Rola A Bekdash

Rola A Bekdash

Email

rbekdash [at] newark.rutgers.edu

Phone

973-353-1267

Office Location

208 Boyden Hall







Office Hours

Available by appointment

Background: Neuroscience and Epigenetics

Throughout my teaching career, I focused on improving Biology education and increasing students’ learning and retention at the college and university level.   I had the opportunity to work with a diverse student body and developed strategies to engage students of different career objectives.  Our students are the future leaders.  My main goal as an educator is to help my students acquire useful skills and prepare them to work and succeed in an increasingly competitive world.

Besides my passion for teaching, I am also passionate about neuroscience. My PhD research at Rutgers University and my Postdoctoral research at Columbia University Medical Center focused on understanding the impact of gene-environment interaction during early development on brain function and behavior.

Historically, various addictions were typically researched strictly as external environmental factors acting on a genetically stable brain.   Studies have shown that our epigenome is plastic and is molded by human experiences and social factors.  New research, which I have contributed to, show that individual’s susceptibility to drug addiction is partly induced by environmental factors such as stress and repeated exposure to drugs of abuse during critical periods of brain development.  These environmental influences have been shown to cause long-lasting epigenetic changes in the expression and function of many neuronal genes resulting in long-term negative health consequences including increased susceptibility to neurological disorders.  This may explain the perpetuation of the adverse effects of drugs of abuse across generations.

While our understanding of the neurobiology of addiction has recently increased, the development of effective medical treatment is a challenge.   Alcohol is an example of a common drug of abuse that can be viewed as a widespread toxin, or more generally, a common environmental factor.  Injuries to the developing brain can result in increasingly serious, prolonged and expensive consequences to the mature brain.   It is imperative to incrementally identify the cellular and molecular effects of alcohol within the brain reward circuitry with the purpose of identifying novel targets to advance medical treatment and protect the developing and the aging brain.

Courses Taught

Epigenetics - 26:120:513 & 21:120:454
Neuroendocrinology - 26:120:568 & 21:120:445
Teaching Internship in Biology - 21:120:412
Mammalian Physiology - 21:120:340
Anatomy & Physiology II - 21:120:142
General Biology I - 21:120:101
General Biology II - 21:120:102

Awards

Recipient of the prestigious Ruth Kirschstein National Research Service Award F32 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism (NIAAA), 2013-2015

Recipient of the prestigious Ruth Kirschstein Institutional National Research Award T32 from Columbia University, 2012-2013

Special Study Opportunity Award, Genome Access Course, Cold Spring Harbor Lab, 2011

Prestigious Award for Outstanding Research in Alcoholism, ISBRA, 2010

Research Society on Alcoholism Student Merit Award, 2010

Neuroscience Travel Conference Award, Rutgers University, 2010

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Study Group Travel Award, 2009

Graduate Teaching Assistantship, American University of Beirut

Undergraduate Scholarship, Rafic Hariri Foundation

Education

MBA, Concentration in Strategy & Leadership, Rutgers Business School, New Brunswick-Newark, 2020
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Neuroscience, Columbia University, NY, 2012-2015
PhD in Neuroscience, Rutgers University & Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ, 2012 
MS in Biology, American University of Beirut, Lebanon, 1996 
BS in Biology, American University of Beirut, Lebanon, 1993


Publications


Bekdash, RA. (2021). Early life nutrition and mental health: The role of DNA methylation. September. Nutrients. 13(9): 3111.
Bekdash, RA. (2021). The Cholinergic system, the adrenergic system and the neuropathology of Alzheimer's disease. January. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 22(3):1273.​​

Bekdash, RA. (2019). Neuroprotective effects of choline and other methyl donors. Nutrients. 11(12):2995. 

Bekdash, RA. (2018). Choline, the brain and neurodegeneration: Insights from epigenetics. Frontiers in Bioscience, 23:1113-1143. 

Bekdash, RA. (2016).  Choline and the Brain: An Epigenetic Perspective.  The Benefits of Natural Products for Neurodegenerative Diseases: Advances in Neurobiology; 12: 381-399.  Springer (Chapter 21)

Bekdash, RA. (2016). Gene-Environment Interaction. EC Proteomics & Bioinformatics. Editor’s Column. ECO.01:03-04.

Bekdash, RA, Harrison, NL (2015). Downregulation of Gabra4 expression during alcohol withdrawal is mediated by specific microRNAs in cultured mouse cortical neurons. Brain & Behavior, 5(8): e00355. 

Gangisetty, O, Bekdash, RA, Maglakelid, G, Sarkar, DK (2014). Fetal alcohol exposure alters proopiomelanocortin gene expression and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function via increasing MeCP2 expression in the hypothalamus. PLOS ONE, 9(11): e113228. 

Bekdash, RA, Zhang, C, Sarkar, DK (2014).  Fetal alcohol programming of hypothalamic proopiomelanocortin system by epigenetic mechanisms and later life vulnerability to stress. Alcoholism Clinical & Experimental Research, 38(9):2323-2330. 

Bekdash, RA, Zhang, C, Sarkar, DK (2013).   Gestational choline supplementation normalized fetal alcohol-induced alterations in histone modifications, DNA methylation and POMC gene expression in β-endorphin neurons of the hypothalamus. Alcoholism Clinical & Experimental Research, 37(7): 1133-1142. 

*Govorko, D, * Bekdash, RA, *Zhang, C, Sarkar, DK (2012).  Male germline transmits fetal alcohol adverse effects on hypothalamic proopiomelanocortin gene across generations. Biological Psychiatry, 72(5):378-388. *Equally contributing co-first authors.

Talhouk, RS, El Dana, RA, Araj, GE, Barbour, EK, Hashwa, F (1998).   Prevalence, antimicrobial susceptibility and molecular characterization of Campylobacter isolates recovered from humans and poultry in Lebanon. The Lebanese Medical Journal, 46(6):310-316. 

Associated Programs

Faculty Mentor for the STEAM Cohort, Honors Living Learning Community, 2018-2020