Steven F. Abcouwer, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
Pathology of diabetic retinopathy, with the goal of understanding the transformation of the innate immune cells, microglia, within the diabetic retina and the contribution of these cells to neurodegeneration and vascular dysfunction that can lead to vision loss in patients with diabetes.
Map and directions
University of Houston, 1991
Monsanto Company, Health Sciences Division
Tumor Biology Group, 1993
Dr. Abcouwer’s experience provides a broad knowledge of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biochemistry, biology, and physiology. Dr. Abcouwer was trained as a Chemical Engineer, earning both B.S. (University of Missouri-Columbia, magna cum laude with honors) and Ph.D. (University of Houston) degrees in ChemE, and specializing in Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology. While enjoying the application of chemistry and classical physics that is chemical engineering, he became increasingly interested in the study of biochemisty, cellular and molecular biology and physiology. He completed thesis work on human cell immortalization with viral oncogenes, cell line development, and therapeutic protein expression. He did postdoctoral training (Monsanto Heath Sciences) in tumor biology studying therapeutic intervention of cancer cell adhesion and motility, as well as tumor invasion and metastasis using nude and SCID mouse xenographic tumor models.
As a junior faculty member at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School he studied cell metabolism and energetics, focusing on glutamine metabolism, regulation of glutamine synthetase and glutaminase expression in both catabolic disease and cancer models. As a faculty member in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of New Mexico, Dr. Abcouwer studied cellular stress responses as they related to nutritional deprivation and endoplasmic reticulum stress, and discovered the role of ATF4 in vascular endothelial growth factor transcriptional response to cellular stresses. In New Mexico he taught biochemistry and nutrient metabolism to medical students for four years. At Penn State University Hershey Medical Center, Dr. Abcouwer was part of a team that conceptualized, designed and implemented a combined core course curriculum in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program at PSU College of Medicine. He developed and directed one of three core graduate courses that encompassed biochemistry, signal transduction and pharmacology. Dr. Abcouwer taught more than a quarter of the lectures in that course, including: the TCA cycle, mitochondrial function, electron transport chain, cell death mechanisms, inflammatory cell signaling, mechanisms of drug action, and drug discovery. He also lectured in the Graduate Physiology Program on pancreatic hormones, diabetes and energy metabolism; and taught in the Graduate Microbiology and Immunology Program on the application of adenoviral vectors. Dr. Abcouwer consistently earned top student teacher evaluations and was nominated for “Best Overall Teacher in the Graduate Program” by the PSU Hershey Graduate Students in 2009, as well as for “Most Challenging Teacher in the Graduate Program” and "Most Inspiring Teacher in the Graduate Program” in 2010. Dr. Abcouwer served on several active educational committees, including the committee to restructure the Biomedical Science Graduate Program core curriculum, the committee to restructure the entire Biomedical Science Graduate Program, and the Medical Curriculum Evaluation Committee (CEC). He was a member on one of the institution’s strategic leadership teams, the Academic Team. He also served as Project Manager for a major education research granting endowment, the Woodward Endowment for Medical Science Education, which competitively funds medical education training and innovative projects in medical science education research at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.
Dr. Abcouwer served as Associate Editor and Editorial Board Member of the journal Nutrition. He currently serves on the American Diabetes Association Research Grant Review Panel and on the Editorial Board of American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology & Metabolism.