NGP Current Students:

Mahafuza Aktar

Mahafuza Aktar

Mentor: Victor May, Neurological Sciences & Jom Hammack, Psychological Science

I was born and raised in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. I earned my M.B.B.S (Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery) from Sir Sallimullah Medical College, Dhaka, Bangladesh. After I worked as a medical doctor for a few years, I realized the importance of research and decided to become a neuroscientist. My decision to become a neuroscientist led me to come to the USA. I finished my Masters in Neuroscience from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2015 while working in a lab that was interested of the effect of high fat diet on memory. After that I worked in a lab in the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center for a year. In UTSW, I worked as a research assistant with Epilepsy and Adult Neurogenesis using a mouse model.

My goal is to become a neuroscientist and UVM opened that door for me. I am really happy and excited to be here. Besides Neuroscience, I am a passionate cinema enthusiast and a photographer.

Rehan Ali

Rehan Ali

Mentor: Christopher Berger, Molecular Physiology & Biophysics

I did my BS in Biology from LUMS School of Science and Engineering, Lahore, Pakistan. While there,  I worked on actin filaments dynamics as an independent research project and did my final year thesis work on hepatitis C virus (HCV) genome network analysis. I decided to pursue a career in research and became interested in exploring the molecular processes controlling the workings of the nervous system. I joined the neuroscience graduate program in 2012 and its been an amazing (although short) journey till now.

Erin Cullen

Erin Cullen

Mentor: Undecided

I grew up outside Rochester, NY and received my B.S. in Neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh. My research journey began during my first year there and I went on to spend two and a half years in Dr. Kirk Erickson’s lab, examining the impacts of physical activity on gray matter structure in adults. Within neuroscience, I am most interested in determining the causes and consequences of abnormal brain activity, especially in epilepsy and psychiatric disorders. I also dream of doing research that bridges discoveries on the neuroimaging side of the field with the research being done in animal models and cell culture. These interests, along with the strength of UVM’s research program, led to me choosing UVM for my graduate studies. Outside the lab, I enjoy skiing, cycling, rock climbing, and travel.

Willie Curry

Willie Curry

Mentor: Rod Scott, Neurological Sciences

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, I grew up in the modest towns of West Memphis and Marion, Arkansas on the other side of the Mississippi River. I earned my B.A. in Psychology at the University of Arkansas, where I aided Dr. William Levine in the investigation of activation of negated concepts in the mental representation of sentences. Unsatisfied with lay explanations of emotion and motivation, I experienced a revelation in the form of a behavioral neuroscience class, which turned me on the path to what I considered a more empirical approach to human cognition and behavior. Also, I really needed a change of location. While I understand that it is quite a jump to enter the world of Neuroscience without a biology or chemistry background, I welcome the challenge and am absolutely ecstatic to do so with the facilities and amazing faculty present at UVM.

Besides brain stuff, I love reading (mostly sci-fi and Edwardian/Victorian literature), video games, and all facets of Japanese culture. I also have an (un)healthy obsession with music; my ongoing projects include writing a rock opera, assembling a sound installation, and thinking of ways to be Pete Townshend.

Nicholas D'Alberto

Nicholas D'Alberto

Mentor: Hugh Garavan, Psychiatry

I grew up in a small town just outside of Saratoga called Stillwater, New York. I earned my B.S. in Psychology from Hobart College in Geneva, New York.  I became interested in Neuroscience because it provided a medium between Psychology and Biology. Also, I find the brain incredibly interesting. During my final year at Hobart, I was able to work under the joint advisory of Dr. Jeffrey Greenspon form Hobart College and Dr. Mark Mapstone from the University of Rochester to complete a senior honors thesis.  My project examined the effect of reward on inhibitory control with implications to Parkinson's disease, using Electroencephalography (EEG) and Event-related potential (ERP) measurements.
I chose the University of Vermont because of the wide range of faculty research and the high level of interaction between research departments. Outside from school I enjoy playing golf, fishing, hiking, and being outdoors.  I am looking forward to my future with the University of Vermont.

Adrian Dutkiewicz

Adrian Dutkiewicz

Mentor: Tony Morielli, Pharmacology

I grew up in Connecticut and enlisted in the US Marine Corps out of high school in 2004. I served in the Marine Corps Security Forces Regiment, as well as an infantryman with 1st Battalion 1st Marine Regiment. I have also served a 7-month deployment for the latter unit in the Al Anbar province of Iraq in 2007.

