Photo of Dr. Kevin O'Donovan

Dr. Kevin J. O'Donovan

Director, Life Science Program

Associate Professor


Dr. O’Donovan is the Director of the Life Science Program in the Department of Chemistry and Life Science and teaches courses in neuroscience, biochemistry, cell biology, biology, and general chemistry. After graduating summa cum laude with BS in Biological Sciences and a minor in Chemistry from the University of North Texas in 1993, I earned my PhD in Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1999. There, using learning and memory paradigms in rodents, I studied how neuronal activity in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex induces a genetic program of DNA binding transcription factors, now known to be required for proper memory formation as well as being implicated in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. For that work I earned the Mette Strand Research Prize. For another project at Johns Hopkins that stemmed from a collaboration with Dr. Raj Ratan, we had the privilege to work and publish with the future Nobel Laureate Dr. Gregg Semenza on a project working on how oxidative stress impacts neuronal survival. Following graduate school, I was a Charles H. Revson Postdoctoral Fellow in the Laboratory of Molecular Neuro-Oncology at Rockefeller University in New York City. At Rockefeller, I studied the etiology of paraneoplastic cerebellar degeneration (PCD), which is a devastating autoimmune attack on the nervous system that often begins with a tumor in other parts of the body. After a 5-year postdoctoral fellowship, I was promoted to Research Associate and remained in this position until 2009. Work on understanding disease progression has continued as evidenced by the recent publication in 2017 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation showing that there is a role for T cells in PCD.

In 2009, I accepted a faculty position at the Burke Neurological Institute in White Plains, NY. While at Burke, I was a Goldsmith Fellow and helped develop an active research program focused on understanding axonal growth during embryonic development. This approach enabled us to leverage our knowledge of developmental axon growth towards studies of adult axonal regeneration. These studies, published in 2014 as a cover article in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, demonstrated that a constitutively active signaling molecule B-RAF promotes robust regenerative axonal growth of injured adult neurons in the intact animal.

Ongoing Research Projects

Currently, I have existing and nascent biomarker projects that involve collaborations with USMA scientists in CLS, Keller Army Community Hospital (KACH), Case Western Reserve University (Laboratory of Andrew Pieper) and AtlasXomics. Along with Dr. Cameron (KACH) and his team, we have developed longitudinal biomarker studies that encompass anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and concussion injuries that occur in USMA cadets. Current studies will address the unmet need for sensitive blood-based biomarkers of neurodegeneration in the brain after traumatic brain injury (TBI). The goal is to assess whether acetylated-tau (ac-tau) in the blood can serve as a novel biomarker for diagnosis, progression, and recovery related to mild TBI (mTBI) in cadets at the USMA. Currently, diagnosis of mTBI relies heavily on subjective assessments of history of the TBI and symptom reporting, which are highly variable. As a result, many cadets suffering from mTBI are likely undetected and not receiving appropriate care. A valid blood-based biomarker of brain damage after mTBI could provide an objective way to assess the magnitude of damage after injury that would accurately identify in a non-biased way cadets who need treatment.

Publications & Presentations

Peer Reviewed Publications

Hummel, S, Burpo, FJ, Hershfield, J, Kick, A, O’Donovan, KJ, Barnhill, J. A New Age of Bioterror: Anticipating Exploitation of Tunable Viral Agents. CTC Sentinel, April 2022, Vol 15, Issue 4. Cover Article.

Armstrong, MJ, Milner, E, Bailey, D, Pincot, A, Brown, T, Nguyen, L, O’Donovan, KJ, Nguyen, C, Corrigan, T. Probing Microstructural Differences That Manifest in Human Blood After Taking Aspirin using TEVP Modeling and SPP. AIP Advances, 11, 115226 (2021)

Corrigan, T, O’Malley, L, Bailey, D, Mosley, H, Okaikoi, J, Brown, T, Murray, S, Chang, W, Yang, M, Nguyen, L, Milner, E, O’Donovan, KJ, Armstrong, MJ. Changes in the Physical and Mechanical Properties of Human Blood Caused by Sustained Prophylactic use of Acetylsalicylic Acid (aspirin) – a Rheological Study. Open Journal of Fluid Dynamics, Vol. 11, No.4, 2021. doi:10.4236/ojfd.2021.114010 

Seidel G, Kotchman H, Milner E, O'Donovan KJ.  The Underlying Effects of Celiac Disease and Subsequent Implications on Deployment in the United States Army. Mil Med. 2021 Apr 30:usab177. doi: 10.1093/milmed/usab177. Online ahead of print.  PMID: 33928388.

