Professor, Pharmacology and Toxicology and Neuroscience Graduate Program/Director, Microscopy and Analytical Imaging Resource Core Lab
The development and application of tools and workflows for multi-scale multi-modal correlated volume microscopies and three-dimensional volume reconstruction to unravel synaptic geometry
EDUCATION May 1994
B.S., The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Natural Sciences). Thesis Advisor: Harriette E. Smith-Somerville, Ph.D. (deceased)
Ph.D., University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska
(Medical Sciences: Anatomy, Cell Biology, and Neuroscience).
Dissertation Advisor: Shelton Evans Hendricks II, Ph.D. (deceased)
May 1997-July 1999
Post-Doctoral Training, Creighton University School of Medicine,
Omaha, Nebraska. (Research Training Area: Cellular Neuroscience).
Post-doctoral Advisor: Bernd Fritzsch, Ph.D.
At the University of Kansas (KU), my original appointment as Senior Scientist and Director of the
Microscopy and Analytical Imaging Resources Core Laboratory (MAI) was effective May 27, 2015. As of
August 18, 2016, my KU appointment is equally (50/50) divided between that of Director of MAI and
Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology of the School of Pharmacy. As MAI
Director, I am responsible for MAI operations, services, and personnel. As Professor, I am
responsible for research, teaching, and service.
As MAI Director, my goal is to meet the needs of current and future users and to develop the MAI
into a regional and national center that assists in accelerating the development and dissemination
of cutting edge imaging technologies for basic, translational, and clinical research (see MAI
bio-resource technology in discussion of research goal).
I bring to the MAI experience in successfully administering research projects (i.e., hiring and
managing staff, managing regulatory issues [animal and human use and experimentation; laboratory
and chemical safety], developing balanced and fiscally responsible budgets), collaborating with
other researchers, developing research grant proposals, and in writing and peer-reviewing
publications and extended abstracts. Because of prior administrative experience, I am aware of the
importance of frequent communication among project members and of constructing a realistic
development plan, timeline, and budget. Prior experiences also taught me to seek other’s expertise
when needed, and I have recently done so by seeking the assistance of the School of Business
Entrepreneurship Program in developing a business plan for the MAI.
As a faculty member, my research goal is to decipher a “gap-junction-coupled motor
pattern-generating neural microcircuit” that: consists of a small number of gap-junction-coupled
neurons forming unique patterns; underlies an innate behavior; is usually inflexible; and is
triggered by a stimulus.
Serving as principal investigator (PI), co-PI, participant, or collaborator of university and
Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded competitive grant awards
assisted me in laying and continuing to build the foundation required to achieve my long-term
research and MAI bio-technology resource goal by: 1) developing new functional nano-materials that
span spatial domains from sub-nanometer to microns; 2) enhancing existing and developing new
methods to use those nano-materials to selectively label neural cells and the protein network that
constitutes the cytomatrix at the pre-synaptic and post -synaptic active zone of “mixed” synapses,
a juxtaposition of chemical and electrical (i.e., gap junction) synaptic components associated with
the identifiable neurons; 3) improving existing and developing new tissue contrast reagents and
techniques; 4) developing imaging methods for high-resolution three-dimensional (3-D) photon- based
and high-throughput 3-D electron-based microscopies to collect and disseminate 3-D teravoxel or
petavoxel image data; 5) testing computer algorithms that can reveal complex patterns and
relationships; and 6) using as a “reference species” the adult Western Mosquitofish Gambusia
affinis (Mosquitofish), a species that has unique advantages and is ideally suited for “mapping” a
gap- junction-coupled motor pattern-generating neural microcircuit and for testing and refining
novel tools and methods. I develop quantitative immuno-correlative photon- and electron-based
imaging technologies required to image and analyze in 3-D the nano-scale membrane organization of
mixed synapses’ pre-and post-synaptic membrane proteins.
The above-described approaches have resulted in productive research projects in an area of high
relevance: finding wiring diagrams that underlie simple behaviors and seeing how the wiring
diagrams differ among individuals. Deciphering a “gap-junction-coupled motor pattern-generating
neural microcircuit” that underlies an innate behavior will assist in understanding what accounts
for individual and sex differences in innate behavior and how, over time, such as in aging, wiring
diagrams and innate behavior change. In summary, my expertise and experience have prepared me to
design and lead the research projects underway in my laboratory at the University of Kansas.
Mentoring and preparing a diverse neuroscience workforce is central to my laboratory and research
program as well. In my sixteen years at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras, I recruited,
trained, and mentored undergraduate (n=24; 22 underrepresented), graduate (n=8 Ph.D.; 7
underrepresented), and post-doctoral trainees (n=2; 1 underrepresented). I served on the committees
of 17 MS students; of those, 10 underrepresented students are
pursuing PhDs at Mainland U.S. universities; an additional four MS students will soon complete
their programs and have been accepted by PhD programs at Mainland U.S. universities. I served on
the committees of 21 underrepresented doctoral students, eight of whom will soon complete PhD
programs and pursue post-doctoral training at Mainland U.S. institutions.
In the year I have been at KU, I have provided imaging or laboratory experiences to high-school
(n=36), undergraduate (n=2), and graduate students (n=2) from underrepresented groups. Of the eight
members of my KU laboratory, seven are from underrepresented groups in STEM and all are engaged in
NSF and NIH supported research.
Service is an important aspect of my work. I serve on the Advisory Board of the Federation of
American Societies of Experimental Biology Maximizing Access to Research Careers Program. Each year
at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students and at the annual Experimental
Biology meeting, I provide underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students and post- doctoral
fellows training on rigor and reproducibility. Each year for six years I have directed and taught
the Immunohistochemistry and Microscopy Course at Woods Hole Marine Biological
Laboratory, and in each of those years I have recruited and trained an average of twelve students
from underrepresented groups.