University of Vermont

Neuroscience Graduate Program


Current NGP Students

Aktar_MahafuzaMahafuza Aktar

Mentor: Undecided

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.

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Rehan_AliRehan 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. 


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James_BishopJames Bishop

Mentor: Magdalena Naylor, Psychiatry and Helene Langevin, Neurological Sciences

As an undergraduate at Virginia Tech I explored interests in engineering before majoring in biological sciences. Upon graduation I moved to Boston, MA and started as a research technician at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in stem cell biology. The aim of the project was to determine if there were pluripotent stem cells present in amniotic fluid that could be differentiated into hematopoietic cells. Seeking research on a macro level, I joined the P.A.I.N. (Pain Analgesia Imaging Neuroscience) Group at Harvard Medical School under mentors Dr. David Borsook and Dr. Lino Becerra. Over the next 4 years, I became involved in both clinical and non-clinical research at several institutions. Clinically, at Boston Children’s Hospital I worked on pediatric neuroimaging of CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome). At McLean Psychiatric Hospital I performed pharmacological magnetic resonance imaging (phMRI) of opioids to predict their clinical efficacy. Non-Clinically, at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and Massachusetts General Hospital, I conducted awake animal (Rat) fMRI and phMRI utilizing in vivo optogenetic techniques and animal models of pain and migraine. The culmination of my undergraduate coursework and postgraduate research experiences has led me to the University of Vermont to pursue graduate work in translational neuroscience. To view CV, click here.

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kcKutibh Chihabi

Mentor: Tony Morielli, Pharmacology & John Green, Psychological Science

I received my bachelors degree from UCLA with a major in Neuroscience and spent several years at UCLA conducting research under Dr. Scott Fears. While I was there I worked on volumetric analysis of MRI's to determine genetic heritability for bipolar disorder. Ever since childhood I have been fascinated by the brain's remarkable abilities to comprehend and process the world around us, and my interests in particular are in learning and memory disorders such as Alzheimer's.

Currently I am working on a project in collaboration between the labs of Dr. Tony Morielli in the Pharmacology Department and Dr. John Green in the Psychology Department. My project is looking at the role that regulation of Potassium Ion Channels may have on Learning and Memory in the Cerebellum, and you can read more about it on my website

Another passion of mine is nutrition and I am obsessed with understanding what it is about our food that affects both our physical and mental health. As you may know, our society has been battling an ever-rising obesity epidemic over the last several decades. I personally have struggled with obesity and my family has a long history of metabolic disorders such as Type II Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, and Cardiovascular disease. You can read more about my personal story in the Nutrition section of my website ( and what I hope to do in this field in the near future.

Having recently moved to Vermont, my long-time telescope hobby has been reignited with Vermont's dark skies (when it's not cloudy that is!). In addition to Astronomy, I have always been fascinated by the depths of the oceans and the mysteries they contain within. I am ecstatic to say that I finally obtained my PADI Advanced Scuba Diver Certification in the Fall of 2014, and I cannot be more joyed exploring the bounty of the oceans' depths. I currently live with my wife in Essex Junction and am enjoying the small village life! If you ever happen to be in Given Building feel free to stop by my office in Given B311 to say hi!

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CurryWillie 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.

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DAlbertoNicholas 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.

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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.

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Brittany Fair

Mentors: Dr. Hugh Garavan & Dr. Rob Althoff, Department of Psychiatry

I earned my B.A. in Philosophy and Animal Ecology from the Claremont Colleges (2011) and my Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Program Certificate from SF State University & UC Berkeley (2013). I spent several years working with Dr. Owen Wolkowitz (UC San Francisco) in the UCSF Depression and Wellness Program. My research focused on major depressive disorder and cellular stress with an emphasis the molecular mechanisms of catecholamines and telomeres. I also worked with Dr. James Gross (Stanford University) focusing on sedentary behavior in the Stanford Psychophysiology Laboratory before joining the NGP.

This year, I joined the labs of Dr. Hugh Garavan and Dr. Rob Althoff in the Department of Psychiatry. My research focuses on deciphering the brain correlates of personality. Methods include MR imaging, psychological, genetic and cellular measures. Personality neuroscience is a relatively new field and I am excited to be apart of it!

Outside of research, I am grateful for a colorful life of yoga practice, rock climbing, horseback riding, paddle boarding, triathlons & jazz trumpet. I absolutely love living in Vermont- it feels like a giant outdoor playground. Adopting a dog while in Vermont has only encouraged my outdoor adventures.

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Yu Han

Mentor: Undecided

I grew up in the northern part of China. I came to the states in 2011 and spent the past five years at the University of Iowa. At Iowa, I majored in psychology and worked in both social psychology and neuroscience labs. I was involved in a variety of research projects studying racial stereotypes,  moral judgments, emotion regulation, and cognitive dysfunction in neuropsychiatric disorders. My broad research interest is neuropsychology and social neuroscience, specifically I am interested in emotion regulation and cognitive dysfucntion in healthy population and patients with neuropsychiatric disorders. I am currently rotating in Dr. Hugh Gravan’s lab, hoping to learn fMRI and other brain imaging techniques.

Outside lab, I enjoy traveling and nature. I had a road trip with my parents in the summer of 2016 and we drove all the way from San Francisco to Vermont. I love trees and animals, which makes Vermont a perfect place to have adventures in the next five years! View Yu Han's CV

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David Harris

Mentor: Eugene Delay, Biology

I grew up in Newton and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Wanting to get away, I went to Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota for my undergraduate education. I chose to study neuroscience thinking it would be a way to incorporate a number of my scientific interests, but I had no idea how much it would end up grabbing me.  I voraciously took as many neuroscience courses as I could, but when it came time to decide what I wanted my thesis to be about, I couldn’t settle on anything.  I decided to see if I could work in some of my non-scientific interests into my thesis research project.  I love food and cooking, so I decided to research taste neuroscience.  I was hooked and hope to continue looking into the mysteries of the taste system here, back on the east coast, at UVM.

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Gregory 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.

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Zhaojin Li

Mentor: Undecided

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!

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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.


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Matthew 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.

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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.



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Patrick Mullen

Mentors: Christopher Francklyn, Biochemistry and 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.

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Megan Perkins


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.

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Roman_PopovRoman 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: 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).

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msMegan 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. 

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SpearEstelle 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.

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RSRiley 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 am teaching myself to play the guitar.


Byrnes, N, St. Clair, R, Beske, P, Jackson, D. Oxygen-Glucose Deprivation/Reperfusion Triggered Increase in GluR2 Ser880 Phosphorylation Involves NADPH Oxidase. Society for Neuroscience, 2012.

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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.

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Nicholas Toker

Mentor: Undecided 

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.

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Katharine Tooke

Mentor: Undecided 

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.

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Last modified September 27 2016 10:09 AM