Head of the Laboratory of Biological Psychiatry at the Institute of Translational Biomedicine at St Petersburg University, Professor Allan V. Kalueff has recently been awarded a Doctor of Biology degree at St Petersburg University, beside the fact that he already holds a PhD degree from Tampere University in Europe. For more than 15 years, Professor Kalueff has been exploring the potential of zebrafish as a model organism for studying the central nervous system (CNS). His dissertation for the Doctor of Biology degree further develops this topic. 

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Zebrafish (Danio rerio) are Professor Kalueff’s research subject

Allan V. Kalueff is a highly-reputed neurobiologist and pharmacologist who actively collaborates with universities in Russia, Europe, the USA, South America and China. He is the Director of ZENEREI Research Center (USA), and President of the International Stress and Behavior Society (ISBS). He also holds membership in several other international professional scholarly societies and research consortia. Professor Kalueff has authored more than 250 papers on neuroscience and biological psychiatry. With an h-index of 66 (Google Scholar) and 56 (Scopus), his work has been cited in more than 15,000 publications.

Professor Kalueff’s research interests include translational neurobiology and biological psychiatry, psychopharmacology of anxiety, depression and dependence in preclinical models. He is involved in experimental modelling of neurological diseases based on the study of molecular processes in rodents and zebrafish. The presented thesis is the result of many years of work, and it is reported in 27 English-language publications in high-ranking international scientific journals.

Professor Kalueff’s most significant previous work related to the dissertation’s central foci include research on neuro-immune responses to stress in zebrafish (the findings were published in Behavioural Brain Research); a study of genomic responses to prolonged chronic stress in zebrafish (Scientific Reports); creation of new models and tests to study despair-like behaviour in zebrafish (Journal of Neuroscience Methods), as well as his works on testing new pharmaceutical drugs for CNS disorders (Progress in NeuroPsychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry).

In 2005, Allan Kalueff received his PhD in biology at Tampere University (Finland). 15 years later, he made a decision to earn a Doctor of Biology degree in Russia. The defence was conducted under St Petersburg University’s rules.

Both my prior doctoral theses – for the Candidate of Biology degree in Russia (2003) and for the PhD in biology in Finland (2005) – were focused on rodent models of brain disorders. However, for some 15 years, our team has been studying these disorders in zebrafish (Danio rerio), which is a small fish and a novel model organism in neurobiology.

Professor Allan Kalueff, Head of the Laboratory of Biological Psychiatry at the Institute of Translational Biomedicine, St Petersburg University

‘Therefore, when I decided to pursue a higher doctorate in Russia, no questions arose over the choice of a research topic. As Russia has a two-tier system of doctoral degrees (Candidate of Sciences and Doctor of Sciences), I had been asked about earning a higher doctorate in Russia more than once. It took me a while – as we all know, researchers are always extremely busy. But eventually, I made up my mind and acted upon my colleagues’ suggestions,’ explained Professor Kalueff.

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Allan Kalueff, Professor of St Petersburg University, Doctor of Biology, PhD

Professor Kalueff emphasized that the Laboratory of Biological Psychiatry at St Petersburg University had been carrying out extensive research work on zebrafish. This was another reason why he decided to obtain his doctorate at St Petersburg University.

Here at St Petersburg University, we have been conducting research in the field of translational neuroscience using zebrafish as biomedical models. The Institute of Translational Biomedicine and our laboratory were established at St Petersburg University in 2015. The research pertinent to my dissertation topic is carried out through collaborative efforts of research associates, my students and graduate students. This research has also been supported by the University, the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and the Russian Science Foundation.

Professor Allan Kalueff, Head of the Laboratory of Biological Psychiatry at the Institute of Translational Biomedicine, St Petersburg University

‘The high productivity of our young researchers also worked to our advantage: young scientists make up around 90% of our team. Thus, the question of where to defend my dissertation never came to my mind: of course, at St Petersburg University! Historically, St Petersburg University is the first university in Russia, and it is in the city where I was born and live. To defend my doctoral dissertation inside the walls of St Petersburg University is both a great honor for me personally and a tribute to our university and its scientific traditions,’ noted Professor Kalueff.

He added that the rules and technical aspects of the defence procedure were not a major issue for him. ‘To be honest, technical and other factors were secondary and minor considerations. Nonetheless, the public defence was an interesting experience, since the thesis defence model established at St Petersburg University is quite different compared to other universities in Russia that follow the guidelines of the Russian Higher Assessment Committee. But it is not much different from public defence procedures adopted in other countries,’ noted Professor Kalueff.

The public defence of Professor Allan V. Kalueff's doctoral dissertation was held in late December 2020. It was conducted in a mixed mode: the respondent and two members of the Dissertation Council were present in person, while four other members participated distantly, online.

The Dissertation Council included: Carla Bonan, PhD (Biological Sciences), Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Vice-Rector for Science of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil); Aleksei Egorov, Doctor of Science (Medicine), Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Narcology at St Petersburg University, Head of the Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology and Pathology at the Sechenov Institute of Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS); Yuri Pastukhov, Doctor of Biology (Physiology), Chief researcher at the Sechenov Institute of Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry, RAS; Maria Tikhonova, Doctor of Biology (Physiology), Head of the Laboratory of Experimental Models of Neurodegenerative Processes and chief researcher at the Research Institute of Physiology and Fundamental Medicine of the Siberian Branch of RAS; and Professor Sergey Tsikunov, Doctor of Science (Medicine), Head of the Laboratory of Psychophysiology of Emotions at the Institute of Experimental Medicine. The chairman of the council was Professor Aleksandr Markov, Doctor of Biology (Physiology), Head of the Department of General Physiology at St Petersburg University. The members of the Dissertation Council voted unanimously to award a Doctor of Biology (Physiology) degree to Professor Allan V. Kalueff.