About the Neuroscience Program

The Graduate Program in Neuroscience includes faculty members from several departments representing neuroscience, cell biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, psychology, psychiatry, genetics, neurology and animal sciences. The recently formed Brain Health Institute coordinates Neuroscience activities and seminars thoughout the university.  Areas of specialization include production and analysis of mutant mouse activity; regulation of neural and glial gene expression; developmental neurobiology; autism; gliogenesis; neurogenesis; spinal cord injury; stem cell biology; synaptic plasticity; and mechanisms and and regulatory controls of learning and memory.

The program selects students on the basis of their academic records, references and research experience.   A student must have an undergraduate cumulative grade-point average of at least B to be considered for admission.  Prerequisite courses normally include biology, general and organic chemistry, calculus and physics.  Financial aid is provided to highly qualified students, and typically includes a stipend to cover living expenses and remission of tuition fees.  The classes of direct support include: fellowships, graduate assistantships provided through research grants held by individual professors, NIH training grant, and teaching assistantships associated with individual teaching units of the program.


SFN Graduate Fair  January 11-13, 2021





NOVEMBER 5 – 7, 2020 


Slides from SFN Graduate Fair



These student are first authors on publications


Alex Yonk

Traces of Learning in Thalamocortical Circuits. Yonk AJ, Margolis DJ.

Neuron. 2019 Jul 17;103(2):175-176. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2019.06.020. PMID:  31319043


Courtney McDermott

Measurement of subcategories of repetitive behaviors in autistic adolescents and adults.  McDermott CR, Farmer C, gotham KO, Bal VH.  Autism in Adulthood 2020 March 2; 2(1):1-13


Apoorva Halikere

Addiction associated N40D mu-opioid receptor variant modulates synaptic function in human neurons. Halikere A, Popova D, Scarnati MS, Hamod A, Swerdel MR, Moore JC, Tischfield JA, Hart RP, Pang ZP.

Mol Psychiatry. 2019 Sep 3. doi: 10.1038/s41380-019-0507-0. [Epub ahead of print] PMID:  31481756


Matthew Scarnati

Using human stem cells as a model system to understand the neural mechanisms of alcohol use disorders: Current status and outlook. Scarnati MS, Halikere A, Pang ZP. Alcohol. 2019 Feb;74:83-93. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2018.03.008. Epub 2018 Mar 31. Review. PMID:  30087005


Active presynaptic ribosomes in the mammalian brain, and altered transmitter release after protein synthesis inhibition. Scarnati MS, Kataria R, Biswas M, Paradiso KG. Elife. 2018 Oct 30;7. pii: e36697. doi: 10.7554/eLife.36697. PMID: 30375975


Anton Omelchenko

Dynamin and reverse-mode sodium calcium exchanger blockade confers neuroprotection from diffuse axonal injury. Omelchenko A, Shrirao AB, Bhattiprolu AK, Zahn JD, Schloss RS, Dickson S, Meaney DF, Boustany NN, Yarmush ML, Firestein BL. Cell Death Dis. 2019 Sep 27;10(10):727. doi: 10.1038/s41419-019-1908-3. PMID: 31562294  PMID: 31562294


Lipids and phosphates at odds in synaptic depression. Omelchenko A, Firestein BL.

J Biol Chem. 2018 Feb 2;293(5):1568-1569. doi: 10.1074/jbc.H117.813808. Epub 2018 Feb 2. PMID: 29414768


Tatiana Popovitchenko

Transcriptional and Post-Transcriptional Mechanisms of the Development of Neocortical Lamination. Popovitchenko T, Rasin MR. Front Neuroanat. 2017 Nov 9;11:102. doi: 10.3389/fnana.2017.00102. eCollection 2017. Review. PMID: 29170632


