May 25, 2021

Harms Named 2021 Dean’s Excellence Award Winner in Research

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RS17723 Fran Lund 4 scrAshley Harms, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Neurology, has been awarded the junior 2021 Dean’s Excellence Award in research. She is a neuroimmunologist in the Center for Neurodegeneration and Experimental Therapeutics, who serves with dedication and passion for the patients that will ultimately benefit from her research endeavors.

She achieved her Bachelor of Science in biology from Texas A&M University in 2006, and her Ph.D. from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in 2010. Harms joined the Department of Neurology in 2015 and quickly established a thriving NIH-funded independent research laboratory by 2017, focusing on the underlying cellular and immunological mechanisms that initially cause alpha-synucleinopathy disorders, or neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, and what progresses them.

She uses a viral model approach and genetic markers to study how the accumulation of alpha-synuclein protein in neurons, nerve fibers or glial cells contribute to the activation of microglial cells, immune cell infiltration, and subsequent activation of the immune response in Parkinson’s disease and multiple system atrophy.

In her most recent research, Harms has studied the role of the immune system in Parkinson’s Disease. In both human and animal models, an inflammatory immune response was observed in those with a dysfunctional immune systems characterized by genetic risk factors and modifiers. Notable markers were identified throughout the brain, CNS, gut, nervous system, and mircrobiome.

While research is her primary role, Harms has also developed important teaching roles. She has three students in her laboratory pursuing Ph.D. thesis work. She is also course director two graduate level courses in neuroscience.

“There is no doubt that Ashley is one of UAB’s rising stars in neuroscience research,” says David Standaert, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Neurology. “She is highly motivated, scientifically talented, and dedicated to work on important problems in neurodegeneration. Her work is opening doors to entirely new ways of thinking about preventing and treating neurodegenerative disease.”