In 1994 I received my PhD in Molecular Biology from Princeton University. I performed my thesis research in Shirley Tilghman’s laboratory, who is now President emerita of Princeton University. As a graduate student, I was trained in mouse and molecular genetics. I then applied this training to study CNS development through the positional cloning and phenotypic characterization of spontaneous mouse mutants as a post-doctoral fellow at The Rockefeller University.
Since becoming a PI, my laboratory has focused on understanding the genetic and cell biological basis of human neurodevelopmental disorders (autism, schizophrenia and neural tube defects). My group identified one of the first genes associated with autism, and we went on to show that the autism-associated variants are functional, increasing gene expression. My work has led to numerous prestigious awards, including Basil O’Connor Starter Research Award, NARSAD Young Investigator Award and the Thomas A Edison Patent Award for medical diagnostics. I am also the PI of NJ Center for Autism Excellence which recently received a $2.05 million dollar grant to generate and characterize induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from individuals with autism. I was a standing member of the NIH Developmental Brain Disorders Study Section (2010-16) and have also served on numerous ad hoc NIH study sections (BRAIN) as well as grant review panels for foundations, state and foreign agencies. I have served as mentor to numerous graduate students, and my students have performed post-doctoral fellowships at some of the best institutions (e.g. Harvard Medical School, NCI, Columbia University) and they have become leaders in the pharmaceutical, biotech and consulting industries. I am well recognized for my teaching, lecturing to undergraduates, graduate and medical students. I have developed and currently teach three upper level translational seminar classes tailored for MD/PhD, PhD or Masters students. I am also a member of the Master Educators’ Guild and have won several teaching awards including “Foundation of UMDNJ Excellence in Teaching Award” and “Educator of the Year”.
I am also director of the Rutgers-RWJMS MD/PhD program and am Senior Associate Dean of the Rutgers School of Graduate Studies. I became director of the Rutgers-Princeton MD/PhD program in 2010 and we currently have 40 students matriculated in the program. Since 2010 the number of individual fellowships has risen dramatically with nearly half of our PhD-level students receiving their own fellowships (13 NIH, 2 NJ). In the graduate school I am responsible for all biomedical graduate programs on the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus. Since I assumed this administrative role in 2014, the number of individual fellowships has risen from 2 to 18%. Our campus also has numerous prestigious training grants. This includes: Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD)(1 of 50 in the country), Promoting Awareness and Knowledge to Enhance Scientific Rigor in Neuroscience (1 of 3 in the country), Communicating Science: Burroughs Welcome (only one in the country), and a NIH Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) grant.
Rutgers is one of 17 institutions nation-wide awarded the prestigious BEST training grant and I am co-PI of the grant. The Rutgers BEST program is called Interdisciplinary Job Opportunities for Biomedical Scientists (iJOBs) and provides exposure and training to Rutgers biomedical graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in careers outside of academia. iJOBs leverages the extensive NJ bioindustry for innovative curricula and has already established an extensive network in NJ. iJOBs is open to all biomedical graduate students and post-doctoral fellows on all three Rutgers campuses across the state (New Brunswick/Piscataway, Newark and Camden). This includes about 1200 participants. NIH wants the BEST awards to have a large impact so we have also opened our programming up to all NJ PhD granting institution. This includes Princeton University, NJIT, Rowan University and Stevens Institute of Technology and increases our participant pool to ~1500.
Clinical or Educational Responsibilities
Senior Associate Dean – Rutgers School of Graduate Studies
Director MD/PhD program: Rutgers U-RWJMS/Princeton U