INSTITUTE GRADUATE NEUROSCIENCE TRAINING PROGRAM SCHOLARS

GNTP Scholars 2018
GNTP Scholars 2019
GNTP Trainees 2018
standing: Yosun Yoon, Rachel St. Clair, Asal Nouri, Basak Kocaoglu, Alexandra Paz & Brian Escobar; Kneeling FAU Brain Institute - Dr. Randy Blakely, Executive Director, Dr. Kate Guthrie, Assistant Director for Educational Programs, and Linda Petersen, GNTP Graduate Education Coordinator
GNTP Trainees 2019
standing, Kori Citrin, Goksu Oz, Amanda Rojas, Amanda Rainey, Ryan Gallagher & Donald Holder; Kneeling FAU Brain Institute - Dr. Randy Blakely, Executive Director, Dr. Kate Guthrie, Assistant Director for Educational Programs & Linda Petersen, GNTP Graduate Education Coordinator

 

INSTITUTE GRADUATE NEUROSCIENCE TRAINING PROGRAM GNTP TRAINEES

Amanda Rojas
Amanda Rojas

Entered: Graduate Neuroscience Training Program 2019
Complex Systems and Brain Sciences
Mentor: Robert Vertes Ph.D.
Thesis topic: Involvement of the nucleus reuniens of the ventral midline thalamus in cognitive tasks involving the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. 
arojas2016@fau.edu
Secretary Neuroscience Student Organization
BS Neuroscience & Behavior/Psychology, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL

Amanda Rojas in her lab

“I am particularly interested in the nucleus reuniens, which is a midline thalamic nuclei that is strongly connected to the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Currently under the tutelage of Dr. Robert Vertes, I am investigating the role of the nucleus reuniens in cognitive tasks that are implicated in frontal lobe disorders, such as ADHD, schizophrenia, and addiction. This preclinical research could point to this nuclei as a possible area of treatment in patients suffering from those disorders. I was attracted to the GNTP because of the ability to rotate in labs with Drs. Henriette van Pragg, Carmen Varela and my mentor Dr. Robert Vertes where I was able to gain new experiences, as well as the neuroscience community that FAU has created with Max Plank and Scripps. I hope you will consider joining our program!"

"In my lab photo, I'm conducting a chromogen reaction on brain tissue to visualize the spread of a DREADD (designer receptor exclusively activated by designer drugs) injection. This allows for the amplification of the fluorophore, and histology that is able to be appreciated by the naked eye." 

Amanda Rojas attending SfN2018

“I attended and presented my research at the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) Conference that was held in San Diego, California in 2018; The highlight of my trip was meeting Dr. Trevor Robbins, University of Cambridge, when he came to my poster, and talked to me about my research!”

Poster Title: "Chemogenetic inactivation of nucleus reuniens impairs behavioral flexibility in an odor texture attentional set shifting task."

Amanda Rainey
Amanda Rainey

Entered: Graduate Neuroscience Training Program 2019
Integrative Biology/Neuroscience
Mentor: Larry Toll, Ph.D.
Thesis topic: TBD
arainey2016@fau.edu
MS Biology, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
BS Zoology, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio

Amanda Rainey in the lab

“As an undergraduate I majored in Zoology, and a master’s degree in Biology/Neuroscience working with Dr. Dawn Blitz on locating tachykinin-related peptide neurons in the nervous system of the Jonah crab at Miami University (Ohio). I was attracted to the GNTP when I was at the Society for Neuroscience GNTP Graduate School Fair booth in 2018, where Dr. Kate Guthrie told me about the program and the great research opportunities at FAU. My interests include neuromodulation, neural circuitry, and sensory systems. I have a special interest in pain circuitry and modulation. During my first-year lab rotations I trained under Drs. Kate Guthrie, Tanja Godenschwege, and Larry Toll, and will continue my research working with Dr. Larry Toll in his lab in the FAU College of Medicine." Amanda Rainey at SFNI have a special interest in pain circuitry and modulation. During my first year lab rotations I trained under Drs. Kate Guthrie, Tanja Godenschwege, and Larry Toll, and will continue my research working with Dr. Larry Toll in his lab in the FAU College of Medicine."

 

“I was recruited to the GNTP at the SfN Graduate School Fair booth in November 2018 when I met Dr. Kate Guthrie! I hope you will apply to join this great program!”

