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NBS Buzz December 2021

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Words from the Chair and Vice chair

A head-and-shoulders portrait of Patricia Sue Grigson

Patricia Sue Grigson, PhD

Greetings! I will begin by welcoming Jonathan Ploski, our newest faculty member and Frank Back, his postdoctoral scholar, to NBS!! They arrived here from the University of Texas Dallas September 1, 2021, and we are so pleased to have them on board! Indeed, we are working to continue to grow our department. Jen Nyland transitioned into a tenure track appointment (Congrats Jen!) and our search is underway for a new Assistant Professor and we have several exceedingly strong candidates (Thank you to the search committee Yongsoo, Anirban, Andras, and Kirsteen). Indeed, I thank all of you for your contribution to this ongoing effort. Recruitment is time-consuming, it benefits from all of our input, and it is critical to the future of our department! So thank you!

Whom ever does join this department, and hopefully this will include a few new faculty, will quickly learn that we are a highly collaborative, hard-working, and a very productive bunch. Thank you all for making that so! I continue to be impressed by the work that everyone is doing, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our department staff has been remarkable! I know all would agree. Thank you very much for your hard work and commitment! Our laboratory staff and our students are amazing! We cannot do much without all of you. Thank you! Regarding faculty, all continued to teach, many in person. All continued to run their laboratories to capacity – leading to continued student training, publications, and to increased grant dollars. Last I looked, we had exceeded last year’s numbers by quite a large margin and we are leading the charge amongst the Basic Science Departments. This is because of the tremendous work that each of you is doing. Thank you so very much for that effort.

All that said, my first Chair stated: “Fun is the grease for work”. Assuming there is some truth to that, I am hopeful that you will take time for yourself over this holiday season. Spring semester shall be here soon enough and it is important that you take care of yourselves!! You may remember the saying, perhaps from a flight some time ago, “put on your own mask first”. Again, I thank each and every one of you and I wish you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season.

Now for a few comments from Andras Hajnal, Vice Chair of Research: I am very thankful for the help I have received from Cathy Hirschbock and colleagues serving on the Space and Equipment committees aiming at making improvements to our space and shared equipment allocations. There is still plenty of work left to solve issues with access and address unmet needs. I would appreciate any feedback and ideas from any department member.

Special thanks to everyone for sticking together during the pandemic. As for my role as the Department Safety Officer, I want to thank the laboratory safety officers and everybody in our department for their compliance with COM regulatory policies and excellent job throughout the past 20 months of the COVID era. A heartfelt wish for everyone to have a wonderful holiday break that is much needed and earned!

Department Good News

  • On December 7, 2021, Dr. Grigson will be interviewed regarding COVID-19 on The Voice of America! What a Honor!
  • New Faculty Search Committee is going strong!
  • Congratulations to Dr. Jennifer Nyland, Assistant Professor for her promotion to tenure track!
  • Kyra Newmaster Thesis Defense December 13th
    Best to you and your future success!
    Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:
    Password: 432270
  • Ask Yongsoo Kim about his latest publication!
  • Dr. Ian Simpson plans to RETIRE June 30, 2022
    Best wishes on his next adventures!
  • Job Postings
    Post Doc: Browning Lab
    Post Doc: Paul Lab
    Research Tech I: Paul Lab
    Research Tech I: Kim Lab
    Post Doc: Ploski (pending)

Leah Acajabon, NBS Financial Analysis
My name is Leah but I prefer to go by L. I have been with the Penn State College of Medicine since August 2019 and have worked in two Departments during my work career here. I have a passion for accounting and am always looking forward to the next challenge coming my way. When not working I indulge in my hobbies which include running, singing, and painting. A tidbit about me that most people don’t know: I speak 3 languages.

Franklin Back, PhD in Pharmacology
Molecular basis of memory, Behavioral analysis, Viral insertion of transgenes, CRISPR/Cas system, gene therapy.

I enjoy outdoor activities, rock’n roll pubs and martial arts. We have a 5-year old daughter and we’re all from Brazil.

Things to Remember

We need to keep C3700 clean and free of personal items. This room is for used for multiple purposes and we need to remember to clean up after each use!

