Tracy L. Bale, PhD
As the Director of CERCH, Dr. Bale is orchestrating the Center’s mission toward building collaborative translational research. She is an expert in epigenetic research, focusing on the periods of vulnerability in neurodevelopment and maturation in which perturbations, such as stress, in the environment can alter somatic and germ cells to promote disease risk or resilience.
Dr. Bale has been studying epigenetic mechanisms in neuroscience for over 15 years. Her lab has developed mouse models of maternal and paternal stress that produce offspring with sex-specific changes in stress reactivity and metabolic pathways. Her lab utilizes cutting-edge molecular, biochemical, physiological, and behavioral methods to identify novel mechanisms involved in offspring programming. Her research expertise crosses many fields, including neuroscience, reproduction, development and endocrinology, and encompasses mouse models and building translational programs as well.
As a UMB STRAP recruit, Dr. Bale has expertise and success in NIH grant submission and funding and has established an internationally recognized and rigorous research program. She has held leadership positions as a Co-Director of a SCOR P50 Center, Research Director for the BIRCWH faculty training grant, Chair of NIH study section, and serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for 4 national Centers and the Max Planck Psychiatry Institute, and the Academy of Sciences Congressional Committee for Gulf War Veterans.
Jessica Fluharty, MBA
Associate Administrative Director
Ms. Fluharty assists PIs and trainees with grant applications and regulatory protocols, provides boilerplate details for regulatory compliance, identifies opportunities for funding, and develops the structural support to facilitate the Center’s goal in forming collaborative translational research teams. Additionally, she manages the Center’s administrative functions, coordinating events and seminars, and overseeing the daily implementation of Center initiatives.
Christopher Morgan, PhD
Associate Director of Epigenetic Research
Dr. Morgan, Department of Pharmacology, consults with researchers developing studies on epigenetic mechanisms in inter- and transgenerational transmission in animal models and human cohorts. Dr. Morgan is an expert in miRNA biology, having adapted novel high-throughput strategies to characterize the miRNA-target mRNA interactome of the neonatal brain, and in characterizing and directly manipulating epigenetic programming at diverse stages of development. In addition, Dr. Morgan was a past member of the NIDDK intramural IRB and has reviewed numerous clinical research protocols, giving him advanced knowledge of complications that arise in translational study design.
Morgan Bridi, PhD
Associate Director of Neurodevelopment and Circutry
Dr. Bridi, Department of Pharmacology, has a longstanding interest in translational research into the underlying mechanisms of and treatments for neurodevelopmental disorders. He is an expert in electrophysiology and in vivo imaging of neuronal activity in non-human models of neurospychiatric illness. Dr. Bridi has applied this expertise in the development of an experimental pipeline using in vivo fiber photometry to better study the confluence of behavior, biochemistry, and brain activity during adverse events across the lifespan.
Laundette Jones, PhD, MPH,
Associate Director of Transdisciplinary Research & Community Impact
Dr. Jones is a biosocial researcher from the Department of Epidemiology & Public Health with expertise in basic biomedical science and community and population health. This unique background and expertise guides her research program that seeks to address health disparities through understanding the interplay of biological, environmental, and social factors. Dr. Jones participatory research approach combines the wisdom of both local communities and academic researchers with the goal of sharing and co-generating knowledge to produce comprehensive, context-specific strategies for eliminating health disparities. Dr. Jones supports the Center by providing expertise in building trusting community-academic partnerships, including helping to coordinate, develop, and maintain research infrastructure to enable community participation and developing research protocols that work effectively in community settings.
Mark Kvarta, MD, PhD
Associate Director for Mental Health and Clinical Research
Dr. Kvarta is a physician-scientist specializing in translational research at the interface of neurobiological vulnerability and environment in contributing to symptoms of mental illness. He completed his PhD in neuroscience investigating how stress and antidepressants have opposing effects on synaptic function in key brain areas relevant to depression. As a psychiatrist, he sees patients with a wide array of mental illness diagnoses in an outpatient community mental health clinic. He now uses this expertise to bring a novel perspective towards translational human research investigating how stress across the lifespan leads to brain dysfunction at the cell and circuit levels and contributes to psychiatric symptoms. His contribution to the center is in providing clinical insight into how stress and the environment influence mental health, as well as a translational research perspective given his background spanning both basic and clinical neuroscience.