After I left the Marine Corps in 2008, I decided to pursue a career in biology research because I had a longstanding fascination with science. I wanted to understand behavior, and the more personally-satisfying aspects of this field led me to more reductionist approaches to understand the underlying biology. I gradually began to orientate myself towards neuroscience as a way of combining biology with my interest in psychology. I was able to acquire the essential skills of research with the help of the excellent Biomolecular Sciences and Biology faculty members at Central Connecticut State University, where I earned my B.S. and M.A. in Biomolecular Sciences.

I chose UVM because of the impressive array of research projects here, as well as the welcoming atmosphere of UVM's faculty and Vermont.

Yu Han

Yu Han

Mentor: Patricia Prelock, Communication Sciences & Disorders

I came to the states in 2011 from China and earned my B.A. degree in Psychology from the University of Iowa. At Iowa, I was involved in a variety of research projects studying racial stereotypes,  moral judgments, emotion regulation, and cognitive dysfunction. My broad research interests are neuropsychology and social neuroscience, specifically I am interested in emotion regulation and cognitive dysfunction in neuropsychiatric disorders. I joined the NGP at UVM in the fall of 2016. I am currently studying the neural mechanisms underlying emotion recognition and Theory of Mind among individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, using brain imaging techniques (i.e., MRI/fMRI). 

Outside lab, I enjoy traveling, nature and the company of my dog.  The green parks, the lake and even the snow have made Vermont a great place for adventures!

Harrison Hsiang

Harrison Hsiang

Mentor: Undecided

I grew up in a tiny little New Jersey town, although Vermont has been my home for a while now. While doing my undergrad at Middlebury College, I investigated sleep function with Dr. Michael Dash. This set me on the path of scientific research. As a former “Why?” kid, the prospect of making a career on asking more questions was too exciting. And like all people that come to Vermont, I didn’t want to leave! I’m so excited to be here with the lovely people of UVM. In broad strokes, my interests lay in sleep and cognition. Outside of the lab, the predominating passions are cooking, reading, and making music with my band, The Giant Peach.

Gregory Johnson

Greg Johnson

Mentor: Jom Hammack, Psychological Sciences

I became interested in neuroscience after being involved in strength and conditioning at the collegiate level and asking questions about motor control and coordination. My studies in undergraduate biology and neuroscience at Williams College then got me interested in the neuroanatomical correlates of learning disorders that I came to study for two years in the lab of Doctors Albert Galaburda and Glenn Rosen in Boston. I now find myself interested in the effects that extrinsic factors such as stress, exercise, and nutrition have on brain function. Thus far, UVM seems like the perfect place for me to study aspects of science that interest me and enjoy the amazing outdoor landscape that Vermont has to offer.

Theresa Legan

Theresa Legan

Mentor: Undecided

I earned my B.A. in Psychology with a concentration in Neuroscience from Williams College. After graduation, I stayed at Williams for three years to work as both the assistant softball coach and a research assistant in Dr. Matt Carter’s lab studying the neural basis of homeostatic systems. I am globally interested in studying the brain through a systems and circuits perspective. I chose the University of Vermont because of the program’s commitment to thorough and multidisciplinary training, as well as the beautiful location in Burlington, VT. Outside of school, I like being outside, running on trails, playing with dogs, and reading.

Zhaojin Li

Zhaojin Li

Mentor: Marilyn Cipolla, Neurological Sciences

I did my BS in Medical Laboratory Technology, Guangzhou, China. While there, I interned in the neurobiology department which stimulated my interest and passion to neuroscience. Then I decided to join the MS program of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Georgetown University as a transition toward my scientific career, and did research about Fibroblast Growth Factor-2 during internship, at National Institutes of Health (NIH). Upon graduation I continued my research at NIH and finally I am here! Joining the neuroscience graduate program at the University of Vermont is a grateful turning point on my journey to independent research, and brings me the exciting life with all green around. I am extremely interested in neurological diseases, like the mechanism, treatment and promotion of recovery.

Besides lab and studying, I love movies, cartoon animation, museums and farms! I went to the Shelburne Farm two weeks after I landed in Burlington; it is like a paradise!

Alisha Linton

Alisha Linton

Mentor: Gary Mawe, Neurological Sciences

I grew up in the small town of New Windsor, Maryland. For undergrad I attended Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY. I originally attended Ithaca as a Film and Photography major, hoping to explore my creative passions and travel the world. After realizing that wasn't the career for me, I became very interested in science. My undergraduate research on cardiac neurons and heart disease initiated my interest in neuroscience. I am very excited to be at UVM! Outside of science I enjoy ballroom dancing, horseback riding, photography, baking and being in nature.

