Asaf Keller, PhD, Named Interim Department Chair; Margaret McCarthy, PhD, Named Director of the Program in Neuroscience
University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) Dean, E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, announced today that Michael Shipley, PhD, the Donald E. Wilson, MD, MACP Distinguished Professor, the longtime Chair of the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, and the Founding Director of the UMSOM Program in Neuroscience, will be stepping down from his role as Department Chair and Program Director, effective July 31, 2019. He will continue as a member of the faculty in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology.
Dr. Shipley, who joined the UMSOM faculty as Chair in 1994, is one of the world’s leading experts on the neural organization of the region of the brain, called the olfactory bulb, that processes information about odors. Using advanced cell physiological and imaging methods, Dr. Shipley’s research team identified and defined the neuron types and circuits that encode raw odor sensory information into signals that engage high brain networks to generate perception, motivation, and behavior.
He currently has nearly $5 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Shipley recruited 27 tenured/tenure–track faculty members, all of whom achieved NIH R01 funding. The Department received more than $9 million for FY 2018 and more than $10 million in NIH grant funding for fiscal year 2019.
“Dr. Shipley has been the quintessential academic leader for the UMSOM,” said Dean Reece, who is also the Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor at UMSOM. “He helped to build one of the finest departments of anatomy and neurobiology in the country, and he leaves a lasting legacy of scholarship and service that is second to none. We are forever grateful to Dr. Shipley for everything he has done for the School of Medicine."
Shipley’s Legacy of Leadership
Over the course of his more than 25 years at UMSOM, Dr. Shipley conducted important research into the complex cell communications in neural networks within the nervous system and the brain. During his career, he published more than 185 peer-reviewed papers, invited reviews, and book chapters about neural networks. His research centered on understanding the organization, function, and development of neural networks using the mammalian olfactory bulb as a model for cortical network.
Dr. Shipley has been continuously funded by the NIH for four decades. He ranked in the 99th percentile of NIH-funded investigators during this period and is currently the principal investigator of two major NIH grants.
“My years at UMSOM have been among the happiest and most productive of my life. I will sincerely miss the support and friendship of the Dean, senior administrators, faculty members, and research leaders with whom I served,” said Dr. Shipley.
Mary Kay Lobo, PhD, Associate Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology, and Associate Director of the Program in Neuroscience, was one of many young scientists mentored by Dr. Shipley.
“Dr. Shipley has been a supportive and encouraging mentor and was especially supportive of junior faculty, providing detailed guidance and mentorship throughout their first grant submissions,” said Dr. Lobo. “The mentorship I received from Dr. Shipley, when I opened my lab, was critical to my obtaining my first NIH grant and the continued success of my research program.”
Before joining UMSOM, Dr. Shipley was Director of the Center for Image Analysis at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He also served as Professor and Vice Chairman in the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He received his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He completed post-doctoral research in Neurophysiology at the University of Oslo, and in Neuroanatomy at the University of Aarhus, Denmark.
New Transitional Leadership
Asaf Keller, PhD, Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology, has been named by Dean Reece as Interim Chair of the Department Anatomy and Neurobiology. Dr. Keller, who is a leading scientist in addiction, chronic pain, and affective disorders, joined the UMSOM faculty in 1995. He received his PhD degree in Neuroscience from Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.
“We are grateful to Dr. Keller for moving into this role as Interim Chair,” said Dean Reece. “He is an outstanding scientist, and one of the top NIH-funded researchers in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology. He will provide strong leadership during this transition.”
Dr. Keller’s lab, which receives funding from the National Institutes of Health from multiple grants totaling nearly $5 million, focuses on sensory perception, delving into questions like how the brain perceives objects and events and optimizes a person’s ability to detect and discriminate. He and his research team are also examining what mechanisms go awry when perceptions are altered by chronic pain or drug abuse. They take an integrative approach, focusing on cellular, networking, computational, and behavioral aspects of information processing by the brain’s neurons.
