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WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute continues to expand

Nationally recognized scientists join Institute

WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute continues to expand

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU Medicine announced today (Jan. 9) that Randy Nelson, Ph.D., and A. Courtney DeVries, Ph.D., have been appointed to major leadership roles in the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI).  

Randy Nelson, Ph.D.
(Photo courtesy of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center)

Dr. Nelson will hold the Hazel Ruby McQuain Chair for Neurological Research in the WVU School of Medicine and will be director of basic science research in the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute as well as across the University. He will also lead the neuroscience Ph.D. program as one of the seven biomedical science Ph.D. programs at the Health Sciences Center, will spearhead additional new education initiatives, and will serve as a professor in the WVU Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry. His first day will be Jan. 31

Nelson comes to WVU from the Ohio State University (OSU) Wexner Medical Center, where he was professor and chair of the Department of Neuroscience. He held the Dr. John D. and E. Olive Brumbaugh Chair in Brain Research and Teaching and had a joint appointment as professor of psychology. Nelson was basic science director of the Neuroscience Research Institute, which oversaw the research efforts of more than 280 neuroscientists at Ohio State. He also directed the Chronic Brain Injuries Discovery Theme as the faculty lead, as well as co-directed the Neuroscience Graduate program prior to becoming the chair.

“Dr. Nelson is a world-renowned neuroscientist with numerous awards and distinctions for his research and teaching. Randy’s research is advancing our understanding of the role of the circadian rhythms and sleep in health and disease,” Ali Rezai, M.D., executive chair of the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute and vice president of neurosciences for WVU Medicine, said. “We are thrilled to have Randy joining us at WVU and are looking forward to his leadership to take our neuroscience research and educational programs to new heights.”

Nelson served on the faculty at the Johns Hopkins University from 1986-2001, when he moved to Ohio State. He has published more than 400 peer-reviewed articles and 11 books, including “Introduction to Behavioral Endocrinology,” an internationally recognized textbook. Nelson was instrumental in developing the undergraduate program in neuroscience at Johns Hopkins, as well as an undergraduate major and minor in neuroscience at Ohio State. He has received numerous national honors and awards, including, most recently, the Award for Education in Neuroscience by the Society for Neuroscience (2017).

A. Courtney DeVries, Ph.D.
(Photo courtesy of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center)

Dr. DeVries will serve as a professor in the Section of Hematology/Oncology in the WVU School of Medicine Department of Medicine with a joint appointment as a member of the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. In addition, she will hold the John T. and June R. Chambers Chair of Oncology Research in the WVU Cancer Institute. Drawing on a strong history of student and faculty training, she will serve as assistant vice president for faculty mentoring as part of the Office of Research and Graduate Education team, focusing on career development of scientists across the Health Sciences Center. Her first day will also be Jan. 31.

“Dr. DeVries is an equally talented international leader as a researcher, linking environmental factors to human health and a range of specific disease processes. Her work has major implications for the treatment of patients with a wide range of illnesses, including cancer, and is a major part of our approach to health, addiction, and chronic disease prevention,” Clay B. Marsh, M.D., WVU Health Sciences vice president and executive dean, said. “Courtney is also a great teacher and mentor and will fulfill a role in the college to improve mentorship opportunities for our students.”

DeVries also comes to WVU from Ohio State, where she was Professor of Neuroscience. She held joint appointments in the Department of Psychology and College of Nursing. Her lab has been at the forefront of characterizing the effects of social isolation on health outcomes ranging from stroke to cancer. This work has identified physiological mechanisms underpinning the role of social isolation in animal models that may be targeted to improve outcomes in people recovering from health challenges. She comes to WVU with three current National Institutes of Health R01 grants and several foundation grants. Her recent work focuses on the role of chemotherapy drugs on memory, mood, and sleep positioning her to positively impact the science of both the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience and Cancer Institutes.

“It is an ideal circumstance when we have the opportunity to recruit to our WVU faculty individuals that not only elevate the quality of our science but are also dedicated to building teams, creating new opportunities for our students, and partnering across disciplines to solve critical problems,” Laura F. Gibson, Ph.D., Health Sciences senior associate vice president of research and graduate education, said. “Drs. Nelson and DeVries will be wonderful additions to the exciting team being built as part of the RNI under the leadership of Dr. Rezai.” 
“Research and medicine are, at their roots, human endeavors, and we thrive at WVU when we recognize and reward the strengths each of our faculty, staff, and students contribute. In this respect, we are committed to attracting world-class researchers, teachers, mentors and academicians, like Dr. Nelson and Dr. DeVries to WVU,” Dr. Marsh said. “As senior academic leaders, they add to our world-class team that is creating the next generation of academic and innovation programming to build brain health throughout West Virginia and the world.”