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Department of Molecular Medicine

Robert Oswald



Department of Molecular Medicine
College of Veterinary Medicine
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14853
Office: (607) 253-3877
Lab: (607) 253-3879
Fax: (607) 253-3659


Research Interests

Research in our laboratory focuses on the structure and function of neurotransmitter receptors, in particular glutamate receptors. These receptors are the primary excitatory neurotransmitter receptors in the central nervous system and are implicated in the molecular basis of learning and memory as well as a variety of neurological disorders. The laboratory uses a variety of methods including NMR spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, small-angle X-ray scattering, isothermal titration calorimetry, and electrophysiology to study the biophysics of drug binding. These multiple approaches provide a view of the binding site that includes both the structure and dynamics. This provides more detailed information for further drug development and understanding of the mechanism channel activation. Ongoing collaborative projects include work on protein recognition factors in leptospirosis, and experimental drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.


  • Ph.D.. - 1979   Biochemistry, Vanderbilt University
  • M.A. - 1975   Psychology, University of Alabama
  • B.S. - 1974   Chemistry, University of Alabama

Professional Experience

  • 1998-present   Professor , Department of Molecular Medicine, Cornell University
  • 1994-1995   Visiting Professor, Biological Chemistry, Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School
  • 1993-1998   Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Cornell University
  • 1988-1989   Visiting Professor, Inorganic Chemistry Lab, University of Oxford
  • 1987-1993   Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Cornell University
  • 1981-1987   Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Cornell University
  • 1976-1979   Predoctoral Fellow, NIMH & NIH, Department of Biochemistry, Vanderbilt University

Honors and Awards

  • 1994-1995   Guggenheim Fellowship, Cornell University/Harvard University 
  • 1988-1989   Fulbright Fellowship, University of Oxford
  • 1982-1984   Alfred P. Sloan Fellow, Cornell University
  • 1975-1979   Harold S. Vanderbilt Scholar, Vanderbilt University

Professional Society Memberships

  • Biophysical Society
  • American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Professional Service

  • 2012   American Heart Association Reviewer, Basic Cell PC1
  • 2012-present   Special Edition Editor, New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy
  • 2008-present   Editorial Board, Journal of Biological Chemistry
  • 2005-present   Editorial Board, Molecular Pharmacology
  • 2006-2009   National Institutes of Health Study Section, Biophysics of Neural Systems
  • 2005-2006   National Institutes of Health Study Section, Biophysics of Synapses, Channels, and Transporters
  • 2000-2005   Editorial Board, Journal of Biological Chemistry


Selected Publications

  1. Ahmed, A.H., Ptak, C.P., Fenwick, M.K., Hsieh, C.-L., Weiland, G.A., & Oswald, R.E. (2013) Dynamics of cleft closure of the GluA2 ligand binding domain in the presence of full and partial agonists revealed by hydrogen-deuterium exchange. J. Biol. Chem. DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M113.495564.
  2. Ahmed, A.H., Hamada, M., Shinada, T., Ohfune, Y. Weerasinghe, L., Garner, P.P., and Oswald, R.E. (2012) The structure of (-)-kaitocephalin bound to the ligand binding domain of the AMPA/glutamate receptor, GluA2.  J. Biol. Chem. 287:41007-41013.
  3. Ahmed, A.H., Wang, S., Chuang, H.H., and Oswald, R.E. (2011) Mechanism of AMPA receptor activation by partial agonists: Disulfide trapping of closed lobe conformations. J. Biol. Chem. 286:35257-35266.
  4. Fenwick, M.K., and Oswald, R.E. (2010) On the mechanisms of alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid (AMPA) receptor binding to glutamate and kainate.  J. Biol. Chem. 285:12334-12343.
  5. Ahmed, A.H., Thompson, M.D., Fenwick, M.K., Romero, B., Loh, A.P., Jane, D.E., Sondermann, H., and Oswald, R.E. (2009) Mechanism of antagonism of the GluR2 AMPA receptor: Structure and dynamics of the complex of two willardiine antagonists with the glutamate binding domain.  Biochemistry 48:3894-3903.

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