University of Vermont

Neuroscience Graduate Program

Current NGP Students

Kim Albert

Mentor: Paul Newhouse, Psychiatry

I grew up in Los Angeles, California and began my undergraduate education at Los Angeles Pierce College, where I majored in psychology and worked as a supplemental instructor and tutor for the college. While at Pierce, I had the opportunity to intern during the summer at UC Berkeley on an imaging study of emotion and cognition. I finished my undergraduate degree after transferring to Johns Hopkins as a neuroscience major, and worked for two years in the Holland lab there, studying the role of the amygdala and connections to the substantia nigra in motivation and attention. My interests are in systems neuroscience and neurological conditions involving memory and attention. I am enjoying living in Vermont; I have a big yard for my two dogs and love the year round outdoor lifestyle.

Back to the Top >>

Rehan Ali

Mentor: Undecided

Bio coming soon...

 

 

Back to the Top >>

James Bishop

Mentor: Undecided

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.

Back to the Top >>

Kutibh Chihabi

Mentor: Undecided

I moved to the United States at the age of 5 from Syria, the country of my birth. I grew up and spent the majority of my life in Southern California where I went on to receive my bachelors degree from UCLA with a major in Neuroscience. I spent several years at UCLA conducting research under Dr. Scott Fears where I edited and worked on MRI's in order to determine gene 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.

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...). I was also recently married and am living happily with my wife in Burlington!

Back to the Top >>

Gene Cilento

Mentor: Tony Morielli, Pharmacology

My neuro-scientific research is rooted in the Department of Pharmacology. In the Morielli lab, we focus on voltage gated potassium (Kv) channels, and our goal is to continuously expand our understanding of cellular surface trafficking of Kv1.2, a particularly important channel in neuronal function. My specific interests are to determine if post-translational modification (PTM)s are a major mechanism for trafficking Kv1.2 to and from the cellular surface in the cerebellum. Two major types of PTMs are phosphorylation and ubiquitylation. Potentially, phosphorylation (a commonly studied PTM) and mono-ubiquitylation (a more novel PTM) could both work as molecular signals for channel trafficking, either as separate mechanisms or, as I suspect, in concert with each other. Regardless of the collaboration, elucidating specific PTMs during Kv1.2 ion channel trafficking is my overall research focus.

I grew up in Olympia, Washington and moved to Burlington in 2010. Now, starting my third year, I am finally feeling settled enough to bring back my personal interests. I am most passionate about music, drawing, and fitness, but nothing can beat pushing the WRX to the limit.  

Back to the Top >>

Eric Gonzalez

Mentor: Margaret Vizzard, Neurological Sciences

I earned a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience from Muhlenberg College in May of 2010.  At Muhlenberg College, I managed, conducted and presented an undergraduate research project investigating the neural 
substrates of learning and memory.  Following graduation, I joined the labs of Drs. Rae Nishi and Felix Eckenstein at the University of Vermont where I worked on an interdepartmental NIH Challenge Grant proposing that nicotine exposure alters adolescent cholinergic signaling resulting in long-term changes in rewarding pathways and 
cholinergic maturation. I joined the Neuroscience Graduate Program at the University of Vermont on August of 2011 and I am excited to immerse myself in the expanding field of Neuroscience.

Back to the Top >>

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. 

Back to the Top >>

Nathan Jebbett

Mentor: Felix Eckenstein, Neurological Sciences

I came to Vermont from Upstate New York, where I grew up and later earned my BS in Cellular Neuroscience at Colgate University. I think it’s very cool that we exist each day as the product of an embodied nervous system, as personal and tangible as it is biological and complex. I feel lucky to study neuroscience at such an exciting time for human knowledge.

It’s important to ask tough questions. Could humans be unwittingly contaminating the environment with large amounts of harmful substances? Unfortunately, the answer has been, and still is, a resounding “yes”.  Higher atomic weight metals and metalloids represent a particularly dangerous class of pollutants given their potency as developmental neurotoxins. The project I work on is a collaboration between the labs of Dr. Rand and Dr. Eckenstein that aims to describe the neurotoxic effects of methylmercury, one of the most prevalent metal toxins, using neural progenitor cells as a developmental model.  We are currently investigating the influence of elevated methylmercury concentrations on several signaling paradigms involved in fate-determination.

