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College of Pharmacy

Faculty and Staff

T. Chase Francis, Ph.D.

Title: Assistant Professor
Department: Drug Discovery & Biomedical Sciences (DDBS)
College of Pharmacy
Email: francit@mailbox.sc.edu
Phone: 803-777-6277
Office: College of Pharmacy
715 Sumter Street - CLS 515A
Columbia, SC 29208
Chase Francis portrait

Education

Ph.D.  Neuroscience, University of Maryland, Baltimore, 2016
B.A./B.S.  Biology/Psychology, Appalachian State University 2011

Postdoctoral Fellowship, National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program, National Institutes of Health, 2016-2022

Background

Chase Francis, Ph.D., joined the Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences at the College of Pharmacy in 2022 as an assistant professor of pharmacology. His research career began at Appalachian State University where he graduated with honors and summa cum laude with degrees in biology and psychology studying the effects of audiogenic seizures on emotional states in rats under the mentorship of Dr. Mark Zrull. In 2011, he continued his training at the University of Maryland, Baltimore where he attained his Ph.D. studying the effects of stress on brain reward systems in the lab of Dr. Mary Kay Lobo. Here he served on outreach and training committees and was awarded Graduate Program in Life Sciences Elaine Miye Otani Award for outstanding Ph.D. thesis work and program and community outreach. 

In 2016, he joined the Synaptic Plasticity Section of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) intramural research program in 2016 where he studied peptidergic release and plasticity within the striatum. At NIDA, he was awarded the competitive National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) Post-doctoral Research Associate Award where he joined a group of post-doctoral research scientists and a top-tier training program across NIH institutes. Additionally, he was three times awarded with the competitive NIH Fellows Award for Research Excellence travel award and was awarded the prestigious ACNP travel award. In 2019, he continued his research in the Integrative Research Branch under the advisement of Dr. Marisela Morales where he continued to study peptidergic release and began studying neurotransmitter co-release mechanisms within the striatum.

Research Interests: 

  • Stress, Fear, and Anxiety
  • Behavioral Depression
  • Brain Stimulation
  • Peptides
  • Synaptic Plasticity
  • Acetylcholine 

Research Lab: 

The primary goal of the lab is to refining brain stimulation protocols or develop novel and targeted drug therapeutics to treat emotion-related psychiatric disorders. Animals encounter enormous amounts of stimuli throughout the day and must direct their attention to the most relevant or salient information that will help to complete tasks or, on an evolutionary level, ensure survival. Animals tend to focus on and remember those stimuli that are unpleasant, stressful, or aversive. Reward-related brain regions like the Nucleus Accumbens also tend to respond to these aversive stimuli and are critical in guiding motivational responses. These responses require time-dependent neurotransmitter release, including the release of neuromodulatory neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine and neuropeptides. The lab aims to understand how these neurotransmitters within multiple brain regions including the Nucleus Accumbens are involved in salience detection and motivational behavioral output. Additionally, neuropeptides involved in these processes require strong brain activity and stimulation for their release. The lab also aims to determine how brain stimulation may be used to suppress or enhance release of these peptides. Outcomes of this project will have relevance for disorders related to anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression.

The lab uses a multi-level approach to assess synaptic plasticity, neurotransmitter and peptide function, circuit-level connectivity, which underlies behavior, using optical recording in single cells or across ‘fields’ of cells, brain stimulation methodology, animal behavior, and electrophysiology. The lab also participates in community and scientific outreach and is always seeking volunteers to talk with or teach high school students and local community members about the value of science. 

Please see our website to inquire on how to get involved in the lab or outreach.

Awards & Honors: 

  • American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Travel Award, 2021
  • NIH Fellowship Award for Research Excellence Travel Award, 2018-2019, 2021
  • Post-doctoral Research and Training Fellowship, 2018-2021
  • Elaine Miye Otani Award for outstanding thesis work and community outreach, 2015

Publications

Francis T.C., Yano H., Demarest T.G., Shen H., Bonci A. (2019) High frequency activation of nucleus accumbens D1-MSNs drives excitatory potentiation on D2-MSNs. Neuron, 103(3):432-444.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2019.05.031

Francis T.C., Gaynor A., Chandra R., Fox M.E., Lobo M.K. (2019) The selective RhoA inhibitor rhosin promotes stress resiliency through enhancing D1-medium spiny neuron plasticity and reducing hyperexcitability. Biological Psychiatry 85(12):1001-1010. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2019.02.007

Francis, T.C., Chandra, R., Gaynor, A., Konkalmatt, P., Metzbower, S.R., Evans, B., Engeln, M., Blanpied, T.A., Lobo, M.K. (2017) Molecular basis of dendritic atrophy and activity in
stress susceptibility. Mol Psychiatry, 22(11):1512–1519. doi: 10.1038/mp.2017.178

Francis T.C., Chandra R., Friend D.M., Finkel E., Dayrit G., Miranda J., Brooks J.M., Iñiguez S.D., O’Donnell P., Kravitz A., Lobo M.K. (2015). Nucleus Accumbens Medium Spiny Neuron Subtypes Mediate Depression-Related Outcomes to Social Defeat Stress. Biological Psychiatry, 77(3):212-222. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.07.021

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