Training Program
in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities


Program Director and Co-Directors

Grinspan Lab

Grinspan Lab: Oligodendrocytes making myelin

Michael B. Robinson, PhD is Professor of Pediatrics and Professor of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics at CHOP and the Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Robinson serves as the Principal Investigator/Program Director of the training program. He is also a Co-Director of the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC) supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and Director of the Neuroscience Research Affinity Group, an umbrella organization for the neuroscientists at CHOP. Dr. Robinson’s research focuses on astrocyte biology, their differentiation, and their response to ischemic insults.

Eric D. Marsh, MD, PhD is Associate Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at CHOP and the Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania and serves as Co-Director of the training program. Dr. Marsh is the Director of the Neurogenetics Clinic at CHOP. His research focuses on understanding the mechanisms that lead to the development of epilepsy and intellectual disability in the developing and immature brain.

Amelia J. Eisch, PhD is Professor of Anesthesiology & Critical Care Medicine at CHOP and the Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania and serves as Co-Director of the training program. Dr. Eisch was previously the Director of a NIDA training program at UT Southwestern from 2008-2016. Her research focuses on how developmental and adult neurogenesis in particular and dentate gyrus plasticity in general contribute to abnormal functioning with relevance to developmental, psychiatric, and neurological disorders.

Administrative Manager

Robinson Lab

Robinson Lab: An astrocyte situated along a blood vessel in a hippocampal organotypic culture transfected with plasmids encoding a membrane-targeted red fluorescent protein and a green florescent protein targeted to mitochondria.

Kristen Pidgeon, MS provides administrative oversight for the training program as well as the IDDRC. She coordinates all aspects of the training program including: solicitation of applications for open slots, assisting trainees with the appointment process and management of training-related expenses and travel funds once appointed, collecting annual progress reports from trainees, assembly and submission of competitive and non-competitive renewals to NINDS, and scheduling meetings for the Steering Committee. She is also responsible for preserving files for each program applicant as well as coordinating the periodic surveys of trainees. Ms. Pidgeon coordinates and maintains the schedules for the IDDRC Seminar Series, Neuroscience Chalk Talks, Neuroscience Grants Club, and the Critical Analysis of Techniques in IDD Research workshop.

Steering Committee

The Steering Committee consists of Drs. Stewart Anderson, MD, Amelia Eisch, PhD, David Lynch, MD/PhD, Eric Marsh, MD/PhD, Michael Robinson, PhD, Robert Schultz, PhD, Gihan Tennekoon, MD, Marc Yudkoff, MD, and Zhaolan Zhou, PhD. This committee makes all decisions related to the training program, including designing the training program, making modifications, selecting new mentors, reviewing and voting on applications for appointment, evaluating yearly progress reports from trainees, selecting outside consultants to review the program, resolving any conflicts that may arise, and responding to program feedback (from trainees, external advisory committee members, surveys, etc.).

Internal and External Advisory Committees

Schultz Lab

Schultz Lab: Figure showing regions of CBF differences seen in temporal lobe between children with autism and controls measured using ASL perfusion MRI.

Responsibility for oversight of the training program will rest in part with Internal and External Advisory Committees. The Internal Advisory Committee consists of two Penn faculty with long-standing interests and administrative experience with postdoctoral training: Wade Berrettini MD/PhD, Prof. of Psychiatry and Pharmacology and Director of the Penn NIH Institutional “Training Program in Neuropsychopharmacology”, and Robert Levy MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Director of the Cardiology Training Program “Training in Molecular Therapeutics for Pediatric Cardiology”. These two individuals are an invaluable sounding board for programmatic planning, transitioning clinicians to research after completion of their clinical training, responsible conduct in research training, and diversity initiatives.

The External Advisory Committee consists of 3 senior investigators: Joseph T. Coyle MD (Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard) is a Child Psychiatrist with a long-standing interest in developmental disabilities, Randy Blakely PhD (Executive Director and Professor, Florida Atlantic University Brain Institute) has had a longstanding interest in brain development and developmental disabilities, and Benjamin Philpot PhD (Kenan Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology, University of North Carolina) is defining endophenotypes in autistic individuals and examining the genetics of autism. These individuals perform periodic site visits and provide feedback for program improvement.