Kristen O’Connell, Ph.D., formerly a researcher at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has joined the Jackson Laboratory faculty as an assistant professor.
O’Connell’s research program is focused on understanding the impact of diet, body weight and peripheral hormone signaling on neuronal excitability and plasticity in the hypothalamus and other brain regions associated with the regulation of food intake and body weight. Her research employs chemogenetic and optogenetic technology combined with behavior studies and electrophysiology.
She holds a B.S. in biology from Villanova University, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Following postdoctoral appointments at Rochester and Colorado State University, O’Connell joined the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis as an assistant professor in 2008, rising to associate professor in 2015.
O’Connell’s long-term research goal is to discover the mechanisms that underlie the central nervous system’s response to diet, particularly with respect to the ion channels and receptors most affected by obesogenic conditions, as these proteins may represent high-value targets for the treatment and prevention of obesity.