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Meet a BrainWhiz- Shanaz Tehani- Butt : Greg Butcher : Grace Rossi


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  Name: Shanaz Tejani-Butt
Work: A professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology
Subject Areas: Central nervous & Endocrinology
Hobbies: Reading and listening to classical music

Questions About:

What is a typical day in your life like?

As a professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, my days are typically divided into three parts: Teaching, Research and Administration. I teach 3rd and 4th year professional students in the College of Pharmacy and most of my teaching is done in multi-faculty instructed courses. The subject areas that I teach are generally related to my own research interests, namely, Central Nervous System and Endocrinology (Physiology and Pharmacology). Since the class size is rather large, there is a lot of interaction with the students after class as well. I enjoy teaching because it provides me with daily opportunities to learn something new. Teaching also provides me with opportunities to experiment with new teaching techniques and new approaches for presenting the information in the classroom. The rest of the day is usually spent on my research, working in the lab with graduate and undergraduate students or on writing or reviewing papers or grants. Some portion of the day is also spent on advising students and Departmental and University related administrative duties.

When I get home from the University, my evening is spent with my family. Since I do a fair amount of volunteer work for a non-profit organization, many evenings and weekends are spent working on projects for this organization. This allows me to meet people of various backgrounds and diverse needs and I feel enriched when I volunteer my time to help others.

What kinds of hobbies to you have at home?
I enjoy reading and listening to classical music. I also enjoy traveling a lot and find every excuse to plan a trip to a new place

How did you get to be a brain whiz?
Quite by accident!! I have a Ph.D. in Medicinal Chemistry from the Medical College of Virginia. My Ph.D. work focused on preparing compounds for the treatment of cancer. However, when I got married and moved to Philadelphia, I began a post-doctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania where I worked with a group of neuroscientists. At that time, I knew very little about the Central Nervous System. During my first two years of training, I made compounds that would be used for imaging the brain and compounds that could cross the brain for treatment of Parkinson’s disease. At that time, I did not do any biological work. A technician in the lab would perform the bioassays to find out if the compounds that I made were biologically active or not. However, it so happened that the technician would often be busy with other projects and experiments. Out of sheer impatience, I began to learn the experiments that were needed to study the activity of the compounds in a biological system. In a short while, I became more familiar with the general field and began to teach myself physiology and pharmacology of the central nervous system. The rest is history! I have not looked back at chemistry ever since and refer to myself as a pharmacologist.


Further Research Interests
I like to believe that my lab is playing an important role in unlocking the mysteries between depressive illness and drug abuse. When human beings are stressed with daily life events, they tend to drink more alcohol or take drugs that affect their minds. Also, psychological stress is a common risk factor in the development of depression and alcohol abuse. However, it is very difficult to do these studies in living humans and therefore, our lab uses a rat model to study these connections.

The Wistar-Kyoto rat strain shows greater "depressive" behavior, consumes greater amounts of alcohol and produces more stress related ulcers than other rat strains. Our laboratory has found several behavioral and neurochemical differences in this rat that may be linked to altered dopamine and/or norepinephrine levels in the brain. Our current focus is aimed at understanding the role of the presynaptic neuron in regulating these brain chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine, and learning how these chemicals may be involved in causing depression, alcohol abuse, and other stress related disorders.


What do you think is the coolest thing about the brain?
The fact that because we know so little about it, I can spend my whole life focusing on the study of the brain and realize that there is still much more to learn, conquer, discover about this fascinating part of our bodies!!



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