Fabricio H. Do Monte, DVM, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator 

Dr. Do Monte received his bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine from Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina in Brazil (2002), and his master’s and PhD degrees (general pharmacology and neuropharmacology) from Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Brazil (2006 and 2010), investigating the neural mechanisms regulating the expression of aversive memories. As a postdoctoral trainee in Dr. Gregory Quirk’s lab at the University of Puerto Rico, Dr. Do Monte investigated the neural circuits involved in the retrieval and extinction of fear memories. He became an Assistant Professor in the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in December 2016. Dr. Do Monte’s hobbies include playing soccer and chess, watching movies, walking his dog, and traveling to exotic destinations. 

Guillermo Aquino-Miranda, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow


Dr. Guillermo Aquino-Miranda received his bachelor degree in Psychology from the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) of Mexico, and his master’s degree in Neurobiology from Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV-IPN) of Mexico. Guillermo completed his PhD training in Biological Sciences in Metropolitan Autonomous University, Mexico City. His PhD thesis focused on understanding the interactions between dopaminergic and histaminergic systems in the prefrontal cortex using a rat model of schizophrenia. As a postdoctoral fellow in the Do Monte Lab, Guillermo is investigating how corticothalamic circuits regulate decision-making processes by using optogenetics and electrophysiological recordings in freely behaving animals. While not in the lab, he enjoys running and exercising outdoors, reading novels, and watching baseball games.

Thays Brenner dos Santos

Postdoctoral Fellow



Dr. Thays Brenner dos Santos received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Universidade Federal de São Paulo (UNIFESP) in Brazil and her master’s and PhD degrees in Behavioral Neuroscience from the same institution. Using network analyses, optogenetics, neuronal tracing, pharmacological and immunohistochemical techniques, she investigated how the prefrontal cortex encodes temporal and contextual memories through functional networks, memory engrams, and neuroanatomical connections. In the Do Monte lab, Thays studies how dopaminergic signaling in prefrontal cortex neurons regulates decision-making processes.  In her free time, Thays enjoys bike riding, reading outdoors, watching classic movies, trying different foods, and everything matcha-flavored. 

Cana B. Quave, B.S.

Graduate Student


Cana Quave obtained his B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Biology from the University of Houston. In the lab of Dr. Therese Kosten, he was trained in modelling psychiatric disorders in rodents with the aim of developing novel therapeutics. His primary focus was to investigate the role of innate immune signaling in rats’ behavioral responses to predator odor-exposure. Additionally, he was extensively involved in peer-mentoring through positions in student groups and as the undergraduate representative to his department’s education committee. In the Do Monte Lab, Cana now seeks to study the neural mechanisms whereby drugs of abuse alter risk-taking behavior in the context of fear. Outside of the lab, Cana enjoys walking into forests, cooking with his Emergency Contact, Laura, and producing abnormal noise with his guitar.

Xu O. Zhang, B.S.

Graduate Student


Xu Zhang was born in Emeishan, Sichuan in southwest China. He received his B.S. in Biological Science from Zhejiang University, China. Under the direction of Dr. Zhefeng Gong, he investigated the neural circuits that mediate the thermoregulation of sleep behavior in fruit flies. He was also an activist in LGBT rights and feminism movement by leading the student LGBT group. In the Do Monte lab, Xu is trying to elucidate the activities and mechanisms of projection-defined prefrontal cortex neurons that regulate fear- and reward-associated responses in rats. In his free time, he enjoys cooking Chinese food, watching movies, and playing Nintendo Switch.

Vicky Chuong, M.S.

Graduate Student


Vicky received her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Iowa. As an undergraduate, she investigated the efficacy of neuroprotective compounds to treat neurodegenerative diseases. Vicky later received her master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in Biomedical Science and Psychology from the University of Central Florida where she studied the role of cell senescence in Parkinson’s Disease. Following, Vicky completed a fellowship at the National Institute on Drug Abuse where she screened for pharmacological compounds with the potential to treat drug addictions. As a PhD student in the Do Monte Lab, Vicky is interested in studying individual differences in risky decision-making in rats. Outside the lab, Vicky is a proud bunny-mom of two who struggles daily to keep her plants alive. 

Esra Altun, M.S.

Graduate Student

Esra obtained her bachelor’s degree in Material Science and Engineering at Erciyes University in Turkey. She then built on this foundation by completing her master’s degree at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is now a PhD student at Rice University where she is actively engaged in the Rice Neuroengineering Initiative Program. In the Do Monte Lab, she is working on developing and testing flexible probes for intracranial recordings and a miniature dual-color microscope to image calcium transients as a proxy of neural activity in freely behaving rats. While balancing the rigors of research, she finds respite in the great outdoors, with hiking being her favorite activity. Additionally, Pilates offers her a physical and mental equilibrium in the face of the demanding academic commitments. 

