Katherine Pizano Named Visiting Fellow in Neuroscience

Katherine Pizano, a Ph.D. student in the Neuroscience and Cognitive Science program (NACS) at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), has been named a Visiting Fellow in Neuroscience (VFIN). She will travel to the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) to train in cutting-edge techniques that will broaden their research expertise. 

Pizano, a first-year graduate student in the lab of Professor Joshua Singer, will train in Baltimore at the laboratory of Associate Professor Brain Mathur in the use of molecular and genetic methods to assess light-mediated mood regulation. Pizano’s research is centered around intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs), which are a major channel for the regulation of circadian rhythm in mammals. Scientists know that the dysregulation of circadian rhythms can lead to depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders, but the exact role of ipRGCs in this process is not entirely clear. At the Mathur lab, Pizano will use chemogenetic tools coupled with behavioral assays to investigate the mechanics of a particular protein released by ipRGCs. Specifically, Pizano will examine how pituitary adenylyl cyclase-activating proteins (PACAP) are received by cells in the body’s circadian clock. Uncovering PACAP’s mechanistic role will help chart more precisely the chemical pathways by which ipRGCs influence mood changes brought on by light disruption.

The VFIN program enables cross-campus training for neuroscience graduate students in UMB’s PIN and UMCP’s NACS Program to promote enhanced collaboration between research groups in Baltimore and College Park, providing funding for research rotations of PIN students in College Park and NACS students in Baltimore. The Program is funded by the University of Maryland Center for Economic and Entrepreneurship Development, a center created by the University of Maryland Strategic Partnership Act.

Written by Nathaniel Underland