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NBS Buzz August 2022

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Words from the Chair and Vice Dean of Research

A head-and-shoulders portrait of Patricia Sue Grigson

Patricia Sue Grigson, PhD

Well, it is always a surprise how quickly summer winds down! July 4th, and then, poof, we are back in classes! I hope you all have enjoyed your summer and that you have been able to take some of that much needed time for yourself!! Further, I hope you enjoy the Summer that remains. A big thank you goes out to Dr. Greg Holmes and his wife for arranging an end-of-Summer department party! The people, food and music were outstanding. Dr. Holmes is a very accomplished bass player and we look forward to “The Blues Practice” next show in the future!

We have made nice progress since our last newsletter in the Spring. Our junior faculty are progressing nicely, Drs. Amy Arnold and Yuval Silberman have been tenured and promoted to Associate Professor, Dr. Yongsoo Kim, who was promoted last year, is on sabbatical, Dr. Jon Ploski has settled in nicely and is engaged in exciting collaborations with many colleagues, some in NBS, Drs. Pat McLaughlin and Ian Zagon are making nice progress in diabetic wound healing (see below), Dr. Barnstable received a Sub-Award for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy, several students submitted NRSAs (way to go students!), Dr. Kirsteen Browning took over as co-Director of the MSTP, (a big and important job!) and many of our faculty have R01s pending! Thank you all for this great work!! And, thank you to Cathy, Gina, Katrina and Sara – we can do none of this without you!

Sue Grigson and three other people seated on grass smile for a photo.We learned in our retreat that we continue to submit a lot of grants and, importantly, that we are having greater success with those submissions! We also learned that, at least over the last 2 years, our department brought in the highest number of grant dollars among the basic science departments. While we likely will get edged out of this spot this year by a much larger department (PHS), we have been remarkably productive. Congratulations and thank you!

Finally, at the retreat, we also had the opportunity to hear from everyone – and in person. This was highly informative and a great pleasure!

Currently, I very much look forward to an outstanding upcoming academic year – and one that allows for more in-person time talking and working together. I look forward to seeing you!

– Sue Grigson

A head-and-shoulders portrait of Andras Hajnal

Andras Hajnal, MD, PhD

Hope you all have had a wonderful summer and had chance for traveling and to recharge. Since the Spring Newsletter, our tenured faculty grew with Drs. Amy Arnold and Yuval Silberman who have been tenured and promoted to Associate Professor. Congratulations Amy and Yuval! Dr. Arnold has also been named as Interim Associate Director of the Comprehensive Health Studies (CHS) program. Also, congratulations to Dr. Jen Nyland on her new DoD-funded human subject project and her MIRA award! I would also like to update you on the Neuroscience Graduate Program. The program currently has 29 graduate students enrolled, of which 11 students are working in NBS laboratories. We recruited 5 new PhD candidates, 3 Master’s candidates, and 1 MD/PhD candidate this year. It is a pleasure to have such a large class and returning fully to in-person teaching. Thank you for the recruitment committee for the great work! I thank Dr. Anirban Paul for joining the Advisory committee for the Neuroscience Graduate Program, in addition to the new student representative Rebecka Serpa. Dr. Jon Ploski has been inducted in the Neuroscience Graduate Program and I am looking forward to him teaching in the Spring ’23 Neuro 521 course and mentoring students in the future.

– Andras Hajnal

NBS Mission and Vision Statement
The mission of the Department of Neural and Behavioral Sciences is to develop new knowledge about the normal nervous system so that we can understand ourselves and the pathological nervous system so that we can develop new ways to treat neurological disease.

Inside this newsletter

In case you missed this from the office of Dr. Leslie Parent:

“As we embark on a new academic year, we celebrate our successes over the past 12 months and look forward to an exciting year ahead. I am thrilled to share with you that the College of Medicine obtained more than $142 million in total research awards last year, securing our position as the top funded college at Penn State for the second year in a row. Our investigators received nearly $78 million in NIH awards, a new all-time record!”

Importantly, and as now usual, the Department of Neural and Behavioral Sciences is in the top of the pack!

Highlights for NBS Faculty Expand answer

Dr. Yuval Silberman, we thank you for supporting the NBS Department Faculty Representation for Advisory Committee.

Dr. Anirban Paul receives a thank you and appreciation from the Graduate Council for his important work serving in a leadership capacity as Chair of the Committee on Fellowships and Awards.

