Dr. Adron Harris Educates and Entertains as Keynote Speaker

The Triangle SfN committee had the distinct pleasure of hosting Dr. Adron Harris for our first Spring Neuroscience Meeting. Dr. Adron Harris holds the M. June and J. Virgil Waggoner Chair in Molecular Biology and is Director of the Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research, University of Texas (Austin), where he directs a research program on the molecular actions of drugs of abuse on brain signaling systems.

The breadth of Dr. Harris’ research accomplishments is astounding! Having trained as a pharmacologist, he directs a multidisciplinary team focused on defining acute and long-term actions of alcohol and other drugs. He specializes in the study of the neurochemical basis for genetic differences in drug response and uses genetically-modified mice that vary in susceptibility to drug
intoxication and dependence. He also investigates the structure and function of ion channels with emphasis on the molecular mechanisms responsible for alcohol and drug actions and the  regulation of brain gene expression by drugs. Dr. Harris has published 68 peer-reviewed publications in the last 5 years (423 career total) and has almost 16000 non-self-citations in total (Web of Science). These statistics place his work in the top 1% in the field of Neuroscience and Behavior, 1997- 2007.

I have mainly followed Dr. Harris’s work on alcohol and the neuroimmune system, but his talk “Alcohol and the Brain: From Binding Sites to Gene Expression” was a great reminder of the multi-faceted nature of great research programs. He spoke both about his work as it relates to understanding alcohol pharmacology and about genetic contributions that may predispose individuals to abuse patterns. I was impressed by the level of adaptability over his career and his continued investment in being at the cutting edge of techniques to further elucidate the neurobiological effects of drugs of abuse. It was inspiring, as a trainee, to learn from someone who’s SfN membership number is only 3-digits long (just for reference, my number is 9-digits!) and to witness his continued passion for both his personal research and policies concerning science training.

Next year’s keynote speaker has big shoes to fill!

Story by Alex Marshall, UNC-CH

This article originally apppeared in the May 2015 issue of The Triangle Transmitter.

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