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Natasha Tirko

Associate Teaching Professor, and Director of the Master in Biotechnology Program
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About Me

Dr. Tirko is the Director of the Master in Biotechnology program, a collaborative professional degree program in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology department and affiliated with the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.  

Dr. Tirko’s career has spanned research and engineering in academia and industry. She previously led the Neural Devices group at Actuated Medical, Inc., and was a member of the Ophthalmology research group at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. She completed her PhD in Neuroscience at New York University under Dr. Richard Tsien, examining oxytocin neuromodulation in the hippocampal circuit. She also studied Biomedical Engineering as a Schreyer Honors student at Penn State University (BS), and at Johns Hopkins University (MS), researching auditory system plasticity and cochlear implants under Dr. David Ryugo. Dr. Tirko returned to her undergraduate alma mater in 2022 as an Associate Teaching Professor and Director of the Master in Biotechnology program. She lives in State College with her husband Vince, son Calvin and bernedoodle Murray.   


Department or University Committees

  • Director of the Master in Biotechnology Program
  • Biotechnology Advisory Board Coordinator


Program or Department Affiliations


Teaching Focus

As Director of the Master of Biotechnology (MBIOT) program, my primary focus is to provide scientific and career membership to the program students. The MBIOT program combines an intensive science-based curriculum with a practical understanding of the many aspects of the biotechnology industry, along with effective preparation for entry-level employment and for successful careers thereafter in the dynamic biotechnology industry. MBIOT graduates are engaged in diverse careers in industry, including those related to discovery research, research and development, biomanufacturing, clinical research, global consulting work, business analysis and business development, procurement, intellectual property and regulatory work, and applied research. Some have also gone on to combine their Master of Biotechnology degree with an M.B.A., J.D., M.D., or Ph.D. degree.


Selected Publications

  1. Tirko NN, Eyring KW, Carcea I, Mitre M, Chao MV, Froemke RC, Tsien RW. (2018) Oxytocin transforms firing mode of CA2 Hippocampal Neurons. Neuron. 100(3):593-608. 
  2. Cohen SM, Suutari B, He X, Wang Y, Sanchez S, Tirko NN, Mandelberg NJ, Mullins C, Zhou G, Wang S, Kats I, Salah A, Tsien RW, Ma H. (2018) Calmodulin shutting mediates cytonuclear signaling to trigger experience-dependent transcription and memory. Nature Communications. 9(1):2451. 
  3. Cao J, MacPherson TC, Iglesias BV, Liu Y, Tirko NN, Yancopoulos GD, Wiedang SJ, Romano C. (2018) Aflibercept action in a rabbit model of chronic retinal neovascularization: reversible inhibition of pathologic leakage with dose-dependent duration. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 59(2):1033-1044. 
  4. Groth RD, Tirko NN, Tsien RW. (2014) CaV1.2 calcium channels: just cut out to be regulated? Neuron. 82(5):939-40. 
  5. Wincott SM, Abera S, Vunck SA, Tirko NN, Choi Y, Titcombe RF, Antoine SO, Tukey DS, DeVito LM, Hofmann F, Hoeffer CA, Ziff EB. (2014) cGMP-dependent protein kinase type II knockout mice exhibit working memory impairments, decreased repetitive behavior, and increased anxiety-like traits. Neurobiol Learn Mem. 114C:32-39. 
  6. Owen S, Tuncdemir S, Bader P, Tirko NN, Fishell G, Tsien R. (2013) Oxytocin enhancement of hippocampal spike transmission through selective modulation of fast-spiking interneurons. Nature. 500(7463):458-62. 
  7. Muniak MA, Connelly CJ, Tirko NN, O’Neil JN, Ryugo DK. (2013) Synaptic Organization and Plasticity in the Auditory System of the Deaf White Cat. In: “Springer Handbook of Auditory Research, Deafness. ed. A. Kral, Arthur N. Springer. 83-128. 
  8. Tirko NN, Ryugo DK. (2012) Synaptic plasticity in the medial superior olive of hearing, deaf, and cochlear-implanted cats. J. Comp. Neurol. 520(10):2202-17. 
  9. Tirko NN. (2007) Artifact removal and stimulation rate effects on the stapedius reflex electrically elicited by cochlear implants.  Undergraduate thesis, Pennsylvania State University.