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Gabriela Popescu

As a UB doctoral student, Gabriela Popescu, left, published research in top academic journals. Now, as a UB faculty member, she is giving back by mentoring a new generation of scientists, including biochemistry student Will Borschel, right.

From Student to Mentor

Cultivating Young Researchers

Watch a video of Dr. Popescu in her lab.

“My lab has been so successful, and I attribute this to the support I had at every step.”
Gabriela Popescu, PhD '99, Associate Professor of Biochemistry

With a team of students and technicians in the South Campus Biomedical Research Building, Gabriela Popescu is investigating the mysteries of memory formation.

Her sixth-floor lab is an exciting place to be.

Projects under way could have implications for the treatment of neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.

The department, biochemistry, is tight-knit.

Students and teachers share the work—and the credit.

Popescu, an associate professor, has benefited from the culture of collaboration as both a mentor and a mentee.

She earned her PhD at UB and began postdoctoral research here in 1999. She credits faculty members, including biophysicist Anthony Auerbach, for cultivating her skills and enabling her to make major discoveries early on.

As a postdoctoral fellow, she appeared as lead author on papers appearing in Nature and Nature Neuroscience, a major accomplishment even for seasoned scientists.

Today, she is using more than $1.8 million from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) to study mechanisms that control NMDA receptors, a type of brain protein that mediates communication between nerve cells.

Having found success, Popescu is giving back by offering students the same kind of encouragement that her advisers offered her.

Cassandra Kussius, PhD '10, an alumna from Popescu’s lab, had four first-author publications and four job offers before graduation.

With Popsecu’s guidance, Will Borschel, another mentee, applied for and won a $70,000 grant from NINDS to study NMDA receptors.

“The department is so well structured, and the faculty take such good care of their students,” Borschel says. “There are always activities going on: research days, leaders in our field coming to speak, opportunities to present our data. We’re very involved.”


Cultivating Young Researchers