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Research Opportunities

Dr. Laurie Bayet

Dr. Bayet is a developmental cognitive neuroscientist interested in infant cognitive development and high-level vision. She directs the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience lab, which combines electro-encephalography (EEG), behavioral methods, and computational tools to uncover how infants and young children learn to interpret complex visual objects relevant to affective, social communication. To that end, the lab has a particular focus on the rich, clinically relevant, and well-described case of affective facial expression perception and understanding. Dr. Bayet's work has been recognized with a Rising Star award from the Association for Psychological Science (APS), and a Distinguished Early Career Contribution Award from the International Congress of Infant Studies. Learn more at

Current research questions include

  1. How do infants represent the visual world around them, and how is this process shaped by the social-communicative (e.g., linguistic) context? This project is supported by the National Science Foundation.
  2. How do infants think about the meaning of affective expressions (such as smiles, growls, etc.)?

Interested undergraduates should apply at Apply to Join (also at Bayet faculty profile). 

Dr. Terry Davidson

The Laboratory for Behavioral and Neural Homeostasis offers undergraduate students the opportunity to learn about and participate in research on the inter-relationships among three pernicious and widespread threats to human health and well-being. Studying both rodents and humans, we explore the shared neural, hormonal, and cognitive processes that underlie obesity and addiction, and we investigate how both disorders can accelerate age-related cognitive decline, potentially culminating in dementia. Our work has shown that unhealthy diets and drugs of abuse can weaken the defenses of the hippocampus, a brain structure critical to important memory functions, to a variety of insults. Our current goal is to identify interventions that can protect the hippocampus from diet- and drug-induced damage.

Undergraduate students who become members of our research team will get hands-on experience conducting behavioral studies that evaluate the effects of dietary, hormonal, and pharmaceutical manipulations on hippocampal-dependent memory functions. Students will also take part in weekly lab meetings to discuss data we collect and weekly reading meetings where new findings from other laboratories are considered. Many students will also have the opportunity to co-author professional research papers or to present their findings at regional and national research conferences. Laboratory staff will provide students with all training needed to a participate in a research project. Although there are limited number of openings, beginning, as well as advanced, undergraduate students, who are conscientious, dedicated, and responsible, are welcome join our laboratory group.

Dr. Katie Holton

The Nutritional Neuroscience Lab studies the dietary modulation of glutamatergic neurotransmission in humans. Excess glutamate can lead to excitotoxicity in the nervous system, which has been linked to many neurological and psychiatric illnesses. Excitotoxicity also leads to oxidative stress and neuroinflammation in the nervous system, and our lab is interested in understanding if diet can be used to stop this self-perpetuating “neurotoxic triad.” Currently, we are recruiting subjects for a large multi-site clinical trial examining the effects of the Low Glutamate Diet as a treatment for Gulf War Illness, which is a chronic neurological illness characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, sleep problems, and mood dysregulation. We are also working in collaboration with Dr. Alex Zestos on a project to measure free glutamate levels in common food items.

Undergraduate neuroscience students who are interested in potentially working in the Nutritional Neuroscience Lab should reach out to Dr. Holton at for an interview.

Dr. Alex Kisner

My research goal is to investigate the effects of diet and adverse experiences during critical developmental periods in brain structure, function, and ultimately mental health. We use a combination of interdisciplinary approaches involving neuroanatomy, molecular methods, and animal behavioral analysis to understand the mechanisms of how dietary factors and stress shape the maturation of brain structures and neural circuits controlling emotional states and reward and their role in behavioral disorders. Students will have the opportunity to apply neurobiological concepts as they learn to think as scientists and answer questions concerning brain structure and neuronal function. Students with no prior research experience are welcome to contact me to discuss opportunities:

Dr. Mark Laubach

Professor Laubach's lab studies learning and decision making with a focus on the prefrontal cortex in rodents. Current projects are funded by the NIH to understand how neurons in the prefrontal cortex control visually guided decisions and how opioid drugs may alter prefrontal processing. Techniques include behavioral assays, multi-electrode recordings, fiber photometry, viral pathway tracers, and pharmacology.

Undergraduate students can participate in these projects, especially in supporting ongoing behavioral studies and video analysis of recordings from behavioral test sessions. In parallel, the lab runs the NSF-funded OpenBehavior project, which promotes and disseminates information on open-source tools for neuroscience experiments.

