I am currently a postdoctoral associate in the lab of Alexander G. Ophir in the Psychology Department at Cornell University. I received my PhD in Biology and Neuroscience from Indiana University in 2014 under the supervision of James L. Goodson. My research focuses on understanding the neural mechanisms that modulate social behavior, with a particular emphasis on variations in neural structure and function that produce individual, sex, and species differences in behavior. My dissertation work primarily investigated the role of specific nonapeptide (i.e., oxytocin, OT, and vasopressin, VP) cell groups in social behavior, aggression, and anxiety in songbirds. Using several species of closely related estrildid finches that differ selectively in grouping, my research elucidated neuroanatomical and functional differences that underlie species-specific grouping behavior. This body of work is among the first to demonstrate direct contributions of distinct nonapeptide neuronal populations to behavior via site-specific manipulations within the brain.

     My postdoctoral research builds upon my earlier work by examining nonapeptide-mediated social behavior in a social rodent species, the prairie vole. This work investigates behavior and neural function from a developmental perspective. This includes an assessment of how variation in the early life social environment has long-lasting impacts on behavior, neural function, and the epigenome. Additionally, a subset of my postdoctoral research has also examined plasticity in nonapeptide neuronal function and plasticity in behavior on a developmental timescale, with a goal of elucidating how animals are able to appropriately adapt to ever-changing environments as they mature. Most recently, I have been applying a systems neuroscience approach to my research, and I am investigating how the various VP-OT cell groups and receptor areas work in concert to modulate complex behaviors. Although a great deal is known about the contributions of individual nonapeptide cell groups and receptor sites, surprisingly little is known about the functional connectivity of the nonapeptide system. My research utilizes an integrative approach and combines conceptual and analytical tools from animal behavior, neuroendocrinology, comparative neuroanatomy, developmental psychology, evolutionary biology, and behavioral ecology.


NIH NRSA Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2014 - present)

Past: Goodson Lab - Indiana University
PhD in Biology and Neuroscience (2008-2014)

Recent accomplishments:

   - International Women's Day Award for community engagement from the Cornell Women's Resource Center - 2016

     - Faculty member for the Integrative Molecular Biology module 
for the Neural Systems and Behavior course at Marine Biological
       Labs at Woods Hole Research Center - Summer 2015 

     - Recipient of the WC Young Recent Graduate Award from the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology - 2015 

                                                             Vasopressin (green), Oxytocin (purple), Fos (red), DAPI (blue).
                                                      PVN (left photo) and SON (right photo) of a pre-weaning prairie vole pup