Skip to Content

School of Medicine Columbia

  • Neuron microscopy

Pharmacology, Physiology and Neuroscience

Our mission is to provide expert instruction and conduct innovative research in neuroscience, physiology and pharmacology. Our faculty members teach students of medicine, nurse anesthesia, physician assistants and biomedical science in the classroom and the laboratory.

Our Department

We have an active research focus in the neuroscience research and take full advantage of the University of South Carolina's status as a Tier 1 research university. Using cutting edge technology to aid in the understanding of neuropsychiatric and neurologic disorders, we provide insight into new treatment strategies and targets for these devastating diseases.

The faculty work across disciplines in numerous collaborative projects, and we have a strong neuroscience research portfolio with over $10 million dollars in extramurally funded research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), the Veterans Administration and numerous foundations and endowment funds, including the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation and the American Heart Association. 


Faculty Research 

Our dedicated faculty are leaders in research spanning a wide range of neuroscience-based areas including activities focus on the roles of specific molecules in cellular function and their importance to organismal physiology and behavior. Their work is published in high quality publications in high tier journals such as Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Biological Psychiatry, Molecular Psychiatry, Brain, Behavior & Immunity, PLoS One, Journal of Neuroscience, Diabetes, Neuroscience, Nanotechnology, Psychopharmacology and Experimental Neurology.

  • Functional properties of GABAA and glutamate receptors:  David Mott
  • GABAA receptor modulators in seizure disorders:  David Mott
  • Glutamate receptors in epileptogenesis: David Mott


Our Core Facilities

Viral Vector Core 

Our full-service viral vector core produces virus-based platforms for gene delivery.  It is directed by Sujit Pujhari

Machine Shop

Our machine shop fabricates and repairs custom lab equipment and renovates laboratory space.  It is supervised by Mike Gore.



