At WVU Medicine’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, basic neuroscience research is helping to develop new technologies that will aid scientists in understanding the intricacies of the brain and advance new treatments for some of the most debilitating neurological illnesses.
In an effort to continue to improve brain health and wellness and understanding of neurological disorders, West Virginia University is bringing together more than 50 of its laboratories and dozens of educators to form a new Department of Neuroscience within the School of Medicine and as a part of the recently established Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute.
Randy J. Nelson, Ph.D., the Hazel Ruby McQuain Chair for Neurological Research, will serve as the inaugural chair of the new department. He will also direct basic science research in the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute and its related programs.
“Dr. Nelson is a world-renowned neuroscientist for his research and teaching,” Ali Rezai, M.D., John D. Rockefeller IV Chair in Neuroscience, executive chair, vice president and associate dean of the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, said. “This new Department under his leadership will significantly advance the growth and integration of basic and translational neuroscience research into all the clinical and research initiatives of the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute as well as across the University.”
“This department will be the intellectual hub for brain research and education at WVU with a goal of conducting foundational studies of neuroscience, translating these foundational studies to improve brain health in people, and developing novel treatments and cures for brain disorders,” said Nelson. “By networking these deep strengths already present at WVU with the new approaches being developed by the team at the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, as well as additional partnering with our clinical colleagues in Neurology, Neurosurgery and Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry, we will be poised to make strong advances in neuroscience.”
Nelson will also lead the neuroscience doctoral program as one of the seven biomedical science graduate-level programs at WVU Health Sciences, will spearhead additional new education initiatives, and will serve as professor in the WVU Department of Neuroscience.
Nelson comes to WVU from the Ohio State University (OSU) Wexner Medical Center, where he was professor and chair of the Department of Neuroscience. 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.
Nelson served on the faculty at the Johns Hopkins University from 1986-2001. He has received numerous national honors and awards, including, most recently, the Award for Education in Neuroscience by the Society for Neuroscience (2017).
His current research focuses on advancing our understanding of the role of circadian rhythms and sleep in health and disease. His laboratory studies the effects from the interruption of the natural light-dark cycle on several parameters including immune function, neuroinflammation, metabolism, sleep and mood.
“The Department of Neuroscience will connect WVU’s basic and translational neuroscience research and education to provide integrated, strengthened and focused programs,” said Clay Marsh, M.D., WVU Health Sciences vice president and executive dean. “Our neuroscience students will have the opportunity to work with the best and brightest researchers and clinicians on innovative and pioneering exploration of the brain and brain behavior.”
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