When I’m not working on research, I’m usually snowboarding, mountain biking, playing disc golf, or engaging in one of the many other excellent opportunities for outdoor extremeness that Vermont has to offer.

Back to the Top >>

Abbie Chapman Johnson

Mentor: Marilyn Cipolla

I grew up in Bar Harbor, Maine where I enjoyed all aspects of simple island life- gorgeous landscapes, ocean currents, crazy tourists, and cold, snowy winters. I feel fortunate to come from such a unique place, with Acadia National Park on my left and the immense intellectual presence and resources of The Jackson Laboratory on my right. Little island, big scene. I didn’t travel too far from my salty island sanctuary to attend college, and in May of 2008 I received my BS in Biology with a concentration in Neuroscience from the University of Maine at Orono. I moved to Burlington that October to work as a technician in Dr. Marilyn Cipolla’s laboratory within the Department of Neurology here at UVM. I conducted experiments on isolated and pressurized cerebral arteries and veins to determine structural and functional differences, along with changes in permeability during pregnancy. I became quite impressed with the Neuroscience Graduate Program, having been just a few steps down the hall, and am very excited to be a part of it.

Publications

  • Chapman AC, Cipolla MJ, Chan SL. Effect of Pregnancy and Nitric Oxide on the Myogenic Vasodilation of Posterior Cerebral Arteries and the Lower Limit of Cerebral Blood Flow Autoregulation. Repro Sci. 2012 (in press).

  • Cipolla MJ, Pusic AD, Grinberg YY, Chapman AC, Pynter MY, Kraig RP. Pregnant serum induces neuroinflammation and seizure activity via TNFα. Exp Neurol. 2012; 234 (2): 398-404.

  • Chan SL, Chapman AC, Sweet JG, Gokina NI, Cipolla MJ. Effect of PPARg inhibition during pregnancy on posterior cerebral artery function and structure. Front. Physio. 2010; 1:130. doi:10.3389/fphys.2010.00130.

  • Amburgey OA, Chapman AC, May V, Bernstein IM, Cipolla MJ. Preeclamptic Plasma Increases Blood-Brain Barrier Permeability By Activation of VEGF Receptors. Hypertension. 2010;56(5):1003-08.

  • Roberts TJM, Chapman AC, Cipolla MJ. PPAR-γ agonist rosiglitazone reverses increased cerebral venous hydraulic conductivity during hypertension. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2009; 297 (4): H1347-53.

Back to the Top >>

Matt LeComte

Mentor: Jeff Spees, Medicine

I’ve always been interested in the living world. Having grown up in a small town in Maine, I had ample opportunity to the natural world immediate to me. I was, and still am, fascinated with many fields of scientific discovery. My first crack at performing my own “science” came after my transferred to UVM in 2001. I enrolled in the Molecular Genetics program and did undergraduate research under the tutorage of Dr. Cedric Wesley. Cedric quickly became the mold in which my laboratory work-ethic and skills were cast. I also became acquainted with metazoan development with the help of our little insect friend, Drosophila. After graduating and a year as a technician, I accumulated enough data that I was able to publish a first-author paper. This done, a change of scenery was in order, so I moved to San Francisco and took a position as a clinical research associate in the Pain Clinical Research Center at UCSF. There I found more mentors who spurred my interest in medicine. During a brief foray into the private sector as an employee at Genentech, I was accepted into the MD/ PhD program at UVM.

I became interested in stroke after a three week stint on the acute stroke team at Fletch Allen healthcare during a clerkship. Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the first cause of neurological disability in the United. Considering these statistics our treatments for stroke remain limited. Progress has been made with acute administration of thrombolytics and MERCI device, but much room remains for improvement. I hope to make valuable contributions in the treatment of stroke. I have joined Dr. Spees’ lab where we research stroke and stroke treatments using mouse models.

