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Photo of Park, Thomas

Thomas Park, PhD

Professor and Associate Department Head

Biological Sciences


Building & Room:

4278A SELE


950 S. Halsted St.

Office Phone:

(312) 413-3020


Related Sites:


Our research focuses on the intersection of metabolism, information processing, and neurobiology using advanced technologies in non-conventional animal models such as mole-rats and bats. We are particularly interested in the molecular adaptations and genetic pathways that underlie adaptation to extreme environments. These evolved adaptions can inform us about not only fundamental questions about neurobiological organization and behavior but how these states map to multiple human pathologies. Ultimately, we hope to exploit this understanding of evolutionarily optimized solutions to translate into practical therapies for human diseases.

The primary focus of our laboratory is utilizing the naked mole-rat as a model system for explorations into its extreme hypoxia tolerance. We have discovered that the naked mole rat can endure 18 minutes in the absence of oxygen and survive without long-term brain damage. Our determination that they utilize an alternative carbon substrate, fructose, as a metabolic fuel under anoxia has wide-ranging implications not only for hypoxic research but also for fundamental insights into cancer and cardiovascular disease. We have demonstrated additional mechanisms unique to the naked mole-rat neurobiology which enables continued energetically costly neural signaling under hypoxia due to alterations in an important ion channel, the NMDA receptor, implicated in information processing and the phenomenon of long-term potentiation (LTP). Continued work is underway on both mechanisms and beyond.

In contrast to the naked mole-rat, the echolocating bat, serves as a model for hearing specialists. They rely on hearing the echoes from their own calls to navigate through their environment and to identify and localize the flying insects that they prey upon. In my lab, we study the behavior and neural information processing associated with sound localization.

Selected Publications


PhD, University of Maryland

MS, University of Maryland

BA, Johns Hopkins University