Neuroscience Researchers Appointed to NIH Study Section

Laura Bianchi, Ph.D., professor of physiology and biophysics, and Grace Zhai, Ph.D., professor of molecular and cellular pharmacology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, have been appointed to a new National Institutes of Health (NIH) study section on neuronal communication.

Laura Bianchi, Ph.D., and Grace Zhai, Ph.D.
From left, Laura Bianchi, Ph.D., and Grace Zhai, Ph.D.

The Neuronal Communication Study Section is composed of reviewers who previously served on NIH panels that are no longer active. Dr. Bianchi, a former member of the Neurotransporters, Receptors, Channels and Calcium Signaling Study Section, was tapped to serve on the neuronal communication panel based on her expertise and work in the field of glia/neuron interaction. Dr. Zhai served on the NIH’s Synapse, Trafficking, and Cytoskeleton Study Section.

“The NIH periodically reorganizes its study sections to better serve the scientific community in evaluating grant applications,” Dr. Bianchi said. “The cohort on neuronal communication will review R01, R21, and R03 grant applications that primarily focus on synaptic transmission, the biological process by which a neuron communicates with a target cell across a synapse.”

At the Miller School, Dr. Bianchi and Dr. Zhai use invertebrate model organisms to investigate fundamental biological questions. Their commitment to basic science research made them standouts as candidates to join the new NIH study section.

“Dr. Zhai and I have a long history of cooperation and interaction,” Dr. Bianchi said. “For example, my lab has been using some key equipment in Dr. Zhai’s lab. “Our labs also meet once a month with other labs across the University of Miami that are working with invertebrate model organisms to exchange research results and ideas.”

The NIH section on neuronal communication will typically meet three times per year:in February, June/July, and September/October. Key areas of review include synaptic structure, modulation, and mechanisms, with an emphasis on fundamental mechanisms of neuronal function and communication.

“Our participation on the NIH Neuronal Communication Study Section reflects the Miller School’s national prominence in the field of neural communications and the outstanding quality of basic science research at the University of Miami,” Dr. Zhai said.

Tags: Department of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, Department of Physiology & Biophysics, Dr. Grace Zhai, Dr. Laura Bianchi, Miller School of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, neuroscience