Back to the Top >>

Greg Lieberman

Mentor: Magdalena Naylor, Psychiatry

I grew up in central Massachusetts and went to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for my undergraduate degree, where I earned a BA in Psychology with an unofficial focus in neuropsychology. After college I enrolled in Harvard’s extension school post-baccalaureate health careers (pre-med) program, intending to proceed to medical school, but a job at the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease (MIND) introduced me to the field of research and set me down a different path. I worked in a Huntington’s Disease lab for four years, first as a research technician and later as a senior research technologist and lab manager.

After spending nearly three years working in UVM’s biobehavioral psychology cluster studying the neural circuitry of fear and anxiety in rats, I am currently working toward my dissertation in cognitive neuroscience in the MindBody Medicine Clinic. We use functional magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging to study the neural changes that result from cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness meditation techniques, and “chill-inducing music” in people coping with chronic pain.

Publications

  • Fox JH, Connor T, Stiles M, Kama J, Lu Z, Dorsey K, Lieberman G, Sapp E, Cherny RA, Banks M, Volitakis I, Difiglia M, Berezovska O, Bush AI, Hersch SM. (2011). Cysteine Oxidation within N-terminal Mutant Huntingtin Promotes Oligomerization and Delays Clearance of Soluble Protein. J Biol Chem, 286(20):18320-30.
  • Chopra V, Fox JH, Lieberman G, Dorsey K, Matson W, Waldmeier P, Housman DE, Kazantsev A, Young AB, Hersch S (2007). A small-molecule therapeutic lead for Huntington's disease: Preclinical pharmacology and efficacy of C2-8 in the R6/2 transgenic mouse. Proc Natl Acad Sci, 104(42): 16685-16689 .
  • Fox JH, Kama JA, Lieberman G, Chopra R, Dorsey K, Chopra V, Volitakis I, Cherny RA, Bush AI, Hersch S (2007). Mechanisms of copper ion mediated Huntington's disease progression. PLoS ONE, 2(3): e334.

Abstracts

  • Lieberman G, Hammack SE, Bouton ME. Changes in c-Fos expression in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and the central nucleus of the amygdala in response to short- and long-duration conditioned fear stimuli. Vermont Chapter SFN 4th Annual Neuroscience Research Forum, 2009.
  • Fox JH, Buzescu R, Chopra R, Lieberman G, Chopra V, Bush AI, Hersch S. Altered copper homeostasis in R6/2 Huntington’s disease transgenic mice. Society for Neuroscience, 2005.

Back to the Top >>

Galen Missig

Mentor: Victor May, Neurological Sciences

I grew up in southern New Jersey. After graduating from Salesianum High School in Wilmington, I attended the University of Delaware. While there I became fascinated by the way a universe full of oscillating particles and waves can be transformed by the nervous system into such things as senses, thoughts, and emotions.  As an undergraduate I joined Dr. Jeff Rosen’s Neurobiology of Emotions lab, studying Oxytocin’s effects on fear and anxiety from a behavioral neuroscience perspective. Currently I am working in Dr. Victor May’s lab investigating the mechanisms linking the peptide pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) and stress.

Publications:

Ayers L.W., Missig G., Schulkin J., & Rosen J.B. (2011). Oxytocin Reduces Background Anxiety in a Fear-Potentiated Startle Paradigm: Peripheral vs. Central Administration. Neuropsychopharmacology, 36, 2488-2497.

Missig, G., Ayers, L. W., Schulkin, J., & Rosen, J. B. (2010).  Oxytocin Reduces Background Anxiety in a Fear-Potentiated Startle Paradigm. Neuropsychopharmacology, 35, 2607-2616."

Back to the Top >>

Michelle McNamara

Mentor: Cynthia Forehand

Michelle spent her first seventeen years in San Diego, California. She attended Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana where she played soccer and majored in Biology and Sociology. She is currently in her second year of study at UVM and is a member of the Forehand lab. 

