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University of Maryland School of Medicine Dean Appoints New Chair of Department of Physiology

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Scott Thompson, Ph.D.
 Scott Thompson, Ph.D.

University of Maryland School of Medicine Dean E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., has appointed innovative neurophysiologist Scott Thompson, PhD, as Chair of the Department of Physiology. Dr. Thompson is a professor in the Departments of Physiology and Psychiatry. He has been Interim Chair of Physiology since 2011.

“Dr. Thompson is an excellent researcher and educator whose accomplishments in neuroscience research, as well as his commitment to education, are very much in keeping with the ethos of the School of Medicine,” says Dean Reece, who is also Vice President for Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor at the School of Medicine. “His excellent leadership while Interim Chair is greatly appreciated and sets the tone for what we can expect from him and the department in the future.”

“The Dean has charged me with hiring the next generation of faculty for the Department of Physiology, and we're confident that the collaborative research environment we have here, and our excellent students and staff, will allow us to attract the best and brightest scientists out there,” says Dr. Thompson.

The Department of Physiology's distinguished faculty integrate molecular, cellular, and systems biology to discover how life works. The department has especially strong traditions in cardiovascular-renal biology, neuroscience and muscle biology. Their research is helping to uncover the causes and mechanisms of human disease, including Alzheimer's, cancer, epilepsy, heart failure, hypertension, infertility, muscular dystrophy and stroke. “These are very exciting times for science,” says Dr. Thompson. “There are fantastic experimental tools and disease models available to us now. Physiology faculty are making great advances using these techniques to try to understand the genesis of disease and develop new therapeutic strategies.”

Dr. Thompson received a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Cornell University in 1979 and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Stanford University in 1986. He then received a NATO Fellowship to study in Switzerland, where he worked first at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel (1986-1987) and then the Brain Research Institute of the University of Zurich (1987-1988). He completed his postdoctoral training in the Department of Neurology at Columbia University (1988-1990). In 1990, Dr. Thompson was recruited to become an assistant professor at the Brain Research Institute in Basel, Switzerland. In 1993, the University of Zurich awarded Dr. Thompson his Habilitation, a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages and the highest academic qualification a scholar can achieve in several European and Asian countries.

He has been a faculty member in the Department of Physiology since 1998 and also has a secondary appointment in the Department of Psychiatry.

Dr. Thompson has a distinguished record of national service at the National Institutes of Health as a member of the Board of Scientific Councilors for the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse and the Synapse and Circuits study section. He has also served in leadership positions for the Society for Neuroscience as the Chair of the Program Committee and, currently, as the Chair Elect of the Public Education and Communication Committee. He is the Principal Investigator on almost $2.5 million in NIH grants and is also the Director of the Training Program in Integrative Membrane Biology.

Dr. Thompson's research focus is primarily on the biological basis of depression. “The science in my own lab has never been better. I am very excited about that,” he says. “We study the genesis of depression. Using realistic animal models of depression, we have been able to formulate a new way of thinking about what's wrong in the depressed brain. This new way of looking at the problem has enabled us to propose a novel class of drugs as effective antidepressant therapies, and I'm very excited about the results we're getting with these compounds now.”

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