well-rounded scientists able to function both independently and collaboratively, as appropriate.

Neuroendocrinology is a diverse and expanding field that represents a convergence of many disciplines including (among others) endocrinology, neuroscience, metabolism, physiology, behavioral biology, developmental biology, molecular/cellular biology, computational biology, genetics/genomics, and clinical medicine. Conceptual and practical integration of these clinical and basic sciences will be critical to advances in neuroendocrinology. We therefore include mentors with a wide variety of interests, from nine different departments:

  • Medicine
    • Division of Endocrinology: E. Barrett, Liu, Marshall, McCartney, Siragy
    • Division of Cardiovascular Medicine: Annex
    • Division of Nephrology: Okusa
  • Anesthesia: Todorovic
  • Biology: Deppmann
  • Neurology: Johnston, Kapur
  • Pediatrics (Endocrinology and Metabolism): Deboer
  • Pharmacology: P. Barrett, Bayliss, Bland, Guyenet, Harris, Leitinger
  • Public Health Sciences: Farber, Rich
  • Psychiatry & Neurobehavioral Sciences: Breton, Kovatchev
  • Psychology: Connelly

The Program’s research portfolio represents a coherent spectrum of pursuits relevant to neuroendocrinology. These interests can be conceptually sub-categorized into general themes as follows: developmental neuroscience (Deppmann); regulation of hypothalamic/pituitary function (DeBoer, Marshall, McCartney); neuroendocrinology of vascular/blood pressure regulation (Annex, Bayliss, E. Barrett, P. Barrett, Guyenet, Liu, Okusa, Siragy); molecular mechanisms relevant to neuroendocrinology (Annex, Bayliss, E. Barrett, P. Barrett, Bland, Connelly, Deppmann, Harris, Kapur, Leitinger, Okusa, Siragy, Todorovic); genetics, genomics, and epigenetics (Connelly, Farber, Rich); computational systems biology, network modeling (Breton, Deppmann, Farber, Kovatchev, Rich); and endocrine/metabolic impact on neural systems (Bayliss, Guyenet, Johnston, Kapur, McCartney, Todorovic).

We strongly believe that an intensive hands-on research experience in the context of a very close trainee-mentor relationship is the most important component of our Program. As such, trainees will spearhead all proposed research projects, performing most of the hands-on research activities, with the fellow’s primary faculty mentor providing close oversight, continual teaching, and constructive feedback. The mentor also assists the trainee with all oral and written presentations and ensures that applications for extramural support—a critical part of the scientific process—are submitted. In addition, the Program has implemented a multilayered mentorship structure; and all trainees are encouraged to interact with other preceptors through seminars, trainee research talks, courses, and informal gatherings.

Neuroendocrinology Research Program Faculty

The specific research interests of Program faculty are summarized here. More detail is provided on the research faculty profiles page.

  • Brian Annex, MD (Prof. of Medicine; Chief, Div. of Cardiovascular Medicine): Impact of diabetes on angiogenesis and peripheral arterial disease; computational modeling of angiogenesis and growth factor pathways.
  • Eugene J. Barrett, MD, PhD (Prof. of Medicine and Pediatrics; Director, UVA Diabetes Center): Insulin regulation of blood flow/vascular function in normal individuals and in those with obesity/insulin resistance.
  • Paula Barrett, PhD (Prof. of Pharmacology): Low-voltage activated T-type Ca2+ channel activity (regulation by kinases and heterotrimeric G-proteins; roles in control of aldosterone and insulin secretion).
  • Doug Bayliss, PhD (Prof. and Chair, Dept. of Pharmacology): Cellular and molecular mechanisms of neuron excitability.
  • Michelle Bland, PhD (Asst. Prof. of Pharmacology): Molecular mechanisms linking inflammation and insulin signaling to cell growth and metabolism.
  • Marc Breton, PhD (Assoc. Prof. of Psychiatry & Neurobehavioral Sciences): Modeling/simulation of blood glucose dynamics, the network of glucose-regulatory hormones, and heart-glucose relationships.
  • Jessica Connelly, PhD (Asst. Prof. of Psychology): Epigenetic regulation of the oxytocin receptor and its contribution to social behavior.
  • Mark DeBoer, MD (Assoc. Prof. of Pediatrics): Race-appropriate definitions of metabolic syndrome; impact of early lifestyle factors and later disease risk (e.g. obesity); influence of chronic inflammatory conditions on pubertal development; influence of chronic disease on cachexia; closed-loop insulin delivery.
  • Chris Deppmann, PhD (Asst. Prof. of Biology): Developmental neuroscience, especially how competition defines proper cell number and synaptic connectivity.
  • Charles Farber, PhD (Asst. Prof. of Public Health Sciences): Systems genetics relevant to metabolic diseases, obesity, and skeletal phenotypes.
  • Patrice G. Guyenet, PhD (Prof. of Pharmacology): Lower brainstem neural networks that regulate sympathetic tone to cardiovascular organs, maintain arterial blood pressure, and regulate breathing.
  • Thurl Harris, PhD (Asst. Prof. of Pharmacology): Insulin signaling pathways in the setting of diabetes and obesity, focusing on the mTOR signaling pathway and phosphatidic acid phosphatase lipin 1.
  • Karen Johnston, MD (Prof. and Chair, Dept. of Neurology): Impact of therapeutic glucose regulation in acute ischemic stroke patients with hyperglycemia.
  • Jaideep Kapur, MD, PhD (Prof. of Neurology): Plasticity of GABAergic synaptic transmission; pathophysiology of status epilepticus; hormonal/neurosteroid regulation of seizures.
  • Boris Kovatchev, PhD (Prof. of Psychiatry & Neurobehavioral Sciences; Director, UVA Center for Diabetes Technology): Computational systems biology, including modeling/simulation of blood glucose dynamics (e.g., hypoglycemia risk prediction) and closed-loop delivery of insulin (“artificial pancreas”).
  • Norbert Leitinger, PhD (Assoc. Prof. of Pharmacology): Mechanisms of chronic inflammation in adipose tissue (e.g., oxidative modification of lipids and macrophage function; macrophage/adipocyte crosstalk).
  • Zhenqi Liu, MD Insulin action in skeletal/heart muscle, including interactions with angiotensin receptor subtypes and glucagon-like peptide 1.
  • John Marshall, MD, PhD (Prof. of Medicine; Director, Center for Research in Reproduction): Altered sex steroid feedback on the hypothalamic GnRH pulse generator in hyperandrogenemia.
  • Christopher R. McCartney, MD (Assoc. Prof. of Medicine): Role of progesterone and androgens in directing wake vs. sleep-associated GnRH/LH pulse frequency in peripubertal girls and women; interactions between obesity/metabolism and reproductive neuroendocrine function.
  • Mark D. Okusa, MD (Prof. of Medicine; Chief, Division of Nephrology; Director, Center for Immunity, Inflammation and Regenerative Medicine): Immune mechanisms contributing to acute kidney injury.
  • Stephen Rich, PhD (Prof. of Public Health Sciences; Director, Center for Public Health Genomics): Identification of type 1 diabetes susceptibility genes; characterization of genes responsible for the micro- and macrovascular complications of diabetes.
  • Helmy Siragy, MD (Prof. of Medicine): Biology and pathophysiology of angiotensin receptor subtypes in renal and cardiac diseases.
  • Slobodan Todorovic, MD, PhD (Prof. of Anesthesiology): Pharmacology and function of T-type (low-voltage-activated) calcium channels in sensory transmission, and their role in diabetic neuropathy.