Marsha Louise Pierce, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Downers Grove, IL

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Dr. Pierce received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. She received her Master of Science degree in Biomedical Sciences under the mentorship of Dr. Garrett A. Soukup at Creighton University studying the role of microRNAs in inner ear development and function. She received her Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Sciences under the mentorship of Dr. Garrett A. Soukup at Creighton University studying the role of microRNA-183 family members in inner ear hair cell and stereo cilia development and maintenance. She continued on to a postdoctoral fellowship under the mentorship of Dr. Thomas F. Murray studying the role of natural variation in arginine vasopressin and oxytocin ligands and receptors on pharmacological signaling profiles. Dr. Pierce joined the faculty at Midwestern University in 2019 where she studies the role of oxytocin analogs in social behavioral deficits, cellular signaling and neuronal morphology; marine natural products in drug development; and microRNAs in sensorineural development, function and maintenance..  

Assistant Professor

Downers Grove, IL

Chicago College of Optometry
College of Graduate Studies - IL


Biomedical Sciences (M.A.)
Biomedical Sciences (M.B.S.)
Dental Medicine
Osteopathic Medicine
Physician Assistant Studies

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Creighton University | 2015 | Ph.D.
Creighton University | 2008 | M.S.
Creighton University | 2002 | B.S.

Courses Taught

PHARD 0585/0595/0995 Pharmacology II for PA and Graduate Students
  -Drugs in Anesthesiology
PHARD 0586/0596/0996 Pharmacology III for PA and Graduate Students
  -Antipsychotic Drugs
  -Sedative Hypnotic Drugs
  -Drugs for Affective Disorders
PHARD 1620/1630 for Dental Students
  -Sympathomimetics and Sympatholytics
  -Sedative Hypnotics
  -Drugs for the treatment of Neurologic Disease
PHARD 1641/1642 for Optometry Students 
  -General Principles
  -Sympathomimetics and Sympatholytics
  - Sedative Hypnotics
PHARD 1651 for Pharmacy Students
  -Drugs in Anesthesiology
BISCD 0860/0861/0862 Masters of Biomedical Sciences Research Elective


Project 1: AVP and OT analog pharmacological signatures at OTR and V1aR
Arginine vasopressin (AVP) and oxytocin (OT) are neuropeptides that bind to G-protein coupled receptors and influence social behavior. Integrative studies of behavior, genetics and ligand-receptor interaction are crucial for translating signaling activation at the cellular level to effects of AVP and OT ligands on social behavior.

Project 2: Marine Natural Products and Drug Discovery
Approximately half of all current drugs are derived from natural products, demonstrating their potential for drug discovery. I assess the pharmacological effects of marine natural products on calcium, sodium and potassium ions in primary cortical cultures, using high throughput screening methodology.

Project 3: miRNAs in neurosensory development, ​maintenance, and function
The miR-183 family gene cluster including miR-183, miR-96, and miR-182 is highly conserved among vertebrate and invertebrate organisms, and the miRNAs are coordinately expressed with marked specificity in sensory neurons and sensory epithelial cells. I study the role of this microRNA family in development, maintenance and function.


Pierce, M.L. (2021, May 17). Bill needed to fund mental health care. Daily Herald. Retrieve from:

Sequeira E, Pierce ML, Akasheh D, Sellers S, Gerwick WH, Baden DG, Murray TF. (2020). Epicortical Brevetoxin Treatment Promotes Neural Repair and Functional Recovery after Ischemic Stroke. Marine drugs. 21 July 2020

Pierce ML, French JA, Murray TM. (2020). Comparison of the pharmacologic profiles of arginine vasopressin and oxytocin analogs at marmoset,  macaque, and human vasopressin 1a receptors. Biomed Pharmacother.  2020 Jun;126:110060.

Pierce ML, French JA, Murray TM. (2020). Comparison of the pharmacologic profiles of arginine vasopressin and oxytocin analogs at marmoset, titi monkey, macaque, and human oxytocin receptors. Biomed Pharmacother. 125, 109832. PMID: 32018219

Li Y, Yu H, Zhang Y, Leao T, Glukhov E, Pierce ML, Zhang C, Kim H, Mao HH, Fang F, Cottrell GW, Murray TF, Gerwick L, Guan H, Gerwick WH. (2020). Pagoamide A, a cyclic depsipeptide isolated for a cultured marine chlorophyte, Debesia sp., using MS/MS-based molecular networking. J Nat Prod. 2020 Jan 9. doi: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.9b01019. PMID: 31916778

Banks SA, Pierce ML, Soukup GA. (2019) Sensational microRNAs: Neurosensory roles of the microRNA-183 family. 
Mol Neurobiol. 2019 Jul 29. doi: 10.1007/s12035-019-01717-3. Review. PMID: 31359323

Pierce ML, Mehrotra S, Mustoe AM, French JA, Murray TM. (2019) A comparison of the ability of Leu8- and Pro8-
oxytocin to regulate intracellular Ca2+and Ca2+-activated K+channels at human and marmoset oxytocin receptors. 

Mol Pharm.  2019 Apr;95(4):376-385. PMID: 30739093

Weston MD, Tarang S, Pierce ML, Pyakurel U, Rocha-Sanchez SM, McGee J, Walsh EJ, Soukup GA. (2018) A mouse 
model of miR-96, miR-182 and miR-183 misexpression implicates miRNAs in cochlear cell fate and homeostasis.
Sci Rep. 2018 Feb 23;8(1):3569. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-21811-1. PMID: 29476110

Naman CB, Almaliti J, Armstrong L, Caro-Díaz EJ, Pierce ML, Glukhov E, Fenner A, Spadafora C, Debonsi HM, 
Dorrestein PC, Murray TF, Gerwick WH. (2017) Discovery and Synthesis of Caracolamide A, an Ion Channel 
Modulating Dichlorovinylidene Containing Phenethylamide from a Panamanian Marine Cyanobacterium cf. 
Symploca Species. 
J Nat Prod. Aug 7.


National Faculty, National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME)

Member, Rep. Lauren Underwood's Science, Technology, and Environment Policy Advisory Council for the 117th Congress

Member, Cognitive Science Society

Member, The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET)

Member, Society for Neuroscience (SfN)

Member, Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO)


2020 Society for Neuroscience Early Career Policy Ambassadors Program
2015 First Place Award in Oral Presentation, Graduate Student, Midwest Student Biomedical Research Forum
2013 Best Oral Presentation, St. Albert’s Day University Research Forum
2012—2015 Creighton University Graduate Student Government Student Travel Award
2011—2015 Creighton University Department of Biomedical Sciences Graduate Student Stipend
2007 Keystone Symposia Travel Award
2007 Creighton Student Travel Award

More Information

Twitter: @MarshaPiercePhD