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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

So what's a dissertation like? Part II- the committee

Our program requires a committee to be composed of a minimum of five members; your advisor, and four other faculty, one of which must be from outside your department.

See the Details in the Extended Entry

My dissertation dealt with the effects of estrogen therapy on two neurotransmitter systems in the cortex of menopausal monkeys. It has relevance to the recent controversies surrounding hormone replacement in women. Accordingly, my committee was chosen with regard to their specialties, so they could properly analyze my abilities and the quality of the work.

Dissertation advisor: Peggy Sue Volvo, Ph.D., Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology
Dr. Volvo's research program focuses on the cognitive and neurobiological changes that accompany menopause. Not surprisingly, my advisor's expertise is directly relevant to my own. Duh.

Committee Chair: Guy Montag, Ph.D., Department of Physiology and Pharmacology
Dr. Montag was chosen due to his extensive experience chairing committees, and relevance of his research program. He studies the effects of growth factors on aging brains in mice, and as such is familiar with the functions of the brain regions I examined, the role of gonadal hormones in neuron survival, and animal behavior in general.

Marcus Nadirius, Ph.D., Department of Physiology and Pharmacology
Dr. Nadirius investigates the neural mechanisms underlying substance abuse. He is one of the premier researchers in his field with an extensive knowledge of pharmacology and monkey behavior, and as such is qualified to assess the implications of my work on cognitive performance. He is also familiar with the dopaminergic system, one of the neurotransmitters examined in my studies.

Cokie Pepto-Bismol, Ph.D., Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy
A collaborator of Dr. Montag, Dr. Pepto-Bismol's work focuses on growth factors responsible for changes in cortex and hippocampus that occur with age, the effects of caloric restriction on brain aging, and is qualified to review my work on purely technical grounds if nothing else; like me, she uses sterological principles in her neuroanatomical analyses.

Raphael Pizza, M.D., Anesthesiology
Dr. Pizza has his own research program (until last year when he took over as department chair) that investigates the effects of sex hormones on analgesic responses. For those of you that don't know, response to nociceptive stimuli varies greatly between the sexes. One focus of his work is to study the effects of estrogen on cholinergic pharmacology, the other neurotransmitter system investigated in my dissertation. He also assists Dr. Nadirius and Dr. Volvo in their research by overseeing anesthetization of subjects for non-invasive MRI and PET scans.

Potential conflict of interest--- Professional ethics demand that I be forthcoming about the fact that Dr. Volvo and Dr. Pizza are married. This in no way affected the integrity of my committee or dissertation


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