Matthew McCabe

Matt McCabe

Mentor: Matthew Weston, Neurological Sciences

I grew up in Quincy, Illinois, a small town in central Illinois along the Mississippi river. For my undergraduate education, I attended the University of Missouri in Columbia where I earned a B.S. in Psychology. During my time in Missouri, I worked in the lab of Dr. Matt Will studying the effects of exercise on the mesolimbic reward pathway. For my senior thesis project I wanted to be exposed to a new world of research, so I conducted my thesis project under the supervision of Dr. Todd Schachtman. We designed projects studying the phenomenon of “specific hunger,” which is an animal’s drive to consume a particular flavor after it has been associated with recovery from nutritional deficiency. I chose the University of Vermont because of the diversity of research being conducted, the rich collaborative environment, the superb education available, and the beautiful scenery. Outside of the lab, I enjoy soccer, music, hiking, and Ultimate Frisbee.

John McInnis

John McInnis

Mentor: Jeff Spees, Medicine

I received my B.S from Trinity College in Hartford CT, where I did a thesis on the oligodendrocyte signaling response to endoplasmic reticulum stress. After graduating, I worked for two years as a research assistant at Boston Children's Hospital. The lab was primarily interested in studying oligodendrocytes, other glia, and ErbB4 signaling. Outside of lab I spend most of my time rock climbing, skiing, or doing other various sports.

Patrick Mullen

Patrick Mullen

Mentor: Christopher Francklyn, Biochemistry & Alicia Ebert, Biology

I grew up in Potsdam NY, a small town near the Canadian border. I have always been a very energetic person, and living in a rural setting with proximity to the Adirondacks provided the perfect place for me to get outside and blow off some steam. I look forward to having that same opportunity in the beautiful state of Vermont.

Following high school, I attended St. Lawrence University, where I worked in Joe Erlichman's lab for two years, testing a novel nanoparticle treatment for multiple sclerosis. After earning a B.S. in neuroscience from St. Lawrence, I moved to Boston, where I took a position as a research assistant in the biochemistry department at Boston Medical Center. While at BU, I worked in the lab of Carmela Abraham, and used cellular models to study amyloid precursor protein – a protein thought to be involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease.

My experience in research has been challenging, exciting, and rewarding. At UVM, I look forward to expanding and refining my understanding of neuroscience, with the goal of contributing to the body of scientific knowledge.

Aside from learning about the brain, my interests include kitties, playing soccer, cooking, drinking beer, cross-country skiing, and relaxing with friends.

Megan Perkins

Megan Perkins

Mentor: Victor May, Neurological Sciences

Hi there! I was born and raised in Georgetown, Texas (outside of Austin) and completed my bachelors in psychology at the University of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Being from Texas, it is exciting, and slightly intimidating, to have such an environmental change. Apparently, I have never seen “real” snow before, so my first northern winter in Vermont should be an interesting, hopefully exciting, experience.
I am currently a first year neuroscience graduate student. I am very excited and honored to begin my graduate training here at UVM. This university attracted me because of the stimulating, diverse, and fascinating research taking place here, along with the exceedingly helpful, driven, and intelligent faculty. Previously, I worked with a cognitive psychologist at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, specifically in the field of behavioral economics. Although interesting, I do not plan to continue this work.
I have not yet decided which lab I will join here, nor my specific area of study. However, I have a wide variety of interests, primarily relating to cognitive and behavioral neuroscience. I would like to explore the cellular and molecular sides of neuroscience as well.
Outside of school I enjoy playing and listening to music, yoga, adventuring the great outdoors, surfing, tennis, various arts, photography, and reading. I am also very excited to try my hand at winter sports—especially ice skating.

Roman Popov

Roman Popov

Mentors: Joshua Bongard, Computer Science and Jesse Jacobs, Rehabilitation & Movement Science

I received my Bachelor's degree in Statistical Physics from Voronezh State University, Russia, specifically focusing on the problem of signal recognition in "noisy" environments, which is generally applied in telecommunication. Similarities between electronic devices and the nervous system, as well as bewildering complexity of a human brain sparked my curiosity for neuroscience.
Choosing University of Vermont for my graduate school proved to be a great decision, as I found myself working under the supervision of Prof. Jesse Jacobs (a member of Human Motion Analysis Lab, Department of Rehabilitation and Movement Science) and Prof. Joshua C. Bongard (a member of Complex Systems, Department of Computer Science). Using such techniques as electroencephalography (EEG), electromyography (EMG), kinetic and kinematic recordings, as well as computational tools for optimization and modeling (evolutionary algorithms, artificial neural networks, and evolutionary robotics), our joint collaboration is aiming to understand neural control of step initiation and how it changes with aging and Parkinson's disease (PD). Moreover, our objective is also to show that autonomous robots can be employed to study human motor neuropathologies, like PD. These robots that learn to mimic human step initiation without human supervision (hence, autonomous) may provide a model of a person with PD. Comparing the function of a robotic "brain" and a human brain with PD might provide novel insights into what exactly is the reason for the motor symptoms of PD (bradykinesia, hypometria, tremors, start hesitation).
I was also given a chance to work towards the Certificate of Graduate Studies in Complex Systems. This is a short but intense five-course program covering topics on complex dynamic phenomena with emergent properties, evolutionary algorithms, chaos theory, artificial neural networks, etc., which complement the field of neuroscience rather nicely (find out more here: http://www.uvm.edu/~cmplxsys/). This certificate program is a great opportunity for anyone interested in multidisciplinary research to gain experience with computational and modeling methods.