Undergraduate students can participate in this project by writing posts on open-source tools and assisting with understanding the impact of the tools promoted by the project on neuroscience research. Beyond these funded projects, our lab makes and uses many programs, small parts, and devices for our research, and we are always happy to bring in undergraduates who have skills in computer coding, 3D design and printing, and electronics. 

Contact: Dr. Mark Laubach:

Dr. Anthony Riley

One important factor in the initiation and maintenance of drug use is the drug’s rewarding effects, which play a central role in incentivizing and conditioning drug-related behavior. However, drugs also produce aversive and adverse effects that are important in limiting drug intake. In early stages of drug use, the balance of the rewarding and aversive effects can be a strong predictor for drug-taking behaviors. Our group uses a variety of rodent models to assess the rewarding (i.e., conditioned place preference), adverse (i.e., locomotor activity/stereotypies) and aversive (i.e., conditioned taste avoidance) effects of drugs to predict their abuse potential (i.e., self-administration/drug intake). In addition to characterizing the affective properties of drugs, a major goal of our laboratory is to assess how different subject (e.g., age, sex, strain) and experiential (e.g., drug history, diet, HIV) factors impact these properties and drug intake.

While most individuals who use drugs regulate their drug intake, some individuals develop addiction-like behaviors characterized by escalated intake and a loss of control over use despite negative consequences. We are interested in why drug intake can be regulated by the majority of users, but in some individuals can become dysregulated. To this end, our lab studies the role of interoceptive signals in regulating intake, how interoceptive dysregulation leads to excessive consumption and whether interindividual variability in learning interoceptive signals predicts a more rapid transition to dysregulated drug use. Our analysis of the vulnerabilities of addiction extends to other pathologies that implicate similar neurobiological underpinnings. Currently, we are studying how diet and HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders that impair motivational and cognitive processes may increase the risk of addiction. We are also interested in the interaction of drugs on potential abuse vulnerability, given that polydrug use characterizes this population of users for many new designer drugs (e.g., “bath salts”).

Our Psychopharmacology Laboratory integrates basic pharmacology, molecular biology, analytical neurochemistry and virology to assess neurobiological and behavioral changes across the stages of drug use and abuse. We offer opportunities for undergraduate students to acquire the knowledge and skills that can be applied to conduct preclinical studies and present scientific findings. While undergraduate students will work closely with graduate students and the laboratory director to acquire research techniques during the first semester in the laboratory, students will have the opportunity to propose, develop and conduct independent research projects as they become more experienced in research. Although interest in drug use and abuse, basic neuroscience and pharmacology are important for our work, a passion for research and science is critical as well.

For more information and opportunities for research, please see the Psychopharmacology Laboratory.

Dr. Colin Saldanha

Members of my laboratory are interested in the role hormones play in neuroplasticity, learning and memory. We study the neurochemistry and behavior of zebra finches, a small songbird that has long served as an excellent model for studies on hormones, brain and behavior. We are most interested in steroids, many of which are synthesized in the brain itself. Estrogens, for example, are made in many areas of the brain, and regulate a diverse set of complex behaviors. Notably, estrogens are synthesized at synapses, where they may support learning and memory. Further, following brain injury, estrogens are made in reactive glia around the site of damage where they affect many indices of neuroplasticity including cell-turnover and neuroinflammation.

Ongoing research includes answering questions about how neural estrogen synthesis may affect (a) neuroplasticity and neurotransmission, (b) clusters of genes involved in memory, and (c) brain damage and repair. Using techniques like biochemistry, electron microscopy, and genomics helps us unravel the complex role of neurosteroids on brain and behavior.

Contact: Dr. Colin Saldanha:

Dr. Catherine Stoodley

The Stoodley Lab investigates the role of the human cerebellum in cognition and cognitive development. Traditionally, the cerebellum has been considered solely a motor structure, but recent anatomical, clinical, and neuroimaging data have advanced our knowledge of human cerebellar function. We study the functional layout of the cerebellum, the type of processing that it performs, and the impact of cerebellar structural and functional differences in clinical and developmental conditions, including autism. We use a range of cognitive neuroscience methods, including neuroimaging, neuromodulation, lesion-symptom mapping, and behavioral studies. This work is currently funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense. Undergraduate students join the lab with a basic background in brain and behavior and are trained in the fundamentals of clinical and cognitive neuroscience research. Our ultimate goal is to understand the contribution of the cerebellum to cognition in both typical development and in clinical and developmental conditions, and to translate this knowledge into clinical and educational applications.