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BMB Welcomes Dr. Moriah Szpara

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BMB Welcomes Dr. Moriah Szpara

Dr. Moriah Szpara

The BMB Department extends a warm welcome to Dr. Moriah Szpara.  Dr. Szpara joined the Department in March 2013, as part of the Virology and Microbiology searches. She is an Assistant Professor in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, with a joint appointment in the Huck Institutes for the Life Sciences.

Dr. Szpara is setting up her lab on the second floor of the Millenium Science Complex and looks forward to getting to know the BMB family.  Dr. Szpara belongs to the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics (CIDD), Center for Systems Genomics (CSG), and Center in Molecular Investigation of Neurological Disorders (CMIND).

Visit Dr. Szpara’s profile page.

Originally from northeastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Szpara received her bachelor’s degree at the Pennsylvania State University, University Park. Dr. Szpara worked with Dr. Jack Schultz and Dr. Bruce McPheron in the department of Entomology for her biology thesis research within the Schreyer Honors College. Dr. Szpara then moved west to earn her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, studying neural development with Drs. John Ngai, Corey Goodman, and Tito Serafini. Her postdoctoral research brought her back east, to Princeton University and the lab of Dr. Lynn Enquist, where she broke new ground with comparative sequencing of neurotropic alpha-herpesviruses, and developed new ways to measure neuronal responses to herpesvirus infection.

Dr. Szpara’s core interest lies in understanding how the nervous system responds to pathogens. Her lab focuses on virulent, encephalitic strains of herpes simplex virus (HSV), which provide an extreme example of how neurotropic pathogens affect the nervous system. 

Mouse sympathetic neuronsDr. Szpara’s research aims to understand the genetic differences that distinguish these hyper-virulent cases from ordinary ones, and to understand how HSV infection impacts neuronal function and the nervous system as a whole. Current efforts in the lab use high-throughput sequencing to reveal genetic differences between neurovirulent and avirulent strains, and whole-genome measures such as RNAseq and siRNA screens to investigate how neurons respond to these infectious stimuli.  These data will guide future experiments to explore the nature of virulence, potential neuron-specific therapeutics, and parallels between infection and other stressful stimuli, such as brain injury and neurodegenerative disease.

Please stop by W-208 and W-222 Millenium Science Complex to greet Dr. Szpara and her lab members as they join our Department’s investigative efforts.


*Image: Mouse sympathetic neurons, stained with a fluorescent antibody that highlights the Tau microtubule-stabilizing protein. These neurons are highly susceptible to infection by HSV, and provide a useful model for the infection of human neurons.