Stearns, J, O’Donovan, KJ, Eslinger, M. A student-led hearing on the use of HeLa cells in research. CourseSource, 2021,

Wickiser, JK, O’Donovan, KJ, Washington, M, Hummel, S, Burpo, FJ. Engineered Pathogens and Unnatural Biological Weapons: The Future Threat of Synthetic Biology. CTC Sentinel, August 2020, Vol 13, Issue 8. Cover Article.       

    1. Coverage on CNN:                                                                             

Houston MN, O’Donovan KJ, Trump JR, Brodeur RM, McGinty GT, Wickiser JK, D’Lauro CJ, Jackson JC, Svoboda SJ, Susmarski AJ, Broglio SP, McAllister TW, McCrea MA, Pasquina P and Cameron KL (2020). Progress and Future Directions of the NCAA-DoD Concussion Assessment, Research, and Education (CARE) Consortium and Mind Matters Challenge at the US Service Academies. Front. Neurol. 11:542733. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2020.542733

Miterko LN, White, JJ, Lin, T, Stay, TL, Brown, AM, O’Donovan, KJ, and Sillitoe, RV.  Persistent motor dysfunction despite homeostatic rescue of cerebellar morphogenesis. Neural Development.  2019 Mar 12; 14(1):6.  PMID: 30867000.

Blachère, NE, Orange, DE, Gantman, EC, Santomasso, BC, Couture, GC, Montagut, TR, Fak, J, O’Donovan, KJ, Parveen, S, Frank, MO, Moore, M, Darnell, RB.  T cells presenting viral antigens or autoantigens induce cytotoxic T cell anergy. Journal of Clinical Investigation-Insight. 2017 Nov 2;2(21). PMID: 29093272

O’Donovan, KJ.  Intrinsic Axonal Growth and the Drive for Regeneration. Frontiers in Neuroscience. 2016 Oct 27; 10:486. PMID 27833527.

Huang, S, O’Donovan, KJ, Turner, EE, Zhong, J, Ginty, DD. Extrinsic and intrinsic signals converge on the Runx1/CBFb transcription factor for nonpeptidergic nociceptor maturation. Elife. 2015 Sept 29: 4. Doi: 10.7554/eLife.10874.  PMID 26418744.

O’Donovan, KJ, O’Keeffe, C, Zhong J. Whole-mount imaging of mouse embryo sensory axon projections. Journal of Visualized Experiments. 2014 Dec 9;(94). PMID 25549235.

* **O’Donovan, KJ, Ma, KJ, Guo, HC, Wang, C, Sun, F, Han, SB, Kim, H, Wong, J, Charron, J, Zou, H, Son, YJ, He, Z, Zhong J.  B-RAF kinase mediates TrkA-induced sensory axon growth and promotes CNS regeneration. Journal of Experimental Medicine. 2014 May 5; 211 (5) 801-14. PMID 24733831.

        Cavalli, V, Holtzman, DM. B-RAF unlocks axon regeneration. Journal of Experimental Medicine 2014 May 5; 211(5): 746. PMID 24799531. Comment on O’Donovan et al.

        ** Journal cover image of that issue.

O’Donovan KJ. Combinatorial resistance: the best defense is a good offense. Frontiers in Oncology. 2013. 3:280. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2013.00280. PMID 24312896.

Reeber, SL and O’Donovan, KJ. Tracking cell lineage and fate in cerebellar circuits. Cerebellum 2012 Dec;11(4), 829-33. PMID 22864918.

O'Donovan KJ, Diedler J, Couture GC, Fak JJ, Darnell RB. The onconeural antigen cdr2 is a novel APC/C target that acts in mitosis to regulate c-myc target genes in mammalian tumor cells. PLoS ONE 2010 Apr 7;5(4): e10045. PMID 20383333.

O’Donovan, KJ, Darnell, RB.  Neuronal signaling through alternative splicing: some exons CaRRE. Science Signaling 2001 Aug 7;2001(94):pe2. PMID: 11752670.