Feel free to ask me questions about my work in the lab, Neuroscience Graduate Program and Complex Systems, and life in Burlington at (rpopov at uvm dot edu).

Megan Shipman

Megan Shipman

Mentor: John Green, Psychological Science

I grew up in Barre, Vermont and am excited to be back in my home state! I majored in psychology at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, and spent two years following graduation in Boulder, Colorado. During college, I knew that I was interested in research and immediately got involved in Dr. Kinho Chan’s lab. There, I explored the effects of hippocampal lesion on trace conditioning and investigated how a high fat diet can affect cognitive performance. I presented at conferences and found that I loved being part of a lab. During the summer of 2010, I worked as a SNURF (summer neuroscience undergraduate research fellow) at the University of Vermont, where I examined how exercise can affect the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, an anxiety center of the brain. Currently, I work in John Green’s lab where I have explored both cerebellar learning and medial prefrontal cortex learning in separate collaborations with the Morielli lab and the Bouton lab. Outside of neuroscience, I enjoy hiking, playing soccer and snowboarding.

Estelle Spear

Estelle Spear

Mentor: Gary Mawe, Neurological Sciences

I grew up in Chardon, Ohio and attended Allegheny College in western Pennsylvania where I earned my B.S. in Neuroscience. As an undergraduate I conducted research on the neonatal mouse response to carbon dioxide with implications on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, under the supervision of Dr. Lee Coates. My senior thesis was completed at the Cerebrospinal Fluid Research Lab at the Cleveland Clinic, directed by Dr. Mark Luciano and Dr. Stephen Dombrowski. I used immunohistochemistry to evaluate astrocytic gliosis and axonal injury as a result of high frequency, low volume oscillations of intracranial pressure.

Through my undergraduate experiences, I came to enjoy the challenges and rewards of research, and decided that I'd venture from the Midwest (or, as they say up here, "The Flatlands") for graduate school. I chose Vermont because of the beautiful location and friendly atmosphere among the faculty and students. I recently joined Dr. Gary Mawe's lab, where I am investigating gastrointestinal dysfunction in the EAE model.
Aside from Neuroscience, other interests include hiking, skiing, knitting, and crocheting.

Riley St. Clair

Riley St. Clair

Mentor: Bryan Ballif, Biology

I grew up in the small town of Red Lodge, in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. I attended the University of Montana where I earned Bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Psychology. While here, I joined a neurobiology lab, studying the mechanisms of glutamate receptor trafficking after ischemic stroke injury. I was also a teaching assistant for introductory chemistry and psychology courses where I discovered my love for teaching.

I joined the Neuroscience Graduate Program in 2013 and I am having an amazing time in Burlington and here at UVM! I joined Dr. Bryan Ballif’s lab, where we study cellular signaling pathways critical to neurodevelopment. We are specifically interested in the mechanisms underlying these signaling cascades, such as protein-protein interactions and phosphorylation events. I also collaborate with Dr. Alicia Ebert, using zebrafish as a model system to study cellular signaling in vertebrate eye development.

When I’m not studying, I love hiking, the Seahawks, and rock climbing. I also like to dabble in jewelry making and have been enjoying learning to ski and mountain bike.

Publications:
Riley St. Clair, Sarah Emerson, Kristen D’Elia, Marion Weir, Anna Schmoker, Alicia Ebert, Bryan Ballif (2017). Fyn phosphorylates PlexinA1 and PlexinA2 at conserved tryosines essential for zebrafish eye development. In review: FEBS Journal.

Sarah E. Emerson, Riley St. Clair, Ashley Waldron, Sierra Bruno, Anna Duong, Heather Driscoll, Alicia Ebert (2017). Identification of target genes downstream of semaphorin6A/plexinA2 signaling in zebrafish. Developmental Dynamics, 246(7):539-549. doi: 10.1002/dvdy.24512.

