Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi

Dr. Riccardo Mozzachiodi

An Outstanding Islander

Outline photo of Dr. Riccardo Mozzachiodi

Memory Study

Dr. Riccardo Mozzachiodi has always been fascinated with the fundamental mechanisms behind how the human brain forms and retains memories. As the University’s only neurophysiologist, Mozzachiodi combines biomedical research and marine biology to conduct the study of memory using the marine snail Aplysia Californica. Aplysia has an elementary nervous system that operates at a single-cell level in the same way as the human brain, but with only about 20,000 neurons instead of billions. The assistant professor of neuroscience earned his doctoral degree at Italy’s University of Pisa and was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston before joining Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in fall 2007. He follows the teachings of his mentors in Italy and Houston who promote the opening of research labs to young students for observation. In May, the president of the South Texas Chapter of the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society led elementary school kids on a tour of his lab where they fed the large snails and saw the activity of live neurons. Through his USDA grant “PROMPT: Providing Research Opportunities for Minority Populations in Texas,” Mozzachiodi aims to target students from underrepresented groups and prepare them for science-related careers. He mentors graduate students and undergraduate students in National Science Foundation-funded programs, such as SURF, BUENO and LSAMP. His students present at conferences, including the Meeting of the Society for Advancement of Hispanic/Chicanos & Native Americans in Science and the Meeting of the Society of Neuroscience. Each year, he participates in the Future Health Professionals Conference where, with the collaboration of his students, he presents a display to illustrate to high school students how to perform physiological tests that are routinely used in biomedical exams. This fall he begins an NSF-sponsored project to investigate what mechanisms generate the memory of an aversive event. His work has been published in scientific journals including “Learning & Memory” and “Nature Neuroscience”. In the photo, he holds the January 2010 issue of “Trends in Neurosciences”, which includes his article “More than Synaptic Plasticity: Role of Nonsynaptic Plasticity in Learning and Memory” and features the cover art that he co-designed.

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