 

 

Back to the Top >>

Liana Merrill

Mentor: Margaret Vizzard, Neurological Sciences

I grew up in Northwood, New Hampshire and attended Wheaton College, where I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychobiology. While at Wheaton, I worked primarily on two studies with my undergraduate advisor. During my first year in the lab, we studied mating-induced Fos in forebrain neurons of female mice. In my second year, we looked at the effects of bisphenol-A on estrogen-induced sex behavior in ovariectomized female rats, which became my Senior Thesis. These experiences in the lab led me to the discovery of my passion for research, and ultimately my decision to pursue a PhD in Neuroscience. I chose UVM because of the many opportunities available, as well as the warm and welcoming environment UVM offers. I am currently working in the lab of Dr. Margaret Vizzard studying the effects of chronic stress on the bladder.

Publications:

Kirkpatrick, M.E. & Merrill, L. (2011). Effect of systemic blockade of α1-noradrenergic receptors on sex behavior and vaginal–cervical stimulation-induced Fos in female rats. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 97: 486-493.

Back to the Top >>

Vanessa Ochoa

Mentor: Rae Nishi

I was born and raised in Southern California. I received my BS in Biology with a minor in Neuroscience from the University of California Riverside. As an undergraduate student, I worked in a biochemistry lab where the main focus was biochemical aspects of plant hormones. In this lab I realized that I could see myself doing research for a very long time. Since my passion is Neuroscience, I decided to pursue a PhD. I commuted as an undergraduate and lived at home in California my whole life, so I wanted to take a chance and explore other areas. Of course, being in California you don’t see snow, so I decided I wanted to live on the East coast of the U.S. I looked into many schools but UVM caught my attention for their friendly staff and students plus the personal attention needed for each individual student. The transition to Vermont has been difficult, but possible because of the beautiful scenery Vermont has to offer and the nicest/helpful people I have meet here at UVM.

Back to the Top >>

Kathryn Olds

Mentor: Undecided

I grew up in Chazy, NY, a small town on Lake Champlain.  I enjoyed playing basketball, softball and I currently still hold the NYS record for the most shutouts in a season as a soccer goalie.  Since the age of 12, martial arts were the love of my life. I achieved the rank of 3rd Black belt in Shaolin Kempo Karate in 2008 and have been an instructor for 7 years.  As an undergraduate, I attended St. Lawrence University and graduated with a B.S. in Neuroscience with a side concentration in Chemistry.  During my four years, I was a chemistry teaching assistant, an active member of the Ultimate Frisbee team—The Ruckus Bus— and also taught private karate lessons to children. 

In my spare time, I like to read, run, and hike. I am an avid ‘arts & crafter’ and I’m always up for tossing a disc.

I am proud to be a member of the Neuroscience Graduate Program here at the University of Vermont and I look forward to many exciting challenges in the years to come.

Back to the Top >>

Nick Ortiz

Mentors: Hugh Garavan & Alexandra Potter, Psychiatry

Nick was born in, and spent much of his life in Colorado. His research is directed towards understanding the role of impulsivity in the temporal discounting of reward. In 2009 he earned a B.A. in cell & molecular biology as well as in psychology at the University of Colorado. Before joining the Garavan lab at UVM, he was a professional research assistant at the Institute for Behavioral Genetics in Boulder, CO where he studied the distribution and function of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors.  In his free time, he enjoys reading, cooking and cycling.  

Back to the Top >>

Simone Otto

Mentor: Rae Nishi

I am a member of the Nishi lab. I have a BS in Biology (Cell and Molecular), with a minor in Biochemistry, from Winona State University. I also have an AAS in Fashion Design from FIT in NYC, three sons, ages 14, 11, and 6 at the moment, a love of writing and arts, and a whole lot of real-world experience. I have worked many places, from Mayo Clinic in the Molecular Genetics Laboratory to the board of directors for Lake City Theatre Company. I write and read poetry. I also have been known to knit, make jam, volunteer, make costumes or design sets, dance, and write short stories and/or fantasy. I need to travel like the sun needs to shine, love sailing and music of all genres, and also have taught myself French. Despite having a varied tableau of interests, I am thrilled to focus in on neuroscience, which has been an area that has touched me personally time and again throughout my life. Being at UVM in particular excites me, as it is one of the few places in which I have truly encountered a willingness to embrace a diversity of backgrounds, giving the “alternative” student the opportunity to create their niche in the world.

