Dr. Bita Moghaddam recruited as new chair of behavioral neuroscience

Dr. Bita MoghaddamJuly 12, 2016

OHSU School of Medicine Dean Mark Richardson has appointed Bita Moghaddam, Ph.D.*, as chair of the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience following a national recruitment search. The appointment is effective January 1, 2017. Dr. Moghaddam will succeed Robert Hitzemann, Ph.D., who, as announced (OHSU login required) last year, is stepping down from the role after 16 years as department leader. 

"Dr. Moghaddam brings exceptional experience and credentials to this role," said Dean Richardson. "Her recruitment underscores the school's commitment to building on OHSU's strength in this field and helping launch a new wave of neuroscience on campus."

Dr. Moghaddam comes to OHSU from University of Pittsburgh where she currently serves as professor of neuroscience, psychiatry and pharmaceutical science. She was drawn to OHSU because of its collaborative faculty and resources such as the Oregon National Primate Research Center and the Advanced Imaging Research Center at OHSU.

As chair, Dr. Moghaddam will oversee development of a long-term plan for enhancing research in the department and its funding portfolio, including work that builds out new areas of research. A key emphasis, she says, will be encouraging multidisciplinary approaches, interactions and collaborations across basic science and clinical departments. Dr. Moghaddam will expand the department with new recruiting and resources. "I'm excited about the prospect of being able to recruit young people and influence the training of the next generation of neuroscientists," she said. 

She will work closely with new OHSU Vollum Institute Director Marc Freeman, Ph.D., and School of Medicine leaders such as George Keepers, M.D, chair of psychiatry, Nathan Selden, M.D., Ph.D., chair of neurological surgery, and Dennis Bourdette, M.D., chair of neurology, to build on the excellence of neuroscience research at OHSU.

Dr. Moghaddam received a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Kansas and completed postdoctoral training in pharmacology at Yale University. She joined the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University in 1990 where she quickly rose to the rank of full professor. In 2003, she moved to the University of Pittsburgh. 

Her research focuses on the use of animal models to study the cellular basis of cognitive constructs that are critical to psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia. She has a longstanding track record of involvement in successful translational research. Her work has led to the discovery of the first non-monoamine targeting compound (targeting metabotropic glutamate receptors) for treatment of schizophrenia. Her recent work focuses on animal and computational models relevant to adolescent cognitive and motivated behavior and the so-called "risk networks." 

Her research has been funded continuously since 1991, including a MERIT award from the National Institute of Mental Health. She is the author of more than 100 scientific papers in leading journals, including Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Her papers have been cited more than 16,000 times. 

"It's a magical time in neuroscience," said Dr. Moghaddam. "We have new tools at our disposal to study the neuronal basis of behavior and to design model systems that are relevant to many brain disorders. These disorders, which include developmental, neurodegenerative and psychiatric illnesses, represent enormous disease burden in terms of human suffering and economic cost. Through collaborative research at OHSU, I look forward to working toward translating basic research findings into treatment and prevention strategies."

Dr. Moghaddam has been an active educator and mentor throughout her scientific career. Her education experience has involved extensive didactic teaching of neuroscience to undergraduates, graduate students, medical students and residents. She has broad experience mentoring young scientists.

She is the recipient of many prestigious research awards, including the 2014 CINP Neuroscience Basic Research Award, the Daniel H. Efron Award for excellence in research related to neuropsychopharmacology and the Paul Jansen Schizophrenia Research Award. She has served on numerous editorial and advisory boards, as well as national and local educational and service-oriented committees.

Dr. Hitzemann, an influential leader in the school, will step down from the position at the end of the year and continue to serve on the faculty. The success of his leadership and the department faculty was recognized recently in a departmental review. 

"I want to thank Dr. Hitzemann for his years of leadership service to OHSU as well as acknowledge the important contributions of members of the search committee who worked on this key recruitment for many months," said Dean Richardson. 

The Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, home to 20 primary faculty members, has a long tradition of research excellence with particular strengths in the areas of drug and alcohol abuse, drug reinforcement and reward and cognitive neuroscience, particularly emphasizing learning and memory. A variety of research strategies are used to investigate these areas and range from behavioral, quantitative and molecular genetics to neuroimaging. Dr. Moghaddam brings in additional expertise in electrophysiology and animal models of psychiatric disorders. The department is home to a graduate program that emphasizes basic science training in behavioral neuroscience. The department is one of seven basic science departments in the OHSU School of Medicine.

*Pronounced BEE-ta MOH-gah-dom