Dr. Margaret E. Rice is a professor at the New York University School of Medicine, with joint appointments in the Department of Neurosurgery and the Department of Neuroscience and Physiology. She is also an Investigator in the NYU Neuroscience Institute and a member of the NYU Fresco Institute for Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders. As the only non-M.D. in the Neurosurgery Department, she is involved primarily in neuroscience research and teaching. Her NIH-funded laboratory studies factors that regulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays key roles in the interrelated functions of movement and motivation: we move because we are motivated to do so. Dopamine dysfunction underlies several disorders of the nervous system, including Parkinson’s disease, that involves degeneration of dopamine motor pathways, and addiction in which drugs of abuse, like cocaine, hijack dopamine reward pathways. Current research in the Rice lab is focused on regulation of dopamine release by local neurotransmitters, by the metabolic hormones insulin and leptin, and by diet and exercise. Dr. Rice and her colleagues have published over 120 research articles, reviews, and book chapters on these and related topics. She serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Parkinson’s Foundation, and is a past president of the International Society for Monitoring Molecules in Neuroscience (MMiN) and continues to serve on the MMiN Scientific Advisory Board. She is the Co-Chair for the 2020 Basal Ganglia Gordon Research Conference, which is an international conference on brain circuits that underlie motor activity and reward.
Dr. Rice was raised in Oklahoma, earned her Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Kansas, then moved to New York City for a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at NYU – over 30 years ago. She has always claimed Irish and Scots Irish roots through her mother’s father’s family, the McConnells, but confirmed this heritage only recently, when DNA testing indicated ancestry from counties Down, Donegal, and Cork among others. Further research into the McConnell line revealed Irish ancestors as far back as the 1500s, with the first colonial McConnells born in the 1730s in Pennsylvania. Later generations moved west to Ohio and Nebraska, then to Oklahoma, where her grandfather George and mother Loree were born. Dr. Rice’s parents were the first to break with centuries of farming tradition by earning their doctorates and becoming college professors. Her parents clearly inspired her love of academic research and teaching, but it is tempting to speculate that her more distant roots may underlie her enjoyment of camping in state forests in Pennsylvania and New Jersey with her brother’s family, who also live in New York City. ♦