NI Alumni Spotlight: Luis Martinez, PhD

Our first NI graduate alumni spotlight features Dr. Luis Martinez, a newly appointed Assistant Professor in the Neuroscience Program at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

What have you been up to since you graduated in 2013?

After I graduated from GSU in 2013, my wife and I moved to St. Paul, Minnesota and I began a postdoc in the laboratory of Dr. Paul Mermelstein in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota. Over these last three years I’ve mostly been working in the lab, although I have had the opportunity to teach an introductory social neuroscience course for non-majors the last two years. More recently, I applied for and accepted a tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor in the Neuroscience Program at Trinity College in Hartford, CT (starting July 1, 2016).

What current projects are you working on?

As a postdoc I’ve been examining the neural mechanisms underlying sex differences in addictive behaviors. For many drugs of abuse, including cocaine, women report greater rewarding effects of these drugs and end up progressing more rapidly from initial use to addiction. Pre-clinical research using animal models implicates the steroid hormone estrogen in the etiology of these sex differences. My work has specifically focused on the role of metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) signaling in mediating the effects of estrogen on addictive responses in female rats. To date I have found that activation of the group I mGluR, mGluR5, is required for the enhancing effects of estrogen on two different models of addiction in rats, behavioral sensitization and cocaine self administration. As a new faculty member at Trinity I will be shifting my focus towards identifying the mechanisms whereby steroid hormones alter the structure/function of the brain’s reward circuitry during puberty, ultimately leading to the sex differences in addictive behaviors observed later in life.

How did GSU prepare you for this position?

My experiences in the NI Graduate Program at GSU have contributed substantially to my career to date. During my time in the program I had the opportunity to work with, and receive instruction from, leading experts in my specific field (neuroendocrinology). The collaborative nature of the NI instilled in me the value of performing research as a team, something that will prove essential to my ability to be productive as a researcher at small liberal arts college moving forward. Finally, as a graduate student in the Petrulis and Albers labs at GSU I was always afforded the opportunity to directly mentor undergraduates in the lab. Those mentoring experiences strongly influenced by decision to apply for faculty jobs at smaller institutions that would allow me to focus more of my time on undergraduate training and education.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years hopefully I’ll still be at Trinity, having accomplished some professional goals (e.g., received tenure, acquired independent funding for my research) and personal goals (started a family).

What do you like to do for fun outside of work?

My wife and I presently live in Minneapolis, MN, and we enjoy doing very stereotypically Minneapolis things for fun (so it’s been a really good fit for us here!). In the few years that we’ve been here, we’ve made a substantial dent into our goal of visiting all of the breweries/brew pubs/distilleries located in the Twin Cities. Minneapolis typically vies with Portland for being the most bike friendly city in the US, and I’ve enjoyed getting back into biking during my time here. Upon arrival in Connecticut, my wife and I look forward to once again becoming owners of an African pygmy hedgehog.