Dr. Jen Nyland was asked to represent the College of Medicine at a round table discussion with the new Interim Vice President of Penn State.

Dr. Kirsteen Browning was recently appointed the Associate Director of Penn State College of Medicine’s MD/PhD Medical Scientist Training Program.

ElkosRx and co-founders Drs. Patricia McLaughlin, Joseph Sassani and Ian Zagon found through their research that a pre-existing generic oral drug known as Naltrexone can be re-purposed for topical use to speed up the wound healing process for diabetic foot ulcers. This team successfully completed a formulation known as GNP formulation, which the FDA has reviewed and approved for use in a clinical trial. Penn state research-based startup works towards helping to treat diabetic wounds.

NBS Seminar Series Save the Dates Expand answer

September 8, Hillary Schiff, SUNY
September 22, Carrie Boychuk, UTHSCA
October 6, TBD
October 20, Daniela Zurnescu, PSU
November 17
December 1 and 15
January 12 and 26
February 9 and 23
March 9 and 23
April 6 and 20
May 4 and 18

Dr. Paul is the new Director and Drs. Silberman and Nyland are on the NBS Seminar Speaker Committee.

Grant Good News (since March) Expand answer


  • Anirban Paul lands a SIPP Grant
  • Jennifer Nyland is awarded a MIRA R35, a Junior Faculty Research Scholar Award (JFRSA) and is Co-PI on Seed grant at University Park with Dr. Zhu
  • Patricia McLaughlin receives an additional $20K from Berk’s County Foundation
  • Amy Arnold receives a subaward from Tulane University
  • Yongsoo Kim receives a subaward from SUNY and Co-I on AHA award
  • Jon Ploski receives 2 subawards from University of Texas
  • Colin Barnstable lands a STTR incoming subaward from Skyran Biologics

News from National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Biosketches will have to be formatted in SciENcv by January 2023.

This is going to be easy for some and not so easy for others. Gina can assist. Details coming soon.

No hyperlinks in NIH applications! Only allowed in the biosketch linking to all publications. This is a big deal! They do not even want to see your email linked.

Graduate Students Corner Expand answer
  • Dr. Nyland’s awesome graduate student, Sara Mills-Huffnagle, received a TL1 fellowship award!
  • Way to go Hannah Bennett! She presented at the International Society for Neurovascular Disease (ISNVD), held at the NYU conference July 21-23, 2022.

Welcome to ALL the new students!
Please send Gina any news or photos you would like to share in the next edition.

Head-and-shoulders portrait of Sidney White Pooja Menon among colorful leavesSidney White, Summer Intern Silberman Lab

Pooja Menon, Summer Intern Arnold Lab

Freezer Pack Recycling Expand answer

Freezer pack recycling! Drop-Off August 24 and 25 outside room C3700 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. The GSA Sustainability Committee will be collecting flexible freezer packs and recycle the materials Check out the poster on the bulletin boards for details on the process.

Thank you, Claire Werner, anyone has any questions, they can email

NBS Spotlight: Grigson Lab

C1725 Grigson Lab
Lab Interests: Addiction and Motivated Behavior
Projects: The use of GLP-1 Agonist to Treat Opioid Use Disorders in Rats and Man Cocaine Addiction and the Need-State Hypothesis

Meet the lab members

Sue Grigson
Patricia “Sue” Grigson, PhD
Professor and Chair of Neural & Behavioral Sciences; Director, Penn State Addiction Center for translation (PS ACT).
Sue likes to work to get what you need, read, write, take photographs, write poetry, be with her family most of all and, if lucky, ride the occasional horse!
Loren Evey
Loren Evey
Professor Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Anatomy
In his free time, Loren likes to garden, play pool, and work on computers.
Nick Acharya
Nikhil “Nick” Acharya
Research Project Manager
Nick helps run the day to day operations of the Grigson lab which involves the design of experiments and their execution with the students. He also has a lot of experience with rodent surgical models. In his free time, Nick likes to cook, travel and collect wine.
Sarah Ballard
Sarah Ballard (she/her)
Coordinator, Penn State Addiction Center for Translation, Research Technologist II, Assistant to Sue Grigson, PhD
She has received Community Health project grants used to support substance use education and opioid overdose training with Narcan distribution.
Megan plans to defend her thesis on cocaine withdrawal and preventing subsequent relapse in December and is currently interviewing for anatomy teaching positions. She is passionate about volunteer work with individuals with special needs and loves to spend time with her family.
Brianna Evans
Brianna Evans
MD/PhD student
Brianna is currently utilizing light sheet microscopy to image her recent experimental male rats. She is the PSSA Diversity Taskforce Chair, and working on various initiatives to increase the number of those from underrepresented backgrounds in science and medicine. She is an expert gamer, knows martial arts, loves Japanese culture, and plays D&D.
Luke Urbanik
Luke Urbanik
Graduate Student
Luke is using an animal model of fentanyl self-administration to test the therapeutic effect of treatment with the GLP-1R agonist, liraglutide, on cue- and drug- induced reinstatement of fentanyl seeking rats. He is getting married this fall and he absolutely loves to teach. He also loves to cook.