One of Dr. Keller’s ongoing research projects has been to examine the lasting effects of drug exposure on brain activity and whether exposure to illicit drugs, particularly during brain development, increase the risk of neurological and psychiatric disorders. In separate studies, he and his team have investigated changes in the brain that occur during withdrawal from opioids in an attempt to understand how to reduce the negative symptoms that lead to relapse.
Other areas of research for Dr. Keller’s laboratory include investigating the role of serotonin in chronic pain and whether chronic pain is caused by an abnormal release of serotonin in spinal circuits. If the animal studies yield positive results, the finding could lead to the design of novel treatments to prevent or manage chronic pain.
“Dean Reece has been incredibly supportive of our lab’s research efforts through the years, and I am honored to accept this new opportunity to help advance the goals of the School of Medicine and the Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology,” said Dr. Keller.
New Leadership for the Program in Neuroscience
Dean Reece also announced that Margaret McCarthy, PhD, the James & Carolyn Frenkil Endowed Dean’s Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology, will assume the Directorship of the Program in Neuroscience. Dr. McCarthy, who received her PhD degree in Behavioral Neuroscience from Rutgers University and completed her post-doctoral studies at the Rockefeller University in New York, is a leading neuroscientist who has made significant discoveries related to brain development. She has NIH grants totaling more than $12 million.
“Dr. McCarthy is a world-renowned leader in her field of research and an outstanding mentor to young scientists,” said Dean Reece. “We could not ask for a better faculty member to lead our Program in Neuroscience,” said Dean Reece.
Dr. McCarthy's seminal research focuses on the influence of steroid hormones and immune mediators on the developing brain with a special emphasis on understanding the cellular mechanisms that establish sex differences—that is, the numerous, novel mechanisms (including roles for prostaglandins, endocannabinoids, amino acid transmitters, and immune cells) by which steroids permanently organize the developing brain differently in males and females. Dr. McCarthy conducted some of the first studies that found steroid hormones imprint epigenetically on the developing brain to establish differences between males and females in adult physiology and behavior.
More recently, her laboratory generated a paradigm shift in the understanding of how the number of cells is controlled in the brain by discovering that innate immune cells in the brain engulf and kill cells destined to become astrocytes in a select region of the male brain. This phenomenon is mediated by endocannabinoids, the brain’s own cannabis, and sculpts the neural circuitry that regulates social play behavior in juvenile animals.
“I am so pleased to be given this new opportunity to take our UMSOM Program in Neuroscience to the next level,” said Dr. McCarthy. “We have a great team, and I am delighted to take the baton from Dr. Shipley and advance the Program to great heights!”
Mary Kay Lobo, PhD, Associate Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology, will continue in her role as the Associate Director of the Program in Neuroscience and Director of Graduate Education for the Program.
Jessica Mong, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology, will continue as Principal Investigator of the NIH Training Grant in Neuroscience.
About the University of Maryland School of Medicine
Now in its third century, the University of Maryland School of Medicine was chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States. It continues today as one of the fastest growing, top-tier biomedical research enterprises in the world -- with 43 academic departments, centers, institutes, and programs. The School of Medicine has a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians, scientists, and allied health professionals, including members of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and a distinguished recipient of the Albert E. Lasker Award in Medical Research. With an operating budget of more than $1 billion, the School of Medicine works closely in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide research-intensive, academic and clinically based care for more than 1.2 million patients each year. The School has over 2,500 students, residents, and fellows, and more than $530 million in extramural funding, with most of its academic departments highly ranked among all medical schools in the nation in research funding. As one of the seven professional schools that make up the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine has a total workforce of nearly 7,000 individuals. The combined School and Medical System (“University of Maryland Medicine”) has an annual budget of nearly $6 billion and an economic impact more than $15 billion on the state and local community. The School of Medicine faculty, which ranks as the 8th highest among public medical schools in research productivity, is an innovator in translational medicine, with 600 active patents and 24 start-up companies. The School works locally, nationally, and globally, with research and treatment facilities in 36 countries around the world. Visit medschool.umaryland.edu.