Callum Thomas

Callum Thomas

Mentor: Undecided

I grew up in Waterville, a small city in central Maine along the Kennebec River. I earned my B.A. in Neuroscience from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. During my final year, I conducted research on the impact of the emotional regulation technique Cognitive Reappraisal. This experience led me to my interests in emotion, cognitive function, and imaging. After interviewing at UVM, I was impressed by the culture of collaboration and support for the students that the NGP offers. Outside of the lab, I enjoy swimming, biking, eating, and exploring the local brewery scene.

Daniella Thorsdottir

Daniella Thorsdottir

Mentor: Benedek Erdos, Pharmacology

I was born and raised in Reykjavik, Iceland and lived there until I began my undergraduate studies at the University of Vermont where I completed a B.S. in Neuroscience in 2015. For my undergraduate research, I studied umami taste perception in mice using a classical conditioning methodology in Dr. Eugene Delay’s lab. Today, my research interests center mainly on the neural substrates of learning and memory, as well as the neurocircuitry of stress and anxiety. Outside of lab, I enjoy hiking, ice skating, tennis and traveling.

Nicholas Toker

Nicholas Toker

Mentor: Jeff Spees, Medicine

I received my Bachelor’s Degree in neuroscience from Skidmore College, where I worked under Dr. Sarita Lagalwar, investigating the cellular and molecular aberrations that underlie the progressive neurodegenerative disease SpinoCerebellar Ataxia Type-1. After leaving Skidmore College I spent a year in the city of Chicago furthering my background in neurodegenerative disease research, studying trafficking defects in Parkinson’s Disease under Dr. Joseph Mazzulli at Northwestern University. While in Dr. Mazzulli’s lab, I used patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells to create midbrain dopaminergic neuronal cells possessing a variety of genetic abnormalities that cause Parkinson’s. These cells were then used to test novel activators of β-Glucocerebrosidase, a lysosomal lipid hydrolase implicated in Parkinson’s Disease.

I chose the University of Vermont’s Neuroscience Graduate Program because of its commitment to the education of its graduate students, the impactful and exciting research of the program faculty, and of course the wonderful city of Burlington. I’m broadly interested in the molecular underpinnings of complex neurological and particularly neurodegenerative diseases, and how often simple mutations can have such disastrous repercussions in the human nervous system. Outside of the lab I enjoy music, and can often be found either listening to records or playing my guitar. I also enjoy the outdoors and am looking forward to taking advantage of all of the beautiful hiking Vermont has to offer. I’m excited to be beginning my graduate career here at UVM, and can’t wait to see what will come next.

Katharine Tooke

Katherine Tooke

Mentor: Margaret Vizzard, Neurological Sciences

I received my degree in chemistry from Saint Michael’s College (also located in Vermont, I just couldn’t leave!).  After writing grants to fund my research in catalysis and materials chemistry throughout undergrad, I realized that though I loved the process of research, I was not passionate about what I was studying.  This led me to pursue an internship with the Molecular Imaging and Neuropathology Division at Columbia University. After participating in neuroscience research there for 10 weeks before senior year, I knew for sure I wanted to jump right into graduate school after graduation.  I am still trying to narrow down my specific research interests and I am looking forward to doing this through the collaborative environment that UVM offers; I am so happy to have the opportunity to be a part of the NGP! Aside from research, I like to enjoy all that Vermont has to offer in all seasons and I hope to one day have a yard with a dog and a garden.

Lindsey Tulipani

Lindsey Tulipani

Mentor: Magdalena Naylor, Psychiatry

As a native Texan, I completed BS and MS degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University (Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of 2000!) and The University of Texas, respectively. My Masters thesis explored relationships between muscle activity and ground reaction forces during ambulation in people with hemiparetic stroke. As an engineer with a focus in biomechanics I worked in primarily research and testing roles including the Anthropometry and Biomechanics Facility at Johnson Space Center (Houston, TX), and The Institute of Orthopedic Research and Education (Methodist Hospital, Houston, TX).  My husband and I wanted to move closer to his roots in New England and I spent several years in orthopedic device research and product development at DePuy (Raynham, MA) where I developed clinically relevant test protocols and focused on standardizing test methods for product development teams. While I had many interesting and varied experiences in my engineering roles, I decided that my calling was to work more closely with patients and return to research. Ultimately this journey brought us to Vermont, where I completed a Clinical Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) and now am pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience. My goal is to conduct clinical research to elucidate the effects of interventions in people with neurological deficits while leveraging my background to bridge the engineering and clinical worlds.