SUNY Distinguished Professor


PhD, Biochemistry, Aristotle University of Thesssaloniki, Greece

B.S., Chemistry, Aristotle University of Thesssaloniki, Greece

Neuro-immune interactions: Cross-talk between the nervous and immune systems in health and disease

Traditionally the central nervous system (CNS) has been thought to be ‘immune privileged’ and not interact with the immune system. Increasing evidence however suggests that many neurodegenerative diseases, as well as many acute injuries in the CNS, are characterized by the presence of inflammatory cells in the CNS. An initial response to neuronal injury is evidenced by the activation of CNS microglia.  Microglia are antigen-presenting, immune-competent, macrophage-like cells that reside in the CNS and are able to modulate neuronal survival, or are hypothesized to affect neuronal structural changes occurring in response to neuronal activity. Our research interests concern the communication, signaling events and cell-cell interactions between neurons and microglia subsequent to normal or exaggerated stimulation of the CNS that lead to reorganization of neuronal connections in the brain or neuronal cell death.

Stella Tsirka was born and raised in Greece. She received her BS and PhD degrees from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. After pursuing postdoctoral studies at Univ California San Francisco and SUNY Stony Brook, under the mentoring of Drs Phil Coffino and Sid Strickland, respectively, she became a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at SBU in 1998, and then joined the Pharmacology faculty in 2000 as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Tsirka's research has focused on the study of (neuro)inflammatory processes in models of neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases. Specifically, the lab explores the function and activation of microglia, the immunocompetent cells of the CNS, in response to both physiological and pathological stimuli, using different models of disease including ones for multiple sclerosis, stroke, glioma, epilepsy as well as major depression disorder to investigate neuro-immune interactions and pathways common to them. Her investigations seek to identify targets for intervention and therapeutic treatment of these diseases. Dr. Tsirka has been the director of graduate training programs supported by NIH and NSF (IGERT), including the T32-funded Pharmacology Graduate Program and the T32-funded Scholars in BioMedical Sciences (Molecular Medicine) Program. She served as Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs (2014-2019). She serves currently as the Vice Dean for Faculty Affairs (since 2020), and is the Miriam and David Donoho Endowed Professor and Head of the Academy of Clinical and Educational Scholars (ACES), which is designed to advance faculty efforts to transform medical education in RSOM. She is currently the Secretary of the ASPET Task Force on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility. She has received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in University Service, the Mentor of Excellence Award from the SBU Center for Inclusive Education, and was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

A complete list of publications can be found in HERE.

Miguel Madeira, PhD Graduate student (
Zachary Hage, PhD Graduate student (
Kimberly Nnah, PhD Graduate student (
Sophie Shifman, PhD (MSTP) Graduate student (
Aakriti Hariprakash, PhD Graduate Student (
Jennifer O'Connor, MS Graduate student (
Mohammed Zaman, MS Graduate student
Elianna Farahmandpour, Undergraduate student
Laura Infante, Undergraduate student
Dimitris Koliatsis, Undergraduate student
Aryan Sharma, Undergraduate student

Stella Tsirka

Department of Pharmacological Sciences BST8, Rm 192 Stony Brook University 

Stony Brook, NY 11794-8651

Tel: 631-444-3859

Fax: 631-444-3218