Department of Psychology & Neuroscience Program,
The University of the South,
From a young age, I've been interested in understanding the human condition. What motivates us to do the things that we do? How are our brains wired to respond differently to things in our environment? How does our brain control our resulting behavior?
I fell in love with research as an undergraduate student at Santa Clara University, where I worked with a behaviorist who explored operant learning in pigeons. As a psychology major, I took a few neuropsychology courses and was fascinated by the ways that the brain controlled motivation and learning processes, and how those circuits could be disrupted by drugs of abuse. As a doctoral student, I explored how hormonal and contextual factors could impact an individual's response to natural and drug rewards and, as a postdoctoral fellow, explored the impacts of longer-term drug exposure on the brain and behavior, using a combination of behavioral and cognitive tasks in rodents. My current research explores how (a) opioid drugs alter normal learning, memory, and motivational processes, (b) sex differences and hormones alter drug seeking and (c) differences between individuals impact their vulnerability to addiction. For these projects, I use mice as a model system.
I joined the faculty of the Psychology Department and Neuroscience Program at the University of the South in 2015. I have also taught at Bard College and CUNY Hunter College, and have been engaged with the undergraduate neuroscience education community for over a decade. I've also been involved in many initiatives advocating for women in science, responsible science communication, and professional development & career exploration opportunities in the sciences.
I'm originally from the Pacific Northwest, outside of Seattle, WA, but have lived in CA, NYC, NJ, and TN. I'm a mom of two young boys, currently 6 and 4 years old. I love running, reading, coffee, science art, home improvement projects, and listening to podcasts -- a few current favorites are We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle, Unlocking Us w/ Brene Brown, and Binge Mode: Harry Potter
Education & training
Postdoctoral Fellow, Friedman Brain Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, 2012-2015
Dorothea Dix Postdoctoral Fellow, Biology of Addictive Diseases, The Rockefeller University, 2009-2012
Ph.D., Integrative Neuroscience, Rutgers University & University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey, 2009
B.S., Psychology, Santa Clara University, 2004
Dean of the College’s Excellence in Teaching Award, The University of the South, 2022
Kennedy Endowed Faculty Fellowship, The University of the South, 2018-2020
Nominee, Dean of the College’s Advising Award, The University of the South, 2021
Community Partner of the Year Award, Grundy County Safe Communities Coalition, 2019
APA Division 6 D.B. Marquis Behavioral Neuroscience Award, 2017
Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA for Individual Postdoctoral Fellows (F32), National Institute on Drug Abuse (2011-2014)
Graduate Excellence Award, Graduate Student Government Association, Rutgers University, 2008
Graduate Merit Award, Executive Women of New Jersey, 2008
Wilhelm Wundt Award for Excellence in Research, Academics & Service in Psychology, Santa Clara University, 2004
Phi Beta Kappa, Santa Clara University, 2004
Travel awards from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence and Society for Neuroscience
Sewanee Features: "How we teach today"