NBS Seminar Series

We have had 17 NBS Seminars so far in 2021 and 2 are scheduled in January. Thanks to Yuval Silberman, for taking over as the Director, and a BIG thanks to Katrina Blaydon for coordinating and navigating the complexities, especially with the COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines.

Save the dates of the upcoming NBS Seminars:

  • Jan. 6, Ukpong Eyo, University of Virginia
  • Jan. 20, Megan Fox, Assistant Professor PSU, Department of Anesthesiology
  • Dec. 6, Penn State Addiction Center for Translation (PS ACT) Addiction Symposium. Register here.
  • Please share widely with your internal and external contacts. All are welcome!


    Techs, Students, Post docs need to have an eRA Commons ID. Easy process just contact Marybeth Brown in ORA

    New Grants 2021

    Anirban Paul: R01

    Amy Arnold: R01

    Jennifer Nyland: DoD

    Sue Grigson: UG3 Supplement

    Yuval Silberman: R01

    Yongsoo Kim: R01 Supplement, Allen Institute Subaward

    Patricia McLaughlin: Berks County, ElkinRx Award

    Graduate Students Corner

    Please remember to share your accolades!

    Mariam Melkumyan’s project entitled, “The Effect of Cannabinoids on Ethanol Induced Withdrawal Anxiety” receives the PA Options for Wellness Graduate Student Fellowship for the 21/22 academic year. WAY TO GO!

    Brianna Evans is selected as a recipient of a 2021 Trainee Professional Development Award (TPDA) on behalf of Society for Neuroscience.

    Luke Urbanki, Anatomy PhD Candidate, is the recipient of the 2021 Graduate Alumni Award and nominated for the 2022 Woodward Student Educator Award. Luke received the Exceptional Teacher Recognition in August and November 2021. He will participate in the poster presentations at SfN and the PSU Research Forum 2021. Luke revieved a Certificate for Woodward Center’s Graduate Students as Educators (GSAE). Tid bits you might not know: Luke really enjoys cooking, has 2 kittens named Tina and Toast, and is engaed to Lauren and the wedding date is October 15, 2022!

    2021 Graduate Student List
    Abdelmageed, Mofida
    Benn, Alana
    Bennett, Hannah
    Carson, Kaitlin Evans, Brianna
    Francis, Geoffrey
    Goudsward, Hannah
    Keller, Bailey
    Kronman, Fae
    Liwang, Josephine
    Mehay, Darren Melkumyan, Mariam
    Mills Huffnagle, Sara Morehouse, Jessica
    Newmaster, Kyra
    Olsen, Megan
    Pearce-Clawson, Mason Radler, Jackson
    Urbanik, Luke
    Vernail, Victoria
    Werner, Claire

    NBS Spotlight: Arnold Lab

    Amy Arnold
    Amy C. Arnold, PhD
    Assistant Professor
    “Type A All Day”
    Accolades: Mother to Ava (3rd grade); NIH R01; JFRSA ; APS Shih-Chun Wang Award; 65 publications
    Sarah Bingaman
    Sarah S. Bingaman, MS
    Research Technologist III
    “Pretends to Love Running”
    Accolades: 4 publications
    Amanda Miller
    Amanda J. Miller, PhD
    Postdoctoral Scholar
    “Meme Obsessed Boy Mom”
    Accolades: AHA Postdoctoral Fellowship; 9 publications from lab (34 total); 14 abstracts and 3 oral presentations at national meetings; APS Michael J. Brody Award
    Darren Mehay
    Darren Mehay, BA
    4th Year Anatomy PhD Student
    “Lean Mean Volleyball Machine”
    Accolades 3 publications; 2 abstracts and oral presentations at national meetings; APS Van Harreveld Award
    Victoria Vernail
    Victoria Vernail, BS
    2nd Year Neuroscience PhD Student
    “Thrives on True Crime”
    Accolades: oral presentation at
    Penn State ACRC retreat

    Arnold lab focus

    • Better understand molecular mechanisms linking high blood pressure and obesity
    • Develop more targeted therapies with positive cardiovascular and metabolic effects for obesity and hypertension
    • Focus on the hormone angiotensin-(1-7) and neural mechanisms involved in its protective cardiometabolic effects
    • Translational: molecular-preclinical-clinical

    NBS Buzz

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