Neuroscience Institute added to Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

University Park, Pa. -- A Neuroscience Institute, dedicated to teaching, research and service across the broad array of neuroscience-related disciplines from molecular and cellular research to studies on human behavior, has been added to Penn State's Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

A Biotechnology Institute and an Institute for Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics already exist as part of the Huck Institutes. Like those institutes, the Neuroscience Institute will bring together faculty members and students from throughout Penn State. Colleges currently planning to participate in the Neuroscience Institute include Agricultural Sciences, Engineering, Health and Human Development, the Liberal Arts, Medicine and Science.

"The Huck Institutes' objective is to move forward in the life sciences by supporting the best and most innovative ideas and people, regardless of their academic home and discipline," said Channa Reddy, director of the Huck Institutes. "While the Neuroscience Institute is now a virtual organization, the new Life Science Building-2, when completed, will connect neuroscientists in different disciplines and locations physically even as we connect them conceptually through the Huck Institutes."

Bernhard Luscher, associate professor of biology and of biochemistry and molecular biology at University Park, is an interim co-director of the cross-campus Neuroscience Institute. Thomas Uhde, professor and head of the Department of Psychiatry, also is a co-director. Uhde directs neuroscience research, patient care and outreach at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and the College of Medicine.

At University Park, some of the neuroscience activities now are housed on the second floor of the Life Sciences Building-1 where the Huck Institutes office is located. However, a new Life Sciences Building-2 also is planned, which will house neuroscience activities. The initial $40 million program budget provides for a building with 54,000 assignable square feet. The building will contain new research laboratories, multi-disciplinary core facilities and videoconference rooms.

Core facilities planned for the new building include Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Biophotonics facilities. A new faculty member scheduled to join the bioengineering department this summer, Andrew Webb, already is working with Michael B. Smith, Penn State Hershey MRI research facility director, to set up an MRI facility for animal studies at University Park. The facility at Hershey handles both animal and human subjects. The Department of Psychology at University Park is working on an MRI facility for human imaging studies, and the Neuroscience Institute is looking into partnering with Mount Nittany Medical Center, which also has an MRI facility for human studies.

Ahmed Heikal from the Department of Bioengineering and Steven Benkovic from the Department of Chemistry are taking the lead in building the Biophotonics facility, which will be housed in the basement of Life Sciences Building-2. The Biophotonics facility will aid in research to identify and characterize protein-protein interaction networks.

In addition to the new building and core facilities, plans also call for 30 to 40 more neuroscience faculty members to be hired at the College of Medicine and at University Park over the next decade.

Karin Foley, associate dean in the Eberly College of Science, and Jay Moskowitz, vice dean for the research and graduate studies in the College of Medicine, presented a report to Eva J. Pell, vice president for research and dean of The Graduate School, on behalf of the University-wide Neuroscience Advisory Committee. The report contained the recommendation to create the Institute and noted, "The neurosciences are one of the most rapidly growing and challenging areas of the life sciences. They account for a substantial proportion of federal funding in biomedicine reflecting the considerable impact of neurological and psychiatric diseases on society. A substantial program in neuroscience research and education is essential for a major research university."

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Last Updated February 27, 2014