Levkowitz, Y, O’Donovan, KJ, Baraban, JM.  Blockade of NGF-induced neurite outgrowth by a dominant-negative inhibitor of the Egr family of transcription regulatory factors. Journal of Neuroscience. 2001 Jan 1;21(1) 45-52. PMID: 11150318.

O’Donovan, KJ, Levkovitz, Y, Ahn, D, Baraban, JM.  Functional comparison of Egr3 transcription factor isoforms: Identification of an activation domain in the N-terminal segment absent from Egr3b, a major isoform expressed in brain. Journal of Neurochemistry. 2000 Oct;1;75, 1352-7. PMID: 10987814.

Zaman, K, Ryu, H, Hall, D, O’Donovan, KJ, Lin KI, Miller, MP, Marquis JC, Baraban, JM, *Semenza, GL, Ratan, RR.  Protection from oxidative stress-induced apoptosis in cortical neuronal cultures by iron chelators is associated with enhanced DNA binding of hypoxia-inducible factor-1 and ATF-1/CREB and increased expression of glycolytic enzymes, p21waf1/cip1 and erythropoietin. Journal of Neuroscience. 1999 Nov 15;19(22):9821-30. PMID: 10559391.

        *Co-Author Gregg L. Semenza Awarded Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine, 2019.

O’Donovan, KJ, Baraban, JM.  Major Egr3 isoforms are generated via alternate translation start sites and differ in their abilities to activate transcription. Molecular and Cellular Biology. 1999 Jul;19(7): 4711-8. PMID: 10373520.

O’Donovan, KJ, Tourtellotte, WG, Milbrandt, J, Baraban, JM.  The Egr family of transcription regulatory factors: progress at the interface of molecular and systems neuroscience. Trends in Neuroscience. 1999 Apr;22,167-73. PMID: 10203854.

O’Donovan, KJ, Wilkens, EP, Baraban, JM.  Sequential expression of Egr-1 and Egr-3 in hippocampal granule cells following electroconvulsive stimulation. Journal of Neurochemistry.  1998 Mar;70(3)1241-8. PMID: 9489747.


Peer Reviewed Conference Proceedings

Vazquez-Rosa, E, Chaubey, K, Baker, S, Cintron-Perez, C, Ezepue, A, Lindley, K, Yu, Youngmin, Hyung, J, Gordon, D, Ives, J, Yang, M, Dolph, R, Garbarino, J, Sotudeh, N, O’Donovan, KJ, Pieper, AA. High-Resolution Spatial Analysis of Chromatin Accessibility of Brain Tissue Mild Multimodal Traumatic Brain Injury Reveals Chronic Changes in Gene Expression Associated with Neuropsychiatric Impairment. MHSRS Conference, Poster, August 2023

Corrigan, T, O’Malley, L, Bailey, D, Mosley, H, Okaiko, Brown, T, Murray, S, Chang, W, Yang, M, Erin Milner, E, O’Donovan, KJ, and Armstrong, MJ. Mechanical Characterization of Human Blood Via SPP Framework and Tevp Modeling AiChE Conference 2021. (Poster)

Corrigan, T, O’Malley, L, Bailey, D, Mosley, H, Okaiko, Brown, T, Murray, S, Chang, W, Yang, M, Erin Milner, E, O’Donovan, KJ, and Armstrong, MJ. Effects of Sustained Low-Dosage Aspirin Consumption on the Mechanical Properties of Human Blood - a Rheological Study. AiChE Conference 2021 (Poster)

O’Donovan, KJ, Horne, CJ, Maheshwari, K, Trump, J, Reilly, J, Nguyen, LT, Wickiser, JK, Cameron, KL. Biomarkers to differentiate major depressive disorder from seasonal affective disorder. 2019. Military Health System Research Symposium. Kissimmee, FL (Poster).  Meeting cancelled.

