Journey to Promotions Robert Hampson, PhD

Integrative Physiology & Pharmacology Ph.D. Program at Wake Forest University

Wake Forest University Graduate School » Integrative Physiology & Pharmacology Ph.D. Program

Journey to Promotions Robert Hampson, PhD

Physiology & Pharmacology

This is the second article in a two-part series describing the journeys to promotion for a basic sciences and clinical faculty member.

Robert Hampson, PhD, works on research that pushes the boundaries of neural science. “What was once considered impossible and a work of the imagination is becoming a reality,” he said.

Hampson was recently promoted from associate professor to professor of Physiology & Pharmacology, effective July 1. He is working with a multi-institutional team to develop a prosthetic device for damaged brain areas. His goal is to improve memory function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and traumatic brain injury.

Hampson’s promotion stemmed from his dedicated research efforts and educational contributions to the Medical Center.

“Rob Hampson’s contributions are an example of impactful and internationally recognized scholarship,” said Steve Block, MBBCH, Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs. “He teaches at the School of Medicine and the Graduate School, and he is a popular lecturer in the community. Rob is a great example of the ‘triple threat,’ the academician who is excellent in research, teaching and service.”

Funded Research Efforts

An active researcher, Hampson has been the principal investor on three grants funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Mental Health.

For the past 12 years, he has been co-investigator with Sam Deadwyler, PhD, professor of Physiology & Pharmacology, on a program called Restoring Active Memory, funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency). The project is in collaboration with the Bioengineering Department at the University of Southern California and the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy at the University of Kentucky.

“We’re exploring new neurological approaches and applications of basic science to human disease and clinical settings,” said Hampson.

Research to Restore Memory Function

Hampson’s interest in memory function started in 1988 during his graduate studies at Wake Forest School of Medicine, when he worked in Deadwyler’s lab. “I was fascinated with physiology, pharmacology, neuroscience and understanding how the brain encodes information,” said Hampson.

Since then, his research has focused on developing a neural prosthetic device, or chip, that replaces function of the brain following head injury, trauma or diseases like stroke or Alzheimer’s.

Using animal models, Hampson and Deadwyler have recorded neural activity in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that processes memory. They identified and mapped brain patterns associated with completing specific memory-dependent repetitive tasks, like pushing a lever or responding to a colored light. Using this information, they developed a mathematic model that restores impaired memory function by bypassing damaged brain areas.

“We’re using neurophysiological recording techniques and cognitive testing to understand the codes and mechanisms of memory,” explained Hampson. “We can’t bring back old memories, but we can restore the brain’s ability to make new memories.”

Hampson’s research has been published extensively in high-impact journals and featured in The New York Times, Newsweek and CNN and on CBS and BBC radio. In 2013, he received the “Outstanding Paper Award” from the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society in Japan for his publication on memory facilitation by hippocampal ensemble stimulation. He speaks frequently throughout the United States and Europe.

Active in Education and Scholarship

Hampson is also involved in educational initiatives, teaching medical and graduate students in Biomedical Engineering, Neuroscience and Physiology & Pharmacology. He has mentored about 30 undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students at the Medical Center.

In addition, he is associate editor for the Journal of Neuroscience Methods, a journal reviewer for 30 publications, and a funding agency reviewer for the National Institutes of Health, NASA and the National Science Foundation. He is also a volunteer speaker at local schools and community organizations, where he discusses brain research and the impact of drug abuse on the brain.

“I’m always looking for new ways to learn and solve problems,” said Hampson. “Being involved often sparks the best ideas.”

The Path to Success

Many mentors in the Department of Physiology & Pharmacology at the Medical Center have contributed to Hampson’s success, including Linda Porrino, PhD, chair; Charles Eldrige, PhD, professor; Jack Strandhoy, PhD, professor emeritus; and Deadwyler.

“I’ve received tremendous support from the positive influence of my mentors,” said Hampson. “I’ve worked very closely with Sam Deadwyler, who has been my friend, role model and mentor for 33 years. He’s helped shape me into the researcher that I am today.”

When reflecting on his career and advancement, Hampson says flexibility is the key. “You need a plan, but you have to be willing to make small changes along the way to reach your overall goal.”

Hampson also advises, “Love what you do and be enthusiastic about it. Take your dream and make it happen. I’m still excited about what I do every day and about what will come next.”

Dr. Hampson, congratulations on your recent promotion and thank you for your many contributions to our Medical Center! 

Read about the Promotion Process for 2015-16.

Credit: Internal Communications