PPN News

  • Dr. Cora Smiley joined the PPN department as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in  Dr. Susan Wood's lab. 
  • Dr. Ana Pocivavsek was elected as an Associate Member in the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP).
  • Dr. Sarah "Kitty" Tryon received a grant award from the Dana Foundation to support UofSC’s 2021 Brain Awareness Week program entitled: “Introducing Foundations of Neuroscience to South Carolina High School Students through ‘neuroSC’ and the Inaugural South Carolina Brain Bee.”  neuroSC is a virtual, eight-week workshop on neuroscience for high school students.
  • Dr. Claudia Grillo received the "Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Award" from Dean Hall.
  • Dr. Sujit Pujhari has arrived in our department as the director of the Viral Vector Core.
  • The Nurse Anesthesia Program was approved to transition to a doctoral program in 2021.
  • Joseph McQuail received a KO1 award from the NOA to study 'Epigenetic mechanisms of stress and age-related cognitive decline'.
  • Fiona Hollis, David Mott, and Jessica Klusek were awarded a USCAND Pilot Grant to study the role of the amygdala in Fragile X Syndrome.
  • Kevin Le Blanc received an NRSA traineeship to support students in the Nurse Anesthesia program.
  • Fiona Hollis has been approved for funding of a VISN 7 Research Development proposal on mitochondrial function in Gulf War Illness.
  • PPN is proud to have received a donation in memory of Dorothy 'Dot' Bedenbaugh.  This gift will be used to support our graduate students as they travel to present their research.
  • Britt Wilson was chosen as MI Teacher of the year.  Congratulations Britt!
  • Fiona Hollis, Joseph McQuail, and Ana Pocivavsek all received 2020 ASPIRE I awards from the Office of the VP for Research.
  • PPN post-doctoral fellow Sarah Tryon (Marlene Wilson lab) received a 2020 ASPIRE award to support her work on 'Individual Differences in Fear Extinction'
  • Norma Frizzell received a new R56 grant from NIH-NINDS to support her work in "Anaplerotic Therapy for Mitochondrial Complex I Deficiency"
  • Susan Wood was honored with the Distinguished Undergraduate Research Mentor Award for 2020.
  • Claudia Grillo has been awarded a grant from NSF to sponsor student travel awards to the Stress Biology Workshop (now scheduled for 2021)
  • Ken Walsh received a 30-year state service award.
  • Norma Frizzell received the Distinguished Research Service Award in recognition of her outstanding commitment to UofSCs internal research programs
  • Susan Wood has been named the winner of the JH Woods Early Career Award in Behavioral Pharmacology by the ASPET Division for Behavioral Pharmacology.
  • Ana Pocivavsek was awarded a CONTE pilot project  for a project entitled 'Prenatally elevated Kynurenic Acid: Impact on Diurnal Dynamics of the Kynurenine Pathway and Sleep' 
  • Congratulations to Dr. Kevin LeBlanc and the rest of the Nurse Anesthesia team for receiving the maximum 10 year accreditation for the Masters in Nurse Anesthesia Program
  • Alex Mcdonald was honored with the Dean's Sustained School of Medicine Service award for over 40 years of service, research and teaching.
  • Catherine Rhea (MBS, CRNA) received the 2019 Distinguished Master's Alumni Award
  • Ana Pocivavsek was awarded a subcontract totaling over $1.6 million from the NIMH for a project entitled 'Kynurenic Acid and Cognitive Abnormalities in Schizophrenia' in collaboration with researchers at the University of Maryland.
  • Larry Reagan was awarded a new VA Merit Award (>$1.5 million) to study the immune basis for hippocampal deficits in response to pyridostigmine exposure.
  • Britt Wilson received the Arthur C. Guyton educator of the year award from the American Physiological Society.
  • Larry Reagan was elected into the Alpha Omega Alpha honor medical society.
  • Susan Wood receives NIH Award totaling over $2 million in total funding entitled: Estrogen mediated mechanisms of stress susceptibility.
  • PPN graduate students once again sweep the awards at the W. Morgan Newton Graduate Research Symposium.  The2021 Winner of the Symposium is Katy Pilarzyk.  A big congrats to Katy and her mentor Michy Kelly.  Plus, an Honorable Mention went to Nick Maxwell and his mentor Claudia Grillo.  Excellent job to everyone that presented!!!   Way to go Katy and Nick!
    The Winner of the 2021 Symposium Joshua Bratsch-Prince (Mott lab) was named the winner, while Jennifer Erichson (Fadel/Reagan labs) and Richard McCain (Frizzell lab) took home honorable mentions.
  • Several students in Susan Wood's received an ASPET General Travel Award to present at the ASPET Annual Experimental Biology Meeting.  Sarah Mott and Lee Augenblick received Undergraduate travel awards, Brittany Pope received a Graduate travel award and Gustavo Martinez-Muniz (former graduate student) received a Minority student travel award.
  • Jennifer Erichsen (Fadel/Reagan lab) has been named a 2021 Breakthrough Graduate Scholar.
  • Samantha Bouknight (Susan Wood mentor) and Joshua Bratsch-Prince (David Mott mentor) received a 2020 Society for Neuroscience Trainee Professional Development Award as part of the SfN Global Connectome virtual Conference. 
  • Three PPN graduate students were selected for SPARC awards to support their research.  Congratulations to Hannah Burzynski (Reagan lab), Brittany Pope (Wood lab) and Katherine Rentschler (Pocivavsek lab) for receiving these highly competitive awards.
  • Four Undergraduate students working in PPN received Magellan awards to support their research.  Congratulations to Gabriella "Gabby" Gee (Drs. Sarah Tryon, Marlene Wilson mentors) who received the Magellan Scholarship Award and the Magellan Capstone Apprentice Award, Maria Bykalo (Dr. Larry Reagan mentor) received the Magellan Scholarship Award, Breanna Robertson (Fiona Hollis mentor) received the Magellan Capstone Apprentice award and a Mini-grant, and Shoba Swaminathan (Norma Frizzell mentor) and received the Magellan Capstone Apprentice award and a Mini-grant
  • Undergraduate researchers Emma Sandago (Pocivavsek lab), Sarisha Menon (Pocivavsek lab), Grace Regnier (McQuail lab), and Meaghan O'Connor (McQuail lab) received SURF and Exploration grants from the SC Honor College to support their work.
  • Jennifer Erichson (Fadel/Reagan labs) has been awarded a prestigious F31 award from the NIH to support her research on the cognitive effects of intranasal insulin.
  • Nicholas Maxwell (Grillo Lab) received a grant from SC-INBRE to suport his trining in bioinformatics.
  • Katy Pilarzyk (Kelly lab) has been named a 2020 Breakthrough Graduate Scholar.
  • Tyler Anderson-Sieg (Mott lab) published an article on 'Brain Freeze' for The Conversation that was picked up by the UK's Science and Nature Magazine for kids.
  • Three PPN graduate students were selected for SPARC awards to support their research.  Congratulations to Nick Maxwell (Grillo lab), Jennifer Erichson (Fadel/Reagan labs) and Josh Bratsch-Prince (Mott lab) for receiving these highly competitive awards.
  • PPN was well-represented at the 2020 W. Morgan Newton Graduate Research Symposium. Joshua Bratsch-Prince (Mott lab) was named the winner, while Jennifer Erichson (Fadel/Reagan labs) and Richard McCain (Frizzell lab) took home honorable mentions.
  • Melat Tarekegne (Frizzell lab) and Brittany Eberl (Reagan lab) received 2020  SURF awards from the SC Honors College to support their research.
  • Lee Augenblick (Wood lab) was awarded a Magellan Scholar grant ($2500) to support his research on 'Stress Projections in the Brain'
  • Sarah 'Kitty' Tryon (David Mott mentor) successfully defended her doctoral dissertation
  • Christopher Morgan (Susan Wood mentor) was awarded  research funding through the Galen Health Fellows program.
  • At the 2019 USC Neuroscience retreat, Josh Bratsch-Prince (David Mott mentor) was awarded best Oral presentation and Anna Marie Buchanan (Larry Reagan mentor) received the award for best graduate trainee poster.
  • Katy Pilarzyk (Michy Kelly mentor) was awarded a 2019 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Rearch Fellowship.  This highly competitive 3-year fellowship provides an annual stipend of $34,000 plus an annual cost of education allowance of $12,000.