Alexandra Paz headshot
Alexandra Paz

Entered: Graduate Neuroscience Training Program 2018
Integrative Biology/Neuroscience
Mentors: Alex C. Keene, Ph. D. & Johanna Kowalko, Ph.D.
Thesis topic: The characterization of a simple startle circuit in Astyanax mexicanus
paza2018@fau.edu
BS Biology, St. Bonaventure University, Allegany, New York 

Alexandra Paz in lab“I have always been interested in both ecology and neuroscience. Working with my mentors, Dr. Johanna Kowalko and Dr. Alex Keene, I have been able to combine my two passions! I am currently utilizing the Mexican cavefish to investigate how environmental differences shape the evolution of behavior. Specifically, I study a highly conserved predator evasion response and the circuit that underlies it. I rotated in labs with both of my mentors and with Dr. Erik Duboue. I chose the GNTP because of the chance to work in an environment that values collaboration and brings together professionals from a variety of disciplines. I hope you’ll consider joining us!”

“In my lab photo, I am using spinal microinjections to label and image the Mauthner neurons in 6-day old fish larvae. These neurons may look simple, but they perform the complex tasks of integrating sensory information and decision making! In our lab we utilize multiple cave and river populations of the Mexican tetra, Astyanax mexicanus, to investigate how environment shapes the evolution of behavior. In order to do this, we need a complete understanding of how exactly their habitats differ. We are working to characterize the microbial community living with the fish, the geochemistry of their host environment, and any biogeochemical linkages between these systems.”

Alexandra Paz in Mexico as part of an investigation into habitats of the Mexican cavefish “We traveled to caves in the Sierra del Abra region of Mexico as part of an investigation into the various habitats of the Mexican cavefish. On this trip I traveled with a group of researchers from Oxford University and la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) to the Pachón and Tinaja caves where we were able to observe the fish in their natural environments. In collaboration with the lab of Dr. Magdalena Osburn at Northwestern University, we are working to characterize the microbial community living with the fish, as well as the geochemistry of their environment. By gaining a more complete understanding of the fish’s environments we are better able to contextualize the behavioral differences we study in the lab.”

Goksu Oz
Goksu Oz

Entered: Graduate Neuroscience Training Program 2019
Integrative Biology/Neuroscience @ Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience (MPFI)
Mentor: Ryohei Yasuda, Ph.D.
Thesis topic: The Roles of PKMζ and the other PKC Isoforms in the Maintenance of Long Term Memory
goz2017@fau.edu
BA Psychology, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL 

Goksu Oz in MPFI lab"I am interested in molecular basis of learning and memory. Currently under the tutelage of Dr. Ryohei Yasuda at Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, I am investigating the compensatory role of PKC isoforms in the maintenance of long-term memory. I was attracted to the GNTP because of the unique training opportunity that it provides to the first year Ph.D. students not only at FAU, but also in globally known institutions like Max Planck and Scripps. Florida Atlantic University is a rapidly progressing public university, especially in the field of life sciences, and we have already started to see the impact of FAU students and the alumni worldwide. I hope you will consider joining our GNTP team and contribute to this professional and supportive academic environment that the FAU Brain Institute has created."

“In this lab photo, I am filling the tiny pores on the agarose gel to conduct gel electrophoresis, which is technique that is used to sort the molecules based on their size differences.”

Asal Nouri
Asal Nouri

Entered: Graduate Neuroscience Training Program 2018
Complex Systems & Brain Sciences
Mentor: William Hahn, Ph.D.
Thesis topic: Translating mnemonic representations into motor plans. 
President Neuroscience Student Organization
anouri2015@fau.edu
BA Psychology, University of Texas-Arlington, Arlington, TX

Asal Nouri in lab“I am a 3rd year student in the Complex Systems & Brain Sciences Ph.D. program, entering through the GNTP in the Fall of 2018. As an undergraduate, I majored in Psychology at the University of Texas-Arlington, and am particularly interested in the neural mechanisms of visual attention and working memory. Currently under the tutelage of Dr. Edward Ester, I use EEG and fMRI to investigate how people translate mental representations into specific action plans. I was attracted to the GNTP because it provides the opportunity to get hands on experience with a wide variety of different neuroscience disciplines through lab rotations during the first year with Drs.  Elan Barenholtz, Ed Ester, and on the Jupiter campus at Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience with Dr. McLean Bolton. The GNTP provided ready access to investigators, labs, and resources at not only FAU, but also MPFI, and Scripps Florida. If you are looking for high level training and research in neuroscience, I can’t imagine any better place!”
"We used EEG to reconstruct and quantify visual working memory representations over time, and track the fidelity of location information during the memory tasks."