Back to the Top >>

Roman Popov

Mentor: Jesse Jacobs, Rehabilitation & Movement Science

I am from Russia and I received my Bachelor's Degree in Statistical Physics. I studied optimization of signal recognition in "noisy" environments which is generally applied in telecommunication but the principles themselves can be used in any dynamic system which sends signals back and forth. While finishing undergraduate studies I expanded my interests from Physics to Neuroscience recognizing the similarities between electronic devices and nervous systems. After graduation I felt obligated to try and become a part of this great cohort that scrutinizes the most mysterious organ in our bodies. That's how I ended up at UVM.
I am happy to be chosen by UVM's Neuroscience Graduate Program, I do feel that the size of the program, the width and breadth of faculties interests, the professionalism of everybody I have met is a perfect match for my goals. I look enthusiastically towards learning the fundamentals of our body and its nervous system, and have yet to decide which exact direction I should pursue. My ultimate goal in Neuroscience and one thing I really appreciate about it is to participate in the research that has potential to be applied clinically in a reasonable amount of time.
I am from a big city in Central Russia and I have always dreamt of getting away from cars' exhaust and exhausted people rushing by. That's why I am absolutely in love with Burlington area and state of Vermont, and I am looking towards winter with much anticipation (yes, I am Russian after all). Hopes are out there that I will have a chance to squeeze in some hiking and skiing in between studies. My other hobbies are reading popular science books and sci-fi and attempting to write fiction myself.

Back to the Top >>

Geoffrey Schaubhut

Mentor: Alexandra Potter, Psychiatry

I have spent the entirety of my life in states bordering Canada including Minnesota, North Dakota, and now the more easterly Vermont. However, despite this long connection I have never stepped foot into this neighboring country. During the time of my undergraduate years I resided in the small city of Grand Forks at the University of North Dakota working on degrees in Biology and Honors with minors in both Chemistry and Psychology. A great deal of my time was spent in the lab of Dr. Diane Darland studying the effect of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) on vasculogenesis and neurogenesis within the brain of a mouse models with genetic manipulations of the normal isoform profile. The cold winters made me feel the need to explore a slightly more southern climate, thus leading me to spend a summer at the Mayo Clinic studying the effect of alcohol under chronic and acute conditions on behavior within mouse models. This sparked a deep interest in both the development of addiction and mechanisms for altering the behavior of addicted individuals. I am currently working within the lab of Dr. Alexandra Potter, studying the interaction between impulsivity and alcohol use disorders.

Back to the Top >>

Estelle Spear

Mentor: Undecided

I grew up in Chardon, Ohio and attended Allegheny College in western Pennsylvania where I earned my B.S. in Neuroscience. As an undergrad I conducted research on the neonatal mouse response to carbon dioxide with implications to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, under the supervision of Dr. Lee Coates. My senior thesis was conducted at the Cerebrospinal Fluid Research lab of the Cleveland Clinic with 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.


My undergraduate experiences led me to really enjoy research, and I decided that I’d venture from the Midwest for graduate school. I chose Vermont because of the beautiful location and friendly atmosphere among the faculty and students.
Aside from Neuroscience, other interests include hiking, skiing, cats, knitting, and crocheting. 

Back to the Top >>

Stephanie Spohn

Mentor: Gary Mawe, Neurological Sciences

I grew up bouncing back and forth between Lansing and Detroit, Michigan.  I attended the University of Detroit Mercy (it’s actually IN Detroit, none of this “just outside of” nonsense).  I received a bachelor’s of science in biochemistry and spent 3 of those years doing undergraduate research in the lab of Dr. Mark Benvenuto studying the elemental composition of Korean coins and kelp supplements (be careful, they may contain arsenic…).  During my college summers I worked at Michigan State University studying intestinal epithelial motility in the lab of Dr. Mark Kadrofske and the amazing tech, Lizbeth Lockwood.  With this first year of graduate school coming to an end, I’m as excited as ever to return to playing and struggling in the lab and am very thankful to have joined the Mawe lab (let the learning continue!).  In my spare time, I really enjoy hiking, running, and I have recently reintroduced myself to ballet.

Back to the Top >>

Last modified July 03 2013 11:01 AM