PPN  award winners at DISCOVER USC 2019:

  • Grant Morgan (Susan Wood mentor):  1st place in Psychology and Neuroscience, A division ('The role of microgila in the locus coeruleus in the cardiovascular sensitivity to stress').
  • Reagan Farmer (Michy Kelly mentor). 1st place in Biology and Biomedical Sciences, C division ('PDE2A mRNA expression is altered in select brain regions of patients with major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder).
  • Brittney Calatayud (Susan Wood mentor): 2nd place in Psychology and Neuroscience, B division ('Mechanisms of anxiety-like behavior in females).
  • Lee Augenblick (Susan Wood mentor) Honorable mention in Psychology and Neuroscience, C division ('Effect of clodronate on stess-induced neuroinflammation and anhedonia'). 


Core Courses

  • Medical Physiology (PHPH D621) - M1 medical students.  Course director Britt Wilson
  • Medical Neuroscience (PHPH D603) - M1 medical students.  Course director Jim Fadel
  • Medical Pharmacology (PHPH D631) - M2 medical students.  Course director Larry Reagan
  • Biomedical Pharmacology (PHPH 705) - 6 credit hour, fall semester.  Basic principles of drug action for students in health professions.  Course director Ken Walsh
  • Physiology for the Health Sciences (PHPH 701) - 6 credit hours, spring semester.  Basic principles of human physiology.  Course director Ken Walsh
  • Fundamental Neuroscience I (PHPH 750) - 4 credit hours, fall semester.  Foundations of neuroanatomy and neurophysiology.  Includes hands-on lab experience.  Course director TBD
  • Fundamental Neuroscience II (PHPH 751) - 4 credit hours, spring semester.  Provides expanded instruction into neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders with a focus on current research.  Course director David Mott
  • Neuroscience (PHPH 740) - 4 credit hours, fall semester.  Covers developmental and cellular neurobiology from a research perspective.  Course director David Mott
  • Neuroscience Seminar (PHPH 742) - 1 credit hour, both spring and fall semesters.  Topics in professional development for scientists.  Course directors vary.  For information, contact David Mott


Biomedical Sciences: Neuroscience Concentration

The Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Neuroscience also supports a neuroscience concentration for Biomedical Science Ph.D. students.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.