Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Science Alum Directs National Center on Neuroanatomy

(This is the first of several posts that will highlight members of our Science Advisory Council, a group of alums and supporters that provides valuable guidance for our science programs. Dr. J. Patrick Card (class of 1972) is Professor of Neuroscience and Co-Director of the Center for Neuroanatomy with Neurotropic Viruses at the University of Pittsburgh.)

I firmly believe that success derives from commitment, curiosity, ethics, and a strong foundation. Ashland provided the solid foundation and ethics that have allowed me to prosper as a scientist and educator. Particularly important in that regard is the well-known philosophy of the institution to place “accent on the individual”. I chose Ashland because of that philosophy and am convinced that the subsequent growth and success of the university is directly related to its unwavering belief in the importance of that educational approach.

I attended Ashland from 1968 through 1972 as a science major. I took essentially every science course that was offered and, through interactions with my professors, discovered a fascination with the scientific process. Convinced that my future lay somewhere in the scientific enterprise I sought further experience through graduate study, successfully pursuing Masters and Doctoral degrees at Wright State and Wayne State Universities, respectively. Subsequently I embarked upon a career in research in both academic and industrial settings.

My first position was as a Research Assistant Professor at SUNY Stony Brook, a position that I held for four years. I followed that with a seven-year period of research in industry in the Central Research & Development Department at DuPont, where I rose to the position of Senior Research Scientist. In 1992 I accepted my current position at the University of Pittsburgh.

My research program is devoted to increasing understanding of the identity, organization, and function of neural systems that control behavioral state (sleep-wake cycles) and autonomic function. I am particularly interested in how neural systems that govern emotion influence the activity of each of those systems and how stress can compromise function in disorders of the nervous system such as posttraumatic stress disorder. Toward that end my laboratory has contributed to the development of technology using viruses to define neural circuit organization. Currently I am Co-Director of an NIH supported national center whose mission is to develop this technology and make it available to other neuroscientists who would like to use it in their research. Viral transneuronal tracing technology is integral to the research conducted in my laboratory.

Teaching is also a valued component of my professional responsibilities. My first experience was as a biology instructor to support myself during graduate studies at Wright State University. I enjoy teaching immensely and have actively sought out teaching experiences throughout my career. During my period in industry I was able to pursue this interest through an Adjunct Appointment as a neuroanatomy instructor in the Veterinary School at the University of Pennsylvania. Although research is my primary responsibility at the University of Pittsburgh, I teach an advanced elective and an honors course each year in the neuroscience curriculum.

Louis Pasteur is attributed with the quote “Chance favors the prepared mind”. I have collected quotes over the years but this is the one that seems to stick with me. I feel very fortunate to have enjoyed an interesting and engaging research career and to have been able to “give back” through teaching. I am particularly blessed by the active learning that is a characteristic feature of my career choice and that enriches my existence each and every day. The “prepared mind” that Ashland helped me to develop during my undergraduate studies has been foundational in allowing me to be successful in these endeavors.

-- Dr. Pat Card

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