Meet Ben Kolber, Ph.D.

Kolber

Since graduating from UD in 2003 a B.S. in biology and psychology, Ben Kolber earned a doctorate in neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis in 2008. He also completed his post-doctoral research fellowship at Washington University in 2011. Though Kolber has moved on from Dayton, he considers UD an integral part of his career formation. Both in and out of the classroom, Kolber found the biology department to be influential in his life experiences.

"In general, I found all of the biology professors at UD to be incredibly accessible. Whether it was in-class questions or out of class problems, I was never turned away by anyone in the department," he said. "Kelly Williams was always interested in my experiences and offered honest and thoughtful advice when I began thinking about a career in the biomedical sciences. Carissa Krane provided me with an incredible opportunity to learn both the basic and advanced laboratory skills that I would later need to be successful in a research career. Her passion for undergraduate research has continued to influence me today as I have had the opportunity to mentor undergraduates."

Kolber enjoyed his UD experience and considers it to have been a great starting block for his scientific career. He is continuing his biomedical research as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he started in December 2011. He also serves as the Research and Education Coordinator for the university’s Chronic Pain Research Consortium.

"After graduating, the practical knowledge that I gained doing scientific research with Dr. Carissa Krane was most applicable," he said. "As I have transitioned into a faculty position myself, I now model my mentoring on how I saw individuals such as Dr. Krane, Dr. Kearns, and Dr. Williams interact with students in their labs. My exposure outside the lab to social justice issues has continued to mold and shape my perspective on the world and my responsibility toward society."

During his time in St. Louis, Kolber’s work focused on the endocrine system, stress and psychiatric illness. In his current position as a faculty member, Kolber’s passion for science is ever-present, especially while conducting research.

"One of the best parts about being a scientist is the real feeling of discovery that you encounter every day," he said. "Oftentimes, that discovery occurs after chance discussions with other scientists working at other universities and in industry. Interacting with individuals from across the world who have similar interests is exciting and stimulates new ideas for my own research. My research focus now is on the interaction between pain and stress. Specifically, we are interested in brain areas that are involved in the effects of stress on chronic pain. We use a variety of approaches to model and analyze brain areas involved in pain and stress. One of the newer techniques that we use is called optogenetics, which involves used light-activated ion channels to specifically activate neurons in only one part of the brain. Simultaneously, we can measure animal behavior or physiological changes to determine the role of a brain area in pain and stress."

In his journey from student to full-time scientist, Kolber acknowledges his time at UD as an important period that greatly contributed to his learning experience as a whole.

"UD was an incredible place to learn and grow up," he said. "One of the most important aspects to this experience that has continued to resonate with me is the breadth of knowledge that I was exposed to at UD. Whether it involved non-science classes in the humanities, service in the community or immersion trips abroad, the broad range of experiences and areas that I encountered at UD has allowed me to maintain a balanced perspective on my own work and the world around me."