Neuropharmacology Research


Faculty within the Pharmacology department working in the area of neuroscience and neuropharmacology focus their research in characterizing the cellular and molecular mechanisms which underlie neuronal function and survival. Because neuroscience/neuropharmacology is an increasingly integrative discipline, research at UCD utilizes many different core facilities and crosses departmental boundaries. One of the strengths of our faculty lies in the fact that they have experience in a number of different scientific disciplines.

Specific areas of neuropharmacology research at UCD includes the study of molecular memory and synaptic plasticity, neuronal survival and apoptosis, neuronal signal transduction, and neuropharmacology. In addition the pharmacology faculty has a particularly strong interest in the neuropharmacology of drugs of abuse.

Cell Biology

Primary Faculty


Jason Aoto​, Assistant Professor
Ph.D., 2009, Univ. of California, Berkeley

We are interested in dissecting the distinct functions of synaptic cell-adhesion molecules implicated in neuropsychiatric disorders and addiction in the context of disease-relevant brain circuits. Using cutting-edge multidisciplinary techniques, we are able to interrogate these molecules with cell-type and synapse-specific resolution.



Bayer, K. Ulrich, Professor

Ph.D., 1996, Heinrich-Pette-Institute

Molecular memory mechanisms in cellular signal transduction and neuronal function; CaMKII and Ca2+ signaling.


Chris P. FordAssociate Professor

Ph.D., 2003, Univ. of Alberta

We study synaptic mechanisms by which neuromodulators like dopamine and acetylcholine are encoded in mesolimbic and nigrostriatal circuits through GPCRs.  We study the basic biology of these circuits and the alterations that occur in neurological and psychiatric diseases.


Dell'Acqua, Mark L., Professor and Vice Chairman

Ph.D., 1995, Harvard Univ.

Organization of signaling complexes by protein kinase and phosphatase anchoring proteins; mechanisms regulating neuronal second messenger signaling in synaptic plasticity.


Hoffman, Paula L., Professor

Ph.D., 1974, City Univ. of New York

Neuropharmacology; mechanisms of alcohol tolerance, dependence, and craving; genetic aspects of alcohol dependence and affective disorders; biochemical/molecular biological/genetic analysis of CNS receptors and signal transduction systems.


Hunter, Lawrence E., Professor

Ph.D., 1989, Yale Univ.

Computational biology, bioinformatics, gene expression array analysis, natural language processing, biomedical ontologies, machine learning.


Kennedy, Matthew J., Assistant Professor

Ph.D., 2003, Univ. of Washington

Molecular mechanisms of activity-triggered synaptic remodeling. 


Kutateladze, Tatiana G., Professor

Ph.D., 1988, Moscow State Univ.

Epigenetics, phosphoinositide signaling, structural biology, NMR and crystal structures of proteins implicated in cancer, structure based drug design.


Sather, William A., Associate Professor

Ph.D., 1988, Univ. of Washington

Signaling through calcium channels in neurons.


Smith, Katharine R., Assistant Professor

Ph.D., 2010, University College London

Molecular mechanisms of excitatory and inhibitory synaptic plasticity.



Secondary Faculty


Benke, Timothy A., Associate Professor

M.D./Ph.D., 1995, Baylor College of Medicine

Mechanisms of synaptic plasticity and impacts of development and epilepsy.