Skip to main content

Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Background image

Office of Fellowship Training (OFT)

OFT Mission

The mission of the Office of Fellowship Training is:

  • To support and promote a productive and fulfilling research training experience in the NIMH Intramural Research Program
  • To encourage career planning and guide career management through trainee use of Individual Development Plans (IDPs)
  • To provide programs and services to assist trainees in discovering and clarifying career choices
  • To provide opportunities and to encourage trainees to build a professional skill set which enables them to become world leaders in academic and non-academic careers

Come visit our booth and speak with an OFT staff member about the fellowship and training opportunities we offer at the NIH/NIMH. We will be at the following scientific meetings: Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET), Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), Society of Biological Psychiatry (SOBP) and Society for Neuroscience (SfN).

Trainee Successes: Past & Present

Picture of Dr. Sofia Beas

Dr. Sofia Beas is a former Intramural Postdoctoral Fellow in the Unit on Neurobiology of Affective Behaviors at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), under the mentorship of Dr. Mario Penzo. Before joining NIMH, she attained a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Florida. With the support from a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship, her graduate research focused on further understanding the neural mechanisms of executive functions and decision-making.

During her time at NIMH, Dr. Beas' work focused on investigating the neural mechanisms underlying motivational and affective behaviors following homeostatic challenges (i.e., psychological and metabolic stressors). Specifically, her studies demonstrated the cellular, molecular, and circuit mechanisms by which stressors engage thalamo-striatal projections that are thought to modulate goal-directed behavior. This work resulted in two first-author manuscripts, published in notable scientific journals (Beas et al., 2018, Nature Neuroscience; Beas et al., 2020, Nature Communications) and made her the recipient of several awards, including the prestigious 2020 NIMH Julius Axelrod Memorial Fellowship Training Award for excellence in basic research. Lastly, her work was supported first by a Postdoctoral Research Associate Training PRAT fellowship and then by a K99/R00 BRAIN Initiative Advanced Postdoctoral Career Transition Award to Promote Diversity.

In the summer of 2022, Dr. Beas began a Tenure-Track Faculty position at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Dr. Beas' laboratory at UAB continues to pursue the long-term research goals of increasing our understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying motivated behavior and identifying how these processes can be dysregulated in neuropsychiatric disorders.


Ph.D., Neuroscience, University of Florida
B.S., Psychology and Biology, the University of Texas at El Paso

Selected Publications

  1. Beas, B.S.*# Cummings, K.A*#. A scientific approach to navigating the academic job market (2022). Neuropsychopharmacology. Invited commentary. Feb;47(3):621-627. doi: 10.1038/s41386-021-01225-w. (*Equal contribution, #Corresponding author).
  2. Ma, J., du Hoffmann, J., Kindel, Morgan., Beas, B.S., Chudasama, Y., Penzo, M.A. Divergent projections of the paraventricular thalamus mediate the selection of reactive and proactive defensive behaviors (2021). Nature Neuroscience. Aug 19. doi: 10.1038/s41593-021-00912-7. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34413514.
  3. McQuail, J.A., Beas, B.S., Kelly, K.B., Hernandez, C.M., Bizon, J.L., Frazier, C.J., Attenuated NMDAR signaling on fast-spiking interneurons in prefrontal cortex contributes to age-related decline of cognitive flexibility (2021). Neuropharmacology. Jul 15;197:108720. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2021.108720. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34273386.
  4. Beas, B.S*., Gu, X*., Leng, Y., Koita, O., Rodriguez, S., Kindel, M., Matikainen-Ankney, B.A., Kravitz, A.V., Hoon, M., Penzo, M.A. A ventrolateral medulla-midline thalamic circuit for hypoglycemic feeding (2020). Nature Communications. Dec 4 (11), 6218. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-19980-7 (*Equal contribution).
  5. Beas, B.S*., Wright, B.J*., Skirzewski, M., Leng, Y., Hyun, J.H., Koita, O., Ringelberg, N., Buonanno, A., Kwon, H., Penzo, M.A. (2018). The locus coeruleus drives disinhibition in the midline thalamus via dopaminergic mechanisms. Nature Neuroscience. Jul 21(7):963-973. doi: 10.1038/s41593-018-0167-4. (*Equal contribution).
  6. Beas, B.S., McQuail, J.A., Banuelos, C., Setlow, B., & Bizon, J.L. (2017) Prefrontal cortical GABAergic signaling and impaired behavioral flexibility in aged F344 rats. Neuroscience. Feb 9. pii: S0306-4522(16)00137-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2016.02.014.
  7. McQuail, JA., Beas, B.S., Kelly, K.B., Simpson, K., Frazier, C.J., Setlow, B., & Bizon, J.L. (2016) NR2A-containing NMDARs in the prefrontal cortex are required for working memory and associated with age-related cognitive decline. The Journal of Neuroscience. Dec 14;36(50):12537-12548. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2332-16.2016
  8. Ianov, L., Rani, A., Beas, B.S., Kumar, A., & Foster, T.C. (2016) Transcriptional profile of aging and cognitive-related genes in the medial prefrontal cortex associated with age-related cognitive decline. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. May 17;8:113. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2016.00113.
  9. Beas, B.S., Setlow, B., & Bizon, J.L. (2016) Effects of acute administration of the GABA(B) receptor agonist baclofen on behavioral flexibility in rats. Psychopharmacology. Jul;233(14):2787-97. doi: 10.1007/s00213-016-4321-y.
  10. Beas, B.S., Setlow, B., Samanez-Larkin, G. R., & Bizon, J.L. (2015) Modeling cost-benefit decision making in aged rodents. In Hess, TM, Loeckenhoff, CE, Sttrough (Eds.) Aging and Decision-Making: Empirical and Applied Perspectives, Elsevier Press.
  11. Banuelos, C., Beas, B.S., McQuail, J.A., Gilbert, R.J., Frazier, C.J., Setlow, B., & Bizon, J.L. (2014) Prefrontal cortical GABAergic dysfunction contributes to age-related working memory impairment. The Journal of Neuroscience. Mar 5;34(10):3457-66. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5192-13.2014.