February 2011 - Dr. Susan Amara

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Dr. Susan Amara is the president of the Society for Neuroscience.


Dr. Amara received her BS in Biological Sciences from Stanford University in 1976 and her PhD in Physiology and Pharmacology from the University of California, San Diego in 1983. Her doctoral work with Michael G. Rosenfeld established alternative RNA processing as a mechanism for regulating gene expression in the nervous system and identified a novel neuropeptide, CGRP, encoded within the gene for the peptide hormone, calcitonin. In 1985, she joined the Section of Molecular Neurobiology at the Yale University School of Medicine as an Assistant Professor and in 1986 was appointed as an Assistant Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). At Yale she and her colleagues worked to isolate the genes encoding the norepinephrine transporter, a primary site of action for therapeutic antidepressants and psychostimulants, and the dopamine transporter, the molecular target associated with the addictive and euphoric properties of cocaine and amphetamines. Dr. Amara moved to the Vollum Institute at Oregon Health Sciences University as an Associate Professor in 1991 and was appointed Professor and Senior Scientist in 1996. She became an HHMI Associate Investigator in 1994 and was promoted to Investigator in 1999.

In 2003 Dr. Amara left the Vollum Institute and HHMI to become the Thomas Detre Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Co-director of the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh. Work in her laboratory has examined the impact of psychostimulant and antidepressant drugs on the signaling properties, physiology and acute regulation of biogenic amine transporters. Her group has also addressed the structure, function and physiology of glutamate transporters. This work has demonstrated that transporters can serve dual functions as transporters and as substrate-gated ion channels, revealing additional mechanisms by which carriers regulate neuronal excitability.

Dr. Amara is a recipient of the George Herbert Hitchings Award for innovative methods in drug discovery from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Young Investigator Award from the Society for Neuroscience, the John Jacob Abel Young Investigator Award from the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET), a McKnight Neuroscience Investigator Award, a MERIT Award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Award, the Julius Axelrod Award from the Catecholamine Club (ASPET) and has had twenty US patents issued on technology from her laboratory. She has served as a member of the National Advisory Council and Board of Scientific Counselors for NIDA, and as a Councilor and a Treasurer of the Society for Neuroscience and as Secretary-Treasurer of ASPET. She is currently on the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2004 and as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2007. She serves on the editorial boards of several journals including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and currently is the President of the Society for Neuroscience (2010-2011).


Dr. Amara’s SfN presentation