Christian Peters

    Email Address: cjpeters@uic.edu
    College: Medicine Department: Anatomy and Cell Biology
    Title: Assistant Professor
    Office: COMRB 6035 Phone: 3124133089
    Webpage: http://peters.lab.uic.edu
    Participating in the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Awards program: Yes

    Research Interest:
    Ion channels are transmembrane proteins that are found in all excitable cells, and are the key regulators of the electrochemical signaling essential that forms a major component of intra- and intercellular communication. In neurons of the brain, channels gated by voltage or extracellular and intracellular ligands, among other stimuli, are responsible for receiving, combining, propagating and delivering information throughout the neural network. The expression, assembly, function and subcellular distribution of channels are tightly controlled and highly specific. Perturbation or malfunction at any of these levels of control can result in significant alteration to neuronal circuit activity and may culminate in major changes to brain function and in disease.

    In the Peters lab, we are especially interested in how the regulation and function of ion channels is disturbed to cause and maintain nicotine dependence. Nicotine is a potent agonist of the eponymous nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR), a family of ligand-gated ion channels with widespread distribution throughout the central nervous system and in skeletal muscles. Nicotine can act as an activator, desensitizer and molecular chaperone of nAChR, and produces effects both acute and chronic on neurons where the target channels are expressed. nAChR regulate cellular signaling through both voltage- and calcium-dependent mechanisms. Aberrant signaling owing to the presence of nicotine can modify a wide range of cellular processes involving nAChR and other genes and proteins interacting or downstream of them, including other, calcium-dependent ion channels. Untangling how and where these changes act to ultimately produce the changes to behavior associated with nicotine dependence is a major focus of our research.

    Additional opportunities to work on projects related to ion channel function and regulation may also be available at the discretion of the Principal Investigator.

    Minimum time commitment in hours per week: 15

    Qualifications of a Student:
    Preference is for students in their sophomore or junior years having taken at least two lab courses, and who intend to remain with the lab for at least two years. Senior applicants must have previous biology lab experience. Honors college students are especially encouraged to apply. First consideration will be given to students with a GPA in science courses of 3.3 or higher.

    Brief Summary of what is expected from the student:
    A commitment of at least 15 hours a week, in blocks of at least 3 hours, is required, although a willingness (and eagerness) to commit more time as projects require is a major plus. Students are expected to be motivated, self-starters who plan on making a multi-year commitment to the lab. The PI recognizes that students must prioritize their coursework, but this underscores the importance of time management skills. Students aiming to gain experience in anticipation of starting a career in an academic lab environment or of applying to graduate school upon graduation represent the applicants most sought-after.

    New students will undergo an initial training/probationary period during which their responsibilities will be limited to basic tasks and maintenance. However, once they have demonstrated aptitude and commitment, undergraduates will take on additional responsibility in pursuing specific research goals coordinated by more senior lab members, and eventually to pursue their own research projects. Undergraduates will be expected to engage with the scientific literature for their project, participate in lab meetings and journal clubs, and work with other lab members to achieve project goals. Following successful completion of an initial probationary semester, students may have the opportunity to be paid an hourly rate for their work in the lab.

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