Reilly, JL, Trump, J, CDT McGovern, M CDT Horne, C. Wickiser, JK, Cameron, K, Svoboda, S O’Donovan, KJ. Matrix Metalloproteinases as Biomarkers for Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury and Recovery. 2018. Military Health System Research Symposium. Kissimmee, FL

CDT McGovern, M, Reilly, JL, Trump, J, O’Donovan, KJ, Cameron, K, Wickiser, JK, Svoboda, S. Osteoarthritis Biomarker Discovery: Can Matrix Metalloproteinases Predict Outcomes? 2017. Military Health System Research Symposium. Kissimmee, FL

CDT Matsas, B, CDT Barthel, C, CDT Kuang, M. CDT Keith, J, Reilly IV, JL, Trump, J, Rinke-Kneapler, C, Raftery, J. Wickiser, JK, Ness, J, O'Donovan, KJ.  Serotonin receptor regulator P11 as a putative serum biomarker of depression. 2017. Military Health System Research Symposium. Kissimmee, FL

Loverde, J. R., Mitropoulos, A.N., Yu, H., Yu, G., Goscicki, A., Ness, J., Murcin, L., O'Donovan, K. J, Brushart, T., Alvarez, L.M. Tissue engineered aligned fiber scaffolds for nerve repair across a gap. 2016.  Axon Guidance, Synapse Formation & Regeneration Meeting, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Cold Spring Harbor, NY. 

O’Donovan, KJ, CDT Matsas, B, Ness, J, Trump, J., Wickiser, JK Using RT-qPCR as a Quantitative Assessment of Seasonal Affective Disorder. 2016. Military Health System Research Symposium. Kissimmee, FL.

Zhong, J, Ma, K, He, Z, O’Donovan, KJ. B-RAF signaling promotes optic nerve regeneration. 2014.  Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science 55 (13), 1439-1439.

O’Donovan, K.J., Ma, K.J., Guo, H.G., He, Z, Zhong, J. Neural Development. kaB-RAF promotes regeneration following CNS injury in the optic nerve. 2012. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Meeting. Cold Spring Harbor, NY.  

O’Donovan, K.J., Ma, K.J., Guo, H.G., Katz, A. Zhong, J. Novel kaB-RAF-induced mouse model of cardio-facio-cutaneous syndrome is rescued by genetic and pharmacologic blockade of the MAP kinase pathway. 2011. Cerebellar Gordon Research Conference. Colby-Sawyer College, New Hampshire.

O’Donovan, K.J., Ma, K.J., Guo, H.G., Zhong, J. Neural Development. kaB-RAF rescues loss of TrkA in developing DRG neurons. 2010. Gordon Research Conference Salve Regina, Newport RI.

O'Donovan KJ, Diedler J, Couture GC, Fak JJ, Darnell RB. The onconeural antigen cdr2 is a novel APC/C target that acts in mitosis to regulate c-myc target genes in mammalian tumor cells. 2008. American Association for Cancer Research Ubiquitin and Cancer Meeting. San Diego, CA.

O’Donovan, K.J., Couture, G, Darnell, RB. Paraneoplastic antigen Cdr2 is KEN-box containing cell cycle regulated protein in cerebellum that gets poly-ubiquitylated and degraded by the proteasome. 2006. Keystone Ubiquitin Signaling Conference, Whistler, BC.

O’Donovan, K.J. Diedler, J, Darnell, RB. Cytoplasmic expression of cdr2 in primary cortical neurons. 2006. Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA.

O’Donovan, K.J., Couture, G, Darnell, RB. Cdr2 is KEN-box containing cell cycle regulated protein in cerebellum that gets poly-ubiquitylated. 2005. Keystone Ubiquitin Signaling Conference, Taos NM. 

O’Donovan, K.J., Couture, G, Darnell, RB. Paraneoplastic antigen Cdr2 is cell cycle regulated in HeLa cells and regulates c-myc dependent transcription. 2003. Molecular Cell Biology Gordon Research Conference, Tilton, NY. 

O’Donovan, K.J. Baraban, J.M. Egr family truncation mutants can serve as dominant negative inhibitors of Egr target gene expression. 1998. Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, CA.

O’Donovan, K.J., Baraban, J.M. Egr3 transcript contains multiple translational start sites that differentially regulate transcription. 1997. Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA.

O’Donovan, K.J., Baraban, J.M. Sequential expression of Egr1, Egr3 in the striatum following acute cocaine administration in rodents. 1996. Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, Washington DC

O’Donovan, K.J., Baraban, J.M.  ECS drives expression of Egr family transcription factors in hippocampus and cortex. 1995. Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA.

Ratan, R.R., O’Donovan, K.J. Murphy, T, Baraban, J.M. Protection from oxidative stress in cortical neurons. 1994. Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, Miami, FL.