Meet UNMC Distinguished Scientist Dan Monaghan, Ph.D.

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Dan Monaghan, Ph.D.
UNMC researcher Dan Monaghan, Ph.D., answers questions about his work, life and interests.

NOTE: This profile is part of a series highlighting the 23 researchers who were named UNMC Distinguished Scientists or New Investigators for 2008. Each of these researchers will be profiled in UNMC Today leading up to a March 16 ceremony to recognize their achievements.

  • Name: Dan Monaghan, Ph.D.
  • Title: Professor of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience
  • Joined UNMC: 1989

Describe your research in laymen terms, please.

Our research focuses on determining mechanisms by which brain cells communicate and how this communication can alter brain cell structure, function and survival.

What led you to pursue this area of research?

When I was a graduate student, many questions about the brain were difficult to study without an understanding of the biochemical basis of signaling between brain cells. Thus, my earlier work was concerned with helping to identity the molecules that mediate signaling between most brain cells -- the amino acid L-glutamate and its family of receptors.

How do you see your research contributing to science?

Identification of the mechanisms by which brain cells communicate is necessary for understanding basic processes such as learning and memory, and also for understanding diseases such as epilepsy, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's.

Why did you become a scientist?

I entered science after I was curious about psychology, but then came to believe that it was first necessary to understand how the brain works. This question is one of the great challenges in science.

What is your hope for the next generation of scientists?

That they can uncover new organizing principles of brain function and use this information for society's benefit.

Beyond grant funding, how do you measure success?

One measure of success is the extent to which other researchers have been influenced by one's work.

What would you tell a student interested in a research career?

Find out if you enjoy the process of research and discovery.

List three things few people know about you.

  • My father was a UNMC clinical adjunct faculty member.
  • My wife is the scholar in the family; and
  • She and my daughters are amazing.

Click here to see the UNMC Honors Web site, which features photos of profiles of the medical center's Distinguished Scientists and New Investigators.