Outstanding professionals in the neuroscience field will visit East Central University Wednesday for the seventh annual Raniyah T. Ramadan Symposium.

The Ramadan Symposium, which is free and open to the public, is named for the late Dr. Raniyah Ramadan, who was a research scientist in neuro-ophthalmology. The prestigious symposium was established and is sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. Tawfik Z. Ramadan, parents of the late Raniyah Ramadan.

“Our daughter had a belief in promoting science and research, especially in the neuroscience field,” said Dr. Ramadan. “We do this because we feel that we belong to ECU.”

The 2020 symposium features presentations from Dr. Andriy Yabluchanskiy, Dr. Shannon Conley, Dr. Mike Beckstead, and ECU student Kay Woodring. The event begins at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Chickasaw Business and Conference Center’s Foundation Hall.

Yabluchanskiy’s presentation is on “Vascular Heath and Memory.” Conley will present on “Mechanisms of PRPH2-Associated Retinal Degeneration: A Basic Science Approach to Studying Disease Variability.” Beckstead’s presentation is “Decline in Dopamine Neuron Function Precedes Disruption of Neuronal Structure in a Progressive Mouse Model of Parkinson’s Disease.” Woodring will present on “Transient Brain Microstate Activation and Sensory Processing in Fragile X Syndrome.”

Yabluchanskiy is an assistant professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center. He obtained his medical degree from the Karazin’s Kharkiv National University, School of Medicine, Ukraine, in 2006, and completed his Ph.D. training in neuroscience at the University College London in 2012.

Since then, Yabluchanskiy has received post-doctoral training in the field of cardiovascular pathophysiology and aging that, in combination with his expertise in neuroscience, allowed him to develop an independent line of investigation and to establish a Translational Geroscience Laboratory where he studies mechanisms of cognitive decline in aging and age-related diseases.

In his laboratory, Yabluchanskiy has developed methods to evaluate memory and measure cerebral blood flow in human subjects.

Conley has been an assistant professor in the department of cell biology at the OU Health Sciences Center since 2016. Her current research focuses on inherited retinal degenerations and age-related changes to the retinal and cerebral vasculature. She is particularly interested in how these changes contribute to cognitive decline and vision loss in the elderly.

Conley received her Ph.D. in pharmacology and toxicology and her MPH in occupational and environmental health from the University of Arizona. She works largely with mouse models of retinal degeneration and age-related vascular fragility and is interested in understanding the basic cellular and molecular pathways that underlie variability in disease pathology.

Beckstead is an associate member in the Aging & Metabolism research program at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. He is also the Hille Family Foundation chair in Neurodegenerative Disease Research. Prior to moving to Oklahoma in 2017, he obtained his Ph.D. in pharmacology from Wake Forest University School of Medicine, worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Vollum Institute in Portland, Oregon, and began his independent lab at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

Beckstead’s primary research focus is on the dopamine system in the brain and its relationship to aging, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and motivated behavior including methamphetamine and opioid intake. His lab combines the use of electrophysiology, animal models of aging and neurodegeneration, opto- and chemogenetics, multiple behavioral assays, immunohistochemistry and brain site-specific pharmacology to investigate the synaptic underpinnings of dopaminergic behaviors in mice.

Woodring of Moore is a biology/pre-medicine student at ECU, set to graduate at the end of the spring semester. Her research was conducted at OU with Dr. Lauren Ethridge. Her plans include working in a lab setting while also exploring post-graduate training options in biomedical sciences.

“My Ramadan internship has provided me with invaluable training and perspective on the options out in the research community,” Woodring said.