The RNA binding protein HuR determines the differential translation of autism-associated FoxP subfamily members in the developing neocortex. Popovitchenko T, Thompson K, Viljetic B, Jiao X, Kontonyiannis DL, Kiledjian M, Hart RP, Rasin MR. Sci Rep. 2016 Jul 7;6:28998. doi: 10.1038/srep28998. PMID: 27383233


Kristie Conde

17β-estradiol increases arcuate KNDy neuronal sensitivity to ghrelin inhibition of the M-current in female mice. Conde K, Roepke T. Neuroendocrinology. 2019 Sep 5. doi: 10.1159/000503146. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 31484184


Caroline Pantazis

The number of lateral hypothalamus orexin/hypocretin neurons contributes to individual differences in cocaine demand.  Pantazis CB, James MH, Bentzley BS, Aston-Jones G. Addict Biol. 2019 Jul 11:e12795. doi: 10.1111/adb.12795. [Epub ahead of print] PMID:  31297913


Lateral septum inhibition reduces motivation for cocaine: Reversal by diazepam.

Pantazis CB, Aston-Jones G. Addict Biol. 2019 Mar 21. doi: 10.1111/adb.12742. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 30896079


Avery Zucco

Neural progenitors derived from Tuberous Sclerosis Complex patients exhibit attenuated PI3K/AKT signaling and delayed neuronal differentiation. Zucco AJ, Pozzo VD, Afinogenova A, Hart RP, Devinsky O, D'Arcangelo G. Mol Cell Neurosci. 2018 Oct;92:149-163. doi: 10.1016/j.mcn.2018.08.004. Epub 2018 Aug 23. PMID: 30144504


Matthew Kraushar

The frontier of RNA metamorphosis and ribosome signature in neocortical development.

Kraushar ML, Popovitchenko T, Volk NL, Rasin MR. Int J Dev Neurosci. 2016 Dec;55:131-139. doi: 10.1016/j.ijdevneu.2016.02.003. Epub 2016 May 27. Review. PMID: 27241046


Thalamic WNT3 Secretion Spatiotemporally Regulates the Neocortical Ribosome Signature and mRNA Translation to Specify Neocortical Cell Subtypes. Kraushar ML, Viljetic B, Wijeratne HR, Thompson K, Jiao X, Pike JW, Medvedeva V, Groszer M, Kiledjian M, Hart RP, Rasin MR. J Neurosci. 2015 Aug 5;35(31):10911-26. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0601-15.2015. PMID: 26245956


Heather McGowan

hsa-let-7c miRNA Regulates Synaptic and Neuronal Function in Human Neurons.

McGowan H, Mirabella VR, Hamod A, Karakhanyan A, Mlynaryk N, Moore JC, Tischfield JA, Hart RP, Pang ZP. Front Synaptic Neurosci. 2018 Jul 17;10:19. doi: 10.3389/fnsyn.2018.00019. eCollection 2018. PMID: 30065644


Bridging the Gap between DNA Methylation, DNA Methylation Readers, and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

McGowan H. J Neurosci. 2016 Jun 29;36(26):6851-3. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1130-16.2016. Review. No abstract available. PMID: 27358443


Regulatory functions and pathological relevance of the MECP2 3'UTR in the central nervous system.

McGowan H, Pang ZP. Cell Regen (Lond). 2015 Oct 28;4:9. doi: 10.1186/s13619-015-0023-x. eCollection 2015. PMID: 26516454




Mark Presker received an NIH Grant "Stimulus Control of Attention in Cocaine Addiction: Role of Locus Coeruleus."  2019


Nofar Engelhard received a NJ Commission on Spinal Cord Research Grant "Characterizing a Novel Spinal Cord Population: Role in Both Locomotive Control and Recovery from Spinal Cord Injury." 2019-2021


Anton Omelchenko received an NJCBIR Grant "Exosome-based Delivery of RNAi Therapeutics to Target Traumatic Brain Injury." 2019-2022


Christen Crosta received an NIH-Rutgers Biotechnology Training Grant 2019


Courtney McDermott received an NIH NJ ACTS TL1 Predoctoral Fellowship 2019-2022


Alex Yonk received an NIH NJ ACTS TL1 Predoctoral Fellowship 2019-2022


Nydia Chang was accepted for participation in the AAA CASE Workshop in 2020


Matt Kraushar, an MD/PhD candidate has been awarded two grants as a principal investigator. Dr. Kraushar's studies will be conducted at Charité - Universitätsmedizin, Berlin, Germany, as part of his European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) Postdoctoral Fellowship. 2014-2018 

     Matt was awarded his PhD in May 2016.


