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Robert A. Nichols, PhD

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Robert A. Nichols, PhD
  • Associate Member
    Cancer Biology Program
    University of Hawaii Cancer Center
  • Academic Appointments

  • Professor
    Cell and Molecular Biology
    John A. Burns School of Medicine
    University of Hawaii at Manoa


  • PhD, Neuroscience
    Stanford University
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Neuropharmacology
    Yale University, New Haven, CT
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Neuropharmacology
    Rockefeller University, New York, NY

Research Focus

I have had an active, independent research program since 1990, as a medical school faculty member. I have been able to maintain support of this research program through various sources of funding, including R-level NIH grants. The primary focus of my research revolves around synaptic regulation, an area in which I have published consistently for over 25 years. Much of the work has involved complementary in vitro and in vivo approaches. For the last 15 years, I have connected our research on synaptic regulation to Alzheimer's disease. Recently, I have turned to investigating the neuropathological events underlying the earliest stages of Alzheimer's disease and have promising leads on possible translational applications.

I have also been involved with program and grant administration at a number of levels over the course of my career. I served as a graduate program director for over 10 years. I served as the director for a number of graduate courses for over 20 years. I served as the Director of a Specialized Neuroscience Research Program (U54) at the University of Hawaii. I also served as the Program Director for a Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) grant (G12) at the University of Hawaii. I also serve as Core Director under the RCMI G12 grant. I am now the Principal Investigator of our IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) grant (P20), the Hawaii Statewide Research and Education Partnership, which is devoted to fostering biomedical research across the state from the undergraduate level though to entry-level junior faculty. In addition to these administrative duties, I review each year a substantial number of grant applications as part of several review committees and a large number of biomedical journal articles as both an ad hoc reviewer and editorial board member (Reviewing Editor: Journal of Biological Chemistry).

Selected Publications

  • Arora K, Cheng J, Nichols RA. (2015). Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors Sensitize a MAPK-Linked Toxicity Pathway on Prolonged Exposure to ╬▓-Amyloid. J Biol Chem, Jul 2; 290(35):21409-21420. PubMed PMID: 26139609.
  • Lawrence JL, Tong M, Alfulaij N, Sherrin T, Contarino M, White MM, Bellinger FP, Todorovic C, Nichols RA. (2014). Regulation of presynaptic Ca2+, synaptic plasticity and contextual fear conditioning by a N-terminal ╬▓-amyloid fragment. [Featured article] J Neurosci, Oct 22; 34(43):14210-14218. PubMed PMID: 25339735; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4205547.
  • Arora K, Alfulaij N, Higa JK, Panee J, Nichols RA. (2013). Impact of sustained exposure to ╬▓-amyloid on calcium homeostasis and neuronal integrity in model nerve cell system expressing ╬▒4╬▓2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. J Biol Chem,Apr 19; 288(16):11175-11190. PubMed PMID: 23479730; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3630845.
  • Tong M, Arora K, White MM, Nichols RA. (2011). Role of key aromatic residues in the ligand-binding domain of alpha7 nicotinic receptors in the agonist action of beta-amyloid. J Biol Chem,Sep 30; 286(39):34373-34381. PubMed PMID: 21828053; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3190827.

Publication list via Google Scholar

Active Grants

  • R.A. Nichols, PI
    P20 GM103466, National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
    "INBRE III: Hawaii Statewide Research and Education Partnership (HISREP)"
    09/30/2001 - 04/30/2018
    This is the third cycle of a grant to the state of Hawaii from the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program under the IDeA Networks for Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE). The primary objective of the grant is to foster and then nurture biomedical research and education across the state, particularly in the areas of natural products and health disparities, in order to inspire college-level students to pursue biomedical careers. To accomplish this objective, a PATHway to Biomedical Research Careers program was created to support the participation of undergraduate and community college students in biomedical research laboratories in the University of Hawaii system and in our partner primarily undergraduate universities (PUIs). In addition, to further facilitate pursuit of biomedical careers in the state, a Research Development Activity supports junior investigators at our PUIs, who have recently begun their independent biomedical research programs.
  • R.A. Nichols, Core Director; (PI: Marla Berry)
    G12 MD007601, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)
    "Bioscience Research Infrastructure Development for Grant Enhancement and Success (BRIDGES)"
    Research Center in Minority Institution (RCMI) at the University of Hawaii to further development of research excellence in biomedicine focused on addressing health disparities in underserved minority populations. This goal will be facilitated by creating interdisciplinary collaborative research networks employing emerging technologies for basic, clinical and translational sciences and specific infrastructure cores in proteomics, magnetic resonance imaging, behavior and electrophysiology, histopathology and microscopy, human tissue repositories, bioinformatics, biostatistics, and research design and ethics.