Alumni Profiles

Neuroscientist Receives 2024 Harold N. Glassman Distinguished Dissertation Award

By Jessica Marr

Andrew Speidell

Andrew Speidell (G’16, G’22), an alumnus of the Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience, was honored with the prestigious Harold N. Glassman Distinguished Dissertation Award at the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences’ 2024 Doctoral Hooding Ceremony. The award recognizes students who successfully defended their dissertations in 2023 in three categories: humanities, sciences and social sciences.

Speidell is a double Hoya who came to Georgetown after completing his undergraduate degree at William & Mary in Virginia in 2009. He earned a master’s in biochemistry and molecular biology before entering the Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience as a doctoral student.

Speidell was attracted to the smaller cohort size and the overlap of his research interests in neurological disorders and pharmacology with that of the faculty. He also felt that Georgetown’s biomedical training put greater emphasis on developing resilience among young academics, which he said has paid off in both his predoctoral and postdoctoral training.

Mentored by Italo Mocchetti, a professor in the Department of Neuroscience, Speidell was interested in conducting research on a specific neuronal receptor called p75NTR and how it might be involved in the loss of synaptic connections between neurons in the context of HIV-associated Neurocognitive Disorder. His dissertation leveraged three approaches – biochemical, histological, and behavioral – to better understand the mechanisms by which components of the HIV virus may alter brain function and thereby cause cognitive impairments.

Mocchetti noted that during Speidell’s time at Georgetown, which happened during the height of COVID-19, he authored five peer-reviewed publications and was a middle author for four more. Despite the reduced number of hours they were allowed to spend in the lab, Speidell’s experimental techniques, including genetic animal models, immunohistochemistry and statistics, among others, led to his receipt of a highly competitive grant from the NIH: the Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award.

“Winning this award will help secure NIH funding in my postdoctoral fellowship and future career in academic neuroscience by showing that I’m a competitive applicant who can shepherd research projects from formulating hypotheses to final publication,” he said.

“Our Glassman Award recipients embody the level of academic rigor, research curiosity and scholarly passion that Georgetown University aims to instill in each of its doctoral candidates,” said Maria Snyder, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. “These awards serve as a testament to their continued contribution beyond the Hilltop to new knowledge and scientific foundations.”

Speidell is currently at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis completing a postdoctoral research fellowship on neurodegenerative disorders. His work is focused on epigenetic mechanisms underlying Huntington’s disease pathogenesis, which causes nerve cells in the brain to atrophy and die.

Andrew Speidell received the 2024 Harold N. Glassman Distinguished Dissertation Award in the Sciences for his dissertation, “Investigation of the Role of the p75 Neurotrophin Receptor in HIV-1 Gp120-Associated Synaptic and Neural Injury.”

Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience
M.S. in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology