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Psychology | Student Profiles

Jennifer Cobuzzi

I am a fifth year PhD student here in the Psychopharmacology Laboratory at American University. Here, we investigate the relative contribution of the rewarding and aversive subjective effects of abused drugs on the overall abuse liability of a compound. It is the balance of these effects that is thought to mediate overall drug use and abuse. My recent work is focused on how age modulates the aversive subjective effects of abused compounds, specifically the sympathomimetic, (+/-) 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; “Ecstasy”) in outbred rats. Considerable neurobiological development occurs during adolescence, changing the manner in which drug administration is perceived. Interestingly, adolescent animals appear relatively insensitive to the aversive effects of a number of abused drugs, specifically amphetamine, cocaine, THC and morphine, when compared to their adult counterparts. It is this reactivity that is thought to contribute to higher abuse vulnerability in adolescent populations. Given that MDMA is a popular drug among adolescent humans, with its overall use increasing in past years as well as “perceived risk” decreasing in the same timeline, pre-clinical investigations of age differences are of importance. MDMA administration is correlated with transporter-mediated release of monoamines, and differences in monoamine levels in discrete brain regions of adolescent and adult rats are of interest. My work will be utilizing High Performance Liquid Chromatography coupled with Electrochemical Detection (HPLC-ED) to investigate possible neurochemical differences between adolescent and adult rats and their possible role in the mediation of behavioral age differences in response to MDMA administration.


Babita Das

My research interests revolve around the development and comparison of pharmacological and behavioral treatments to reduce or eliminate substance abuse, as well as methods used to maximize treatment retention and outcome. I am particularly interested in finding effective ways to reduce illicit opiate use and cigarette use among urban and at risk populations. Conditioned associations between the smoking experience and nicotine effects are an important consideration in establishing treatments for reducing smoking behavior and maintaining abstinence, and can be studied using denicotinized cigarettes. In addition, it has been found that smokers pay more attention to smoking-related cues than neutral cues, leading to an attentional bias that could promote smoking behavior and impede smoking cessation attempts. To investigate these phenomenon further, I recently completed a study comparing subjective behaviors and attentional bias to smoking-related cues among daily smokers who smoked nicotine or denicotinized cigarettes with a control group of smokers in continued abstinence. My current research explores how varied levels of motivation to smoke might affect smokers’ reactions to denicotinized cigarettes.


Oliver Flynn

My current research interests include human visual perception of motion, brightness, and contrast. Using simple images and animations, we can trick the visual system into perceiving brightness differences among identical stimuli and motion in stationary displays. The results of my experiments inform computational models of retinal and cortical visual processing.


Kimberly Gilroy

Kim's research is examines mindfulness and emotion regulation as they relate to psychosocial functioning. Her thesis explored the relationship of mindfulness and empathy among college students. Her dissertation is a quasi-experimental study looking at emotional and behavioral outcomes of a DBT-based skills group adapted for adults with intellectual disabilities.


Michael Greenfield

"I am a clinical psychology PhD student in Dr. Gunthert's Stress, Coping, and Emotion lab. Emotion regulation as an issue unifies my research and clinical work. Along with Dr. Gunthert and a fellow graduate student, I study how sleep quality fluctuations influence undergraduates' response to daily life stress. Methodological interests include daily diary designs, multilevel modeling, and R programming. In terms of clinical activities, I recently started a long-term externship as an individual therapist and group skills trainer in a comprehensive Dialectical Behavioral Therapy outpatient program at a local group private practice. We work with individuals with pervasive emotion dysregulation and self-injury tendencies."

Erica Hart

I am a fourth year clinical student in Dr. Michele Carter's Anxiety Disorders Research Lab. I am currently interested in cultural influences on body image. Specifically I am using a direct assessment of attitudes, the Implicit Association Test (IAT), to investigate how African American and Caucasian women perceive bodies of varying sizes. Studies using explicit measures tell us that Caucasian women have a greater fear of fatness and drive for thinness than their African American counterparts. However, much of the past research neglects to include implicit measures which can provide a more accurate picture of automatic thoughts. Additionally, demographic factors such as body mass index (BMI), ethnic identity, socio-economic status and education are seldom taken into account. My thesis compares African American and Caucasian women using data from both an IAT as well as a traditional questionnaire, and takes into consideration demographic variables. In light of the increasing rates of obesity in America, especially within the African American community, a better understanding of cultural components of body image is essential. This information may eventually assist in targeting intervention programs that address cultural barriers to weight loss.

Masha Reider

In the Zebrafish lab, my master's thesis looked at the effects of thyroid deprivation and rearing temperature on the development of retinal layers and general morphology. My dissertation research will assess the interaction of multiple endocrine systems during zebrafish development, including thyroid, corticotropin, and prolactin hormones. The purpose of this work is to examine whether thyroid-inhibited fish recruit compensatory actions by other endocrine systems in various stages of development.

Maggie Stoeckel

My current research is focused on the adolescent child experience of parental illness. Conventional wisdom as well as existing literature suggests that the children of parents with an illness are vulnerable to a variety of psychosocial adjustment issues. However, research also suggests that certain individuals may respond to negative events, such as parental illness, by experiencing positive emotions and making positive changes. For my Master's Thesis, I examined the impact of dispositional gratitude on depression and anxiety in college-age students who have grown up with a parent who is ill. In a future study, I hope to further explore the child experience of parental illness and what factors may serve a protective purpose. Clinically, I am interested in adolescent and family therapy, as well as child and adolescent assessment issues.


Andrey Verendeev

My research interests include affective properties of drugs of abuse and I'm currently investigating individual differences in the aversive and rewarding effects of morphine. I am interested in conditioned taste aversion as a phenomenon in general, its interpretations and implications, and its use in psychopharmacology.

Curriculum Vita

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