Graduate Program in Neuroscience

Graduate Students

Our program thrives at the intersection of multiple disciplines, with our students coming from a variety of academic backgrounds, reflecting the rich tapestry of knowledge that defines the field of neuroscience. Contributing to multiple labs across various departments, our diverse student population brings a wealth of perspectives, ideas, and expertise to the table. This interdisciplinary approach is our strength, fostering innovation and collaboration that push the boundaries of our understanding of the brain. Get to know our exceptional graduate students, each contributing their unique perspective to the world of neuroscience:

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Research Description: I research the neurobiological underpinnings of opioid use disorder, focusing on the role of direct and indirect Medium Spiny Neurons during self-administration, using cutting-edge neuroimaging and optogenetics to better understand how vulnerable neuronal networks can be targeted for intervention and help alleviate the opioid crisis.

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Research Overview: Dopamine (DA)-producing neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) play a critical role in modulating reward-seeking behavior, and dysregulation of DA signaling has been linked to a variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, substance use disorders, and depressive disorders. VTA-DA neurons are enriched in transient receptor potential canonical type 6 (TRPC6) ion channels, but the functional significance of this enrichment has yet to be established. My project investigates the role of TRPC6 channels in regulating the physiology and function of VTA-DA neurons, which will provide important insights into the therapeutic potential of this understudied ion channel in the central nervous system.

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Research Description: Investigating the interaction of sex and opioid use disorder

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Research Description: I study how motor sequences are learned by creating models of how birds learn to sing.

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Research Description: I study the molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration in a variety of age-related neurodegenerative disease using several model systems.

Research Overview: I use the genetically tractable nematode worm C. elegans to model several age-related neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, FTLD, and ALS. Through various genetic techniques, I identify novel modifiers of tau and TDP-43 neurodegenerative phenotypes in C. elegans and then explore the importance and translational relevance of these biological pathways in human disease using human cells, post-mortem brain tissue, and mouse models. My research is particularly focused on the ubiquitin-proteasome system, RNA metabolism, and phase-separated condensates and organelles.

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Research Description: Studying how sensory information is organized in the nervous system.

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Research Description: Holly’s dissertation focuses on using computational models to track memory decline in patient populations and neurostimulation protocols as a potential therapeutic intervention.

Research Overview: Holly is a 5th year doctoral candidate with a primary focus in computational psychiatry. She has a strong behavioral neuroscience background and is currently investigating the human brain using neuroimaging, behavior, and cognitive modeling.

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Research Description: Modulation of object processing by saccadic eye movements

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Research Description: I am interested in utilizing ML and computational tools to better understand neuroscience.

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Research Description: Using new tools in connectomics to investigate motor control using Drosophila as a model.

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Advisors: Jeff Ojemann, Steve Perlmutter
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Research Description: I study how electrical stimulation of the human brain can measure and influence connectivity.

Research Overview: My research interests center around using direct electrical stimulation of the human cortex to change the state of the brain. Using electrical stimulation, we can harness and direct the underlying natural flexibility of the brain to promote recovery after spinal cord injury and stroke. In addition to my research, I am passionate about science education and outreach, and about making academia, and STEM spaces in particular, safe and welcoming for anyone and everyone who wants to do science.

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Research Description: Investigating the locus and mechanisms of decision making using latent based deep learning models

Research Overview: How does our brain make decisions? Where is this computation carried out? These are two long standing questions within the field of decision making. I am using latent based models to learn the underlying dynamics of a multi brain area dataset collected using large scale electrophysiology while mice perform a memory-guided decision making task. The goal of this project is to gain insight into how brain areas collaboratively communicate with each other to accomplish this crucial cognitive task.

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Research Description: Characterizing the function of locus coeruleus and pericoerulear zone activity in response to aversive and appetitive stimuli

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Research Description: Pericyte plasticity in health and disease.

Research Overview: Pericytes are mural cells embedded in the basement membrane of capillaries. These cells serve myriad functions in cerebrovascular regulation and are lost at an accelerated rate in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Pericyte remodeling is a recently discovered phenomenon in which surviving pericytes extend their processes to recover the exposed endothelium after pericyte loss. I am utilizing in vivo two-photon microscopy to study both the mechanisms that control pericyte remodeling and the effects of cerebral amyloid angiopathy on pericyte growth.

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Research Description: I study the effects of alcohol consumption after blast exposure on aging outcomes.

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Research Description: Dragos is investigating the retinal circuits involved in color perception, with a focus on color appearance and color constancy.

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Research Description: Investigating how loss of normal Presenilin 2 function leads to seizures and hyperexcitability in those with Alzheimer’s Disease.

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Research Description: Examining the role of glia in a Parkinson’s Disease model in C. elegans

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Research Description: I plan to apply systems neuroscience to develop therapies for neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders through stimulation and neurofeedback.

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Research Description: Exploring the role of the gut microbiome in the development of psychiatric outcomes following blast polytrauma via the gut-brain axis.

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