David E. Olson

David E. Olson

Position Title
Assistant Professor

2463 Chemistry Annex

Our lab studies a class of compounds that we call psychoplastogens, or small molecules capable of promoting neural plasticity.  Such compounds have enormous potential for treating a wide variety of neuropsychiatric diseases including depression, anxiety disorders, and addiction.  We use a combination of synthetic chemistry, molecular neurobiology, and behavioral neuropharmacology to 1) understand the fundamental mechanisms underlying the effects of psychoplastogens on the nervous system, and 2) develop next generation neurotherapeutics.

Education, Awards and Professional Highlights

  • Jordi Folch-Pi Award from the American Society for Neurochemistry (2020)
  • Phi Beta Kappa Northern California Association Excellence in Teaching Award (2019)
  • Research voted one of the top 16 biomedical discoveries of 2018 by STAT Madness (2019)
  • Hellman Fellow (2018)
  • University Honors Program Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship (2018)
  • Dean's Award for Excellence in Mentoring at Early to Mid-Career Level, UC Davis School of Medicine (2016)
  • Appointed to UC Davis faculty (2015)
  • Postdoctoral Associate, The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (2011-2015)
  • Ph.D. Stanford University (2011)
  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • Sigma Xi
  • Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship
  • B.S. Union College (2006)

Representative Publications

  • Ly, C.; Shimizu, A. J.; Vargas, M. V.; Duim, W. C.; Wender, P. A.; Olson, D. E. Bryostatin 1 Promotes Synaptogenesis and Reduces Dendritic Spine Density in Cortical Cultures Through a PKC-Dependent Mechanism. ACS Chem. Neurosci., 2020, 11, 1545–1554.
  • Dunlap, L. E.; Azinfar, A.; Ly, C.; Cameron, L. P.; Viswanathan, J.; Tombari, R. J.; Myers-Turnbull, D.; Taylor, J. C.; Grodzki, A. C.; Lein, P. J.; Kokel, D.; Olson, D. E. Identification of Psychoplastogenic N,N-Dimethylaminoisotryptamine (isoDMT) Analogs Through Structure-Activity Relationship Studies. J. Med. Chem., 2020, 63, 1142–1155.
  • Zhu, J. S.; Larach, J. M.; Tombari, R. J.; Gingrich, P. W.; Bode, S. R.; Tuck, J. R.; Warren, H. T.; Son, J.-H.; Duim, W. C.; Fettinger, J. C.; Haddadin, M. J.; Tantillo, D. J.; Kurth, M. J.; Olson, D. E. A Redox Isomerization Strategy for Accessing Modular Azobenzene Photoswitches with Near Quantitative Bidirectional Photoconversion. Org. Lett., 201921, 8765–8770.
  • Cameron, L. P.; Benson, C. J.; DeFelice, B. C.; Fiehn, O.; Olson, D. E. Chronic, Intermittent Microdoses of the Psychedelic N,NDimethyltryptamine (DMT) Produce Positive Effects on Mood and Anxiety in Rodents. ACS Chem. Neurosci.201910, 3261−3270.
  • Ly, C.; Greb, A. C.; Cameron, L. P.; Wong, J.; Barragan, E.; Wilson, P.; Burbach, K. F.; Dunlap, L. E.; Soltanzadeh Zarandi, S.; Sood, A.; Duim, W. C.; Paddy, M. R.; Dennis, M.; McAllister, A. K.; Ori-McKenney, K. M.; Gray, J. A.; Olson, D. E. Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional Neural Plasticity. Cell Rep. 2018, 23, 3170–3182.
  • Su, J. Y.; Olson, D. E.; Ting, S. I.; Du Bois, J. Synthetic Studies Toward Pactamycin Highlighting Oxidative C–H and Alkene Amination Technologies. J. Org. Chem., 2018, 83, 7121–7134.
  • Cameron, L. P.; Benson, C. J.; Dunlap, L. E.; Olson, D. E. Effects of N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) on rat behaviors relevant to anxiety and depression. ACS Chem. Neurosci. 2018, 9, 1582–1590.
Membership and Service
  • American Chemical Society
  • Society for Neuroscience
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • International Society for Serotonin Research
  • International Society for Research on Psychedelics
  • Editorial Advisory Board of ACS Chemical Neuroscience
  • Editorial Advisory Board of ACS Pharmacology & Translational Science