Basak Kocaoglu
Basak Kocaoglu

Entered: Graduate Neuroscience Training Program 2018
Complex Systems & Brain Sciences
Mentor: William Alexander, Ph.D.
Thesis topic: TBD
bkocaoglu2018(at)fau.edu
MA Philosophy, Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara, Turkey
BA Philosophy, Akdeniz University, Antalya, Turkey

Basak Kocaoglu in lab“I got my master’s degree at METU (Informatics Institute and Department of Philosophy) where I worked on the intersection of mathematical logic and cognitive algorithms. In my thesis, I questioned the trade-off between the model assumptions in causal models (how causality is represented and implemented in models) and the complexity of the phenomenon that is to be modeled. Currently, I am working on computational models of brain function under the supervision of Dr. William Alexander at the Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences. I entered the program through GNTP after working in lab rotations with Drs. Emmanuelle Tognoli, Eric Engeberg, and William Alexander. Nationally competitive stipends and the interdisciplinarity were the attractions of GNTP. Pictured here I am discussing the ways to improve the runtime of my algorithm at a lab meeting.”

Donald Holder
Donald Holder

Entered: Graduate Neuroscience Training Program 2019
Integrative Biology/Neuroscience @ Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience (MPFI)
Mentor: Ryohei Yasuda, Ph.D.
Thesis topic: TBD
dholder2019@fau.edu
MBA, Columbia University, New York, NY
BS Mechanical Engineering, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL

Donald Holder in lab“I am in the Integrative Biology Neuroscience Ph.D. program in my 2nd year, entering through the GNTP in the Fall of 2019. As an undergraduate, I majored in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, and as a masters graduate I majored in Business Administration at Columbia University in New York City. I'm particularly interested in the molecular signaling cascades that are associated with memory, focus, and attention. Currently under the tutelage of Dr. Ryohei Yasuda at Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, I am developing a multi-photon mini-microscope. The flexibility that the GNTP program provided me was instrumental in finding my passion as I was also able to rotate in labs with Drs. David Fitzpatrick, and Yingxue Wang also at MPFI. I hope you will consider joining our program!”

"In my lab photo, am carefully inserting an aspheric lens into the laser path for a multi-photon mini-microscope. This head mounted microscope will allow for the investigation of molecular signaling dynamics in freely-behaving mice using fluorescence-lifetime imaging of forster resonance energy transfer.”

Rachel St. Clair
Rachel St. Clair

Entered: Graduate Neuroscience Training Program 2018
Complex Systems & Brain Sciences
Mentor: Elan Barenholtz, Ph.D.
Thesis topic: TBD
Rstclair2012@fau.edu
BS Neuroscience & Behavior/Biological Sciences, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL 

Rachel St. Clair in lab

“I am a PhD candidate, Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences and Graduate Neuroscience Training Program. I have been studying artificial intelligence since 2017. My work has focused on computer vision, natural language processing, generative adversarial networks, reinforcement learning, complex systems, and agent-based modelling. I am proficient in pytorch, tensorflow, python and Unity3D. My current research is focused on agent-based model implementations of brain theory in simulated environments for higher cognition and learned intelligence. My main goal is to work on architectures that produce generally intelligent agents.” “I was able to rotate in labs across different disciplines with Drs. Ken Dawson-Scully, Gregg Fields and Elan Barenholtz. I was attracted to the GNTP because of the interdisciplinary integration and ability to be surrounded by other ambitious students.” "I am coding a convolutional neural network to look at images of proteins and predict their binding ability to DNA."

"I am coding a convolutional neural network to look at images of proteins and predict their binding ability to DNA."

Yosun Yoon
Yosun Yoon

Entered: Graduate Neuroscience Training Program 2018
Experimental Psychology
Mentor: Sang Wook Hong, Ph.D.
Thesis Topic: Individual Difference in Binocular Rivalry Dynamics
yyoon2018@fau.edu
MA & BA Psychology, Chungbuk National University, Cheongju, South Korea

YOSUN YOON in lab“I am particularly interested in visual information processing, binocular rivalry, and brain imaging techniques. Currently under the instruction of Dr. Sang Wook Hong, I am investigating the mechanism of binocular rivalry by focusing on individual differences in rivalry dynamics. The GNTP provided me with being able to also work in a lab rotation with Dr. Edward Ester. I was attracted to the GNTP because of the fact that there are many opportunities to experience diverse research fields and various research facilities. This is a great program””

Claudius Osei
Claudius Osei

Entered: Graduate Neuroscience Training Program 2020
Experimental Psychology
Mentor: Elan Barenholtz, Ph.D.
Thesis Topic: TBD
posei2020@fau.edu
BS Business Management & Real Estate, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

"I spent the past 15 years as an athletic trainer and metabolic specialist, which inspired my passion for decision-making in complex environments such as athletic team competitions. During my first year I rotated in three labs with Drs. Elan Barenholtz, Carmen Varela, and Summer Sheremata. Under the guidance of Dr. Elan Barenholtz, I am investigating the body's influence on cognitive processes such as learning, memory, and action planning. I use reinforcement learning techniques to model an artificial human brain embedded in an AI agent that interacts within a simulated environment. By having the agent perform cognitive tasks in a complex environment, I hope to gain insight into the neural dynamics of natural human brains.
I was attracted to the GNTP because of the interdisciplinary approach to solving today's most pressing issues by consolidating psychology, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence. I am sure that the GNTP will foster your aspirations and provide you with the tools to impact your field of study.”