Nikita Elinson-Watson, B.S.

Lab Manager & Research Assistant 

Nikita received her B.S. in Biology with a minor in Psychology from the University of Houston. While there, she was the president of a pre-health organization Alpha Eta Alpha, where she worked with members to help the community, developed connections with Special Olympics of Texas, and helped future health professionals navigate steps towards their career. She also spent time working under Dr. Gorniak at the UH Center for Neuromotor and Biomechanics Research where she studied how motor movement is affected by neurodegenerative diseases or diabetes. In the Do Monte Lab, Nikita is investigating the neural circuits that underlie ultrasonic vocalizations and social communication in rodents. During her free time, Nikita enjoys powerlifting, hiking, spending time outside with her dog, and experimenting in the kitchen.

Isabella Smith

Research Assistant 

Isabella received her bachelor’s degree in Biology with a minor in Statistics from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. As an undergraduate trainee, she did research using Drosophila melanogaster to identify premotor neurons and characterize their patterns of connections with the motor neurons. She was part of the Bucknell University Women’s swim team and received the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll award for three years. In the Do Monte Lab, Isabella is investigating how different systems of neurotransmission in the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus modulate food seeking and avoidance behaviors during situations of motivational conflict. In her free time, Isabella loves any outdoor activity, swimming, reading lots of Stephen King books, and spending time with her family and friends. 

Victoria Albanese

Undergraduate Trainee

Victoria moved from Long Island, New York to Houston to pursue her degree in Bioengineering at Rice University. In the Do Monte Lab, her research project aims to determine how prelimbic neuronal activity tracks the changing predictive value of reward-related cues during extinction learning. In her free time, Victoria enjoys watching hockey, reading, and playing tennis. 

Duy Ha

Undergraduate Trainee

Duy was born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and is pursuing his B.S. in Computer Science with a minor in Data Science at Rice University. In the Do Monte Lab, Duy is using computational methods to analyze and interpret neural representations of reward- and fear-related behaviors to obtain a broader understanding for how prefrontal cortex neurons regulate emotional responses. During his free time, Duy enjoys practicing the piano, skateboarding, and playing video games. 

Allen Dong

Undergraduate Trainee 

Allen moved from Stamford, Connecticut to Houston to pursue his degree in Computer Science at Rice University. In the Do Monte Lab, his project involves developing and validating pose estimation algorithms to track different rat behaviors and correlate their responses with neuronal activity. In his free time, he enjoys distance running, chess, and playing video games. 

Supporting Lab Members



Appa & Aang






Alumni Members

Naubahar S. Agha, Ph.D. - Postdoctoral Fellow  2017

Anika Tanwani – Undergraduate Research Internship  Summer 2017

Ana Luisa Terzian - Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow  2017-2018

Melissa Franch - Rotating Graduate Student  Spring 2018

Yue Yu - Rotating Graduate Student  Spring 2018

Maria N. Rasheed - Post-Baccalaureate Trainee  2017-2019

Leah Olivo - Undergraduate Trainee  2018-2019

Riya Albert - Undergraduate Trainee  2018-2019

Jose A. Fernandez León - Postdoctoral Fellow  2017-2019

Victoria Gonzales - Undergraduate Trainee  2019

León Gerónimo Velazquez-Hernandez - International Visiting Student 2019

Roberto J. Morales - Visiting Graduate Student  Spring 2020 

Cuauhtemoc Ulises Gonzalez - Rotating Graduate Student - Spring 2020

Harvey Zhou - Undergraduate Trainee  2018-2020

Esha Bora - High School Trainee  2020-2021

Alexandria Goodson - Undergraduate Trainee  2019-2021

Alex Prince - Rotating Graduate Student  Fall 2021

Matias Cattani - Undergraduate Trainee  Summer 2021

Andres Vasquez - Research Assistant  2019-2021

Douglas Engelke - Postdoctoral Fellow 2017-2022

Chinenye (Lucy) Chidomere - Undergraduate Trainee  2020-2022

Megan Tarbet - Rotating Graduate Student  Summer 2022

Beatriz Rios - Rotating Graduate Student Fall 2022

Paula Bender - Rotating Graduate Student Spring 2023

Hasan Rangwala - Undergraduate Trainee 2022-2023

Milagros Marin - Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow 2023

Fernanda N Lotz Alves - Visiting Graduate Student Spring/Summer 2023

Claire Cho - GradSURP/Research Assistant 2021-2023

Michelle da Rosa - Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow 2023