Victoria DiBona received a NJCBIR Grant “Modulating Neuroinflammation for Treatment of TBI.” 2014-2017

     Vicky was awarded her PhD in October 2017.


Heather McGowan, MD/PhD candidate received an NINDS (NIH) Grant “Synaptic Function of Chromosome 21-encoded microRNAs.” 2014-2018 

     Heather was awarded her PhD in October 2017.


Joshua Stamos received an NIH Grant “Accumbens Mechanisms of Cue Reactivity and Affective State in a Rat Model of Binge Eating.” 2014-2017  Josh was also selected for the 4th Annual Rutgers-Jilin Graduate Student Research Forum which took place in China June 2017. 

     Josh was awarded his PhD in January 2019.


Caroline Pantazis received an NIH F31 Grant "Role of Lateral Hypothalamus Orexin Circuits in Cocaine Demand."  2016-2019 

     Caroline was awarded her PhD in May 2019.


Anna Giarratana, MD/PhD candidate received a NJ Commission on Brain Injury Research Grant "Effect of Genetic Polymorphisms on Recovery and Treatment after Traumatic Brain Injury." 2016-2017


Anna Giarratana, MD/PhD candidate, also received a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Zurich.  2019

      Anna was awarded her PhD in May 2019.


Mihir Patel received an NJCBIR Grant “Recovery of the Dendritic Network after Traumatic Brain Injury.”


      Mihir was awarded his PhD in October 2018.


Valentina Dal Pozzo received an NJCBIR Grant “Role of Reelin in Traumatic Brain Injury.” 2015-2018

       Valentina was awarded her PhD in October 2019


Apoorva Halikere received an NRSA Grant “Neuronal Basis of OPRM1 A118G Polymorphism in Alcohol Use Disorders.” 2015-2018

      Apoorva was awarded her PhD in May 2018.


Kirsten Svane received an NIH-Rutgers Biotechnology Training Grant “Effects of Antipsychotics and NMDA Receptor Agonists on Expression and Function of NOS1AP, a Protein Encoded by a Schizophrenia Susceptibility Gene.” 2015-2017



NeuroConnections is a student organization that provides opportunities for students to present as well as social activities.  To learn more, click here.




                               NeuroConnections Annual BBQ





Recent graduate updates!

Awarded PhD in 2017:  Stephanie Oh, Heather McGowan, Victoria DiBona, Madel Durens, Robert Connacher

Awarded PhD in 2018:  Matthew Scarnati, Madeline Williams, Qili Yu, Apoorva Halikere, Zhichao Song, Mihir Patel, Avery Zucco, Smrithi Prem

Awarded PhD in 2019:  Joshua Stamos, Anna Giarratana, Caroline Pantazis, Ning Chiang, Victoria Dal Pozzo


Dr. Julie Maguire, who graduated from Dr. Maureen Barr's laboratory in 2015, has recently received an NIH post-doctoral fellowship.  Dr. Maguire is currently working with Dr. Anna DeGregorio at the NYU School of Medicine.   Congratulations Julie!!


To apply now: https://grad.admissions.rutgers.edu/GraduateProgram/Detail.aspx?code=16710&degree=PHD

To view the Neuroscience Learning Goals, click here

To view the By-Laws of the Graduate Program in Neuroscience, click here

To return to the School of Graduate Studies list of graduate programs, click here

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