Window into the World of the Anatomy Graduate Program

Dr. Patricia J. McLaughlin
Director, Graduate Program in Anatomy

2022 Anatomy Graduates in May: Indira Purushothaman, Chirag Patel, and Jenna Wilcox-Hagarty, and 3 master’s students; Zainab Kareem, Jess Morehouse, and Nigel Ravida.

  • Indira and Chirag have moved to Arizona where Chirag is a 2nd year resident in Neurology at the University of Arizona Medical Center
  • Zainab who worked with Dr. Rashmi Kumari is enrolled at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine in the combined podiatry and PhD program.
  • Jess who worked with Dr. Kirsteen Browning is enrolled in the medical program at Kansas City University College of Osteopathic Medicine.
  • Nigel who worked with Dr. Jim Connor (Neurosurgery) was accepted by our medical school and is part of the medical class of 2026.

2022 Graduates in June and August: Darren Mehay, Anna Ricci, David Rasicci, and Natalie Yoshioka

  • Darren who worked with Dr. Amy Arnold accepted a position as Assistant Professor at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University
  • Anna, David, and Natalie worked in the Departments of Psychiatry, Physiology, and Orthopedics, respectively, for Drs. Mendoza, Yengo, and Kamal, and accepted positions as Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont, University of West Virginia, and Western University (College of Osteopathic Medicine, Pomona CA), respectively.
  • 2022 Graduating in December: Mary Piscura worked with Dan Morgan at Marshall University, as well as a number of faculty in NBS. She accepted a job as Assistant Professor at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Auburn, AL

    Current Anatomy students in NBS

    The NBS department has successfully attracted 3 doctoral and 1 master’s student from the Class of 2021. David Diaz and Laura Odom have joined the labs of Drs. Zagon and McLaughlin. Opeyemi Showemimo has joined the lab of Dr. Silberman, and Allie Ostman has been working in the lab of Dr. Stella since January. Upper-class Anatomy students in NBS include Claire Werner and Jackson Radler who are working with Dr. Holmes, Megan Olsen and Luke Urbanik who are working with Dr. Grigson, and Mason Pearce-Clawson who is in the laboratory of Dr. McLaughlin. Claire and Megan are on target to defend within the next 6-12 months. Overall, 9 of the current 17 anatomy students on campus are in NBS laboratories!

    The incoming class has 5 doctoral students and 2 master of science students. We were able to successfully negotiate for a 5th position, and hope to expand the program to 6 doctoral students next year in order to offset the increas Led sortuden ent commitments to the teaching mission (e.g., medical, physician assistant, resident, and graduate curricula). Many of you interviewed one or more of the 9 doctoral applicants interviewed by zoom; the program made 5 offers and had 100% acceptance.

    Thank you to the faculty who interviewed and recommended the best candidates for the class of 2022! Four of the five doctoral students have advanced degrees; one student received a FEGR recruitment award. Seven master’s applicants were interviewed and two students are currently on board to enroll in August; both students are interested in attending medical school. The incoming class has a URM representation of 28%. The overall program has 24 students.

    PhD candidates are Louise Blaha (BS Neuroscience, George Mason University, VA), Brandon Buss (BS Biology, The Ohio State University; MS Anatomy, Case Western University), Gabe Davis (BS Exercise Science, Lewis-Clark State College, Idaho; MS Anatomy, University of Dundee, UK); Anthony Rahawi (BS Neurobiology and Anatomy, University California at Davis; MS Anatomy, Case Western Reserve University); Jordan Tanner (BA Biology, Austin College, TX; MS Anatomy, Universit y Texas Health Science Center). Master of Science candidates are Damilare Oyetibo (BS Biology, Saint Francis College, NY) and Saachi Nayak (BS Neuroscience, Univ California Santa Cruz).

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