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WVU creates new neuroscience department within School of Medicine

MORGANTOWN — In a move to help improve people’s lives through innovation in fundamental neuroscience research and education, WVU will bring together some 50 of its laboratories to form a new Department of Neuroscience within the School of Medicine.

The move, effective July 1, was approved April 20 by the university’s Board of Governors.

“Neuroscience as a field is growing rapidly, and the establishment of a centralized department in the School of Medicine will connect WVU’s basic and translational neuroscience research and education to provide integrated, strengthened and focused programs,” said Clay Marsh, 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 at the newly expanded WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute on innovative and pioneering exploration of the brain and brain behavior.”

Neuroscience research and education has a long and rich history at WVU, with faculty distributed across multiple colleges and departments. An interdepartmental doctoral program was first offered in 2003, and to date nearly 30 students have earned degrees, with an additional 22 students currently enrolled.

The many existing laboratories conduct state-of-the-art neuroscience research ranging from cognitive neuroscience/non-invasive imaging to systems/cellular neurophysiology to molecular signaling and genetic studies of neuroscience.

Neuroscience at WVU has grown substantially and the recent formation of the WVU Neuroscience Signature Program and the newly established Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute will benefit from a home department from which basic and translational neuroscience research and education can be coordinated.

Randy J. Nelson, the Hazel Ruby McQuain Chair for Neurological Research, will serve as the inaugural chair of the new department. Nelson recently came to WVU from Ohio State University to direct basic science research in the Rockefeller Institute and the Neuroscience Signature Program.

“We are living at a time when rapid and exciting advances in our knowledge about the brain are occurring at an unprecedented pace,” said Nelson, who will report jointly to Laura Gibson, senior associate vice president for research and graduate education at the School of Medicine and Ali Rezai, John D. Rockefeller IV Chair in Neuroscience, executive chair, vice president and associate dean of the Rockefeller Institute.

“The newly established Department of Neuroscience will serve as an intellectual hub for brain research and education at WVU with a goal of conducting foundational studies of neuroscience, translate these foundational studies to improve brain health in people, and develop novel treatments and cures for brain disorders,” Nelson said.

“By networking these deep strengths with the new approaches being developed by Ali’s team at the Rockefeller 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,” he said.