Lindsey Pugh
Lindsey Pugh

Entered: Graduate Neuroscience Training Program 2020
Experimental Psychology
Mentor: Dr. Alan Kersten
Thesis Topic: Effects of emotionally charged visual stimuli on episodic memory.
lpugh2020@fau.edu
BS Neuroscience, Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, PA

“I am particularly interested in cognition, working memory, and their relation to emotion. I am currently working on my master’s thesis focused on how emotional valence (negative or neutral stimuli) can affect the episodic memory of an event. My three lab rotations were in the labs of Drs. Summer Sheremata, Gizelle Anzures, and Alan Kersten. I was attracted to the GNTP because of the ability to rotate in labs and explore different interests along with the ability to collaborate with other labs on projects. This program is great because it allows you to experience lab atmospheres before choosing which lab to join. My interests changed drastically once I was exposed to research I hadn't originally considered!”

Allison Walsh
Allison Walsh

Entered: Graduate Neuroscience Training Program 2020
Integrative Biology/Neuroscience @ Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience (MPFI)
Mentor: Sarah Stern, Ph.D.
Thesis Topic: TBD
awalsh2020@fau.edu
Masters in Public Health MPH Environmental Health & Toxicology, University of Alabama at Birmingham
BS Animal Science & Marine Biology, Auburn University, AL

“My research interests in neuroscience are broadly-speaking, the interaction between our environment and health. I am currently working under Dr. Stern at MPFI, investigating integrative circuits and complex behavior. The focus of our work is on the circuitry underlying feeding and its ability to be altered by environmental stimuli and stress. My three GNTP lab rotations were in the labs of Drs. Erik Duboue, Randy Blakely, and Sarah Stern. As a neuroscience graduate student, I was attracted to the GNTP Ph.D. program at FAU for the many opportunities it offers, such as the close working relationship to the first German Max Planck Institute in the US. The available resources have allowed me the chance to study neuroscience in multiple animal models with cutting-edge technologies, in a diverse and collaborative environment, while enjoying South Florida living.”

Sean Mclaughlin
Sean McLaughlin

Entered: Graduate Neuroscience Training Program 2020
Integrative Biology/Neuroscience
Mentor: Lucia Carvelli, Ph.D.
Thesis Topic: Transgenerational Sensitivity of Amphetamine 
smclaughlin2020@fau.edu
BS Biology/Neuroscience/Chemistry, Lycoming College, PA

“I am particularly interested in the cellular and molecular basis of drug addiction and mental illness. I am working on identifying the epigenetics effects of amphetamine addiction and how parental addictions impact future progeny. My three lab rotations were in the labs of Dr. Randy Blakely, Erik Duboue, and Lucia Carvelli. I was attracted to the GNTP because of their partnership with the best research institutes in the world as well as the research aligning with my specific research interest. Looking forward to seeing you here soon!”

Madeline Martinez
Madeline Martinez

Entered: Graduate Neuroscience Training Program 2020
Integrative Biology/Neuroscience
Mentor: Lawrence Toll, Ph.D.
Thesis Topic: TBD
madelinemart2020@fau.edu
MS Neuroscience, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
BS Neuroscience & Cognitive Science emphasis Neurobiology, University of Arizona

“I am particularly interested in the neurobiological changes resulting from substance use, and the epigenetic component of addiction. I am currently working on generating a new transgenic rodent line that can be used to study the role of mu opioid receptors in addiction. My three lab rotations were in the labs of Drs. Lucia Carvelli, Ning Quan, and Lawrence Toll. The interdisciplinary and collaborate culture of the GNTP enticed me to apply, and I encourage you to as well!”

Ryan Gallagher
Ryan Gallagher

Entered: Graduate Neuroscience Training Program 2019
Complex Systems and Brain Sciences
Mentor: William Alexander, Ph.D.
Thesis topic: Decision-Making and Cognitive Control
gallagherr2016@fau.edu
BS Neuroscience & Behavior/Biological Sciences, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL

Ryan Gallagher in lab“I am particularly interested in value-based decision-making, reward processing and learning reinforcement. Currently under the tutelage of Dr. William Alexander, I am investigating how multiple informational cues are integrated to then be used in executing the appropriate behavior. I was attracted to the GNTP because of faculty and resources available that best allowed me to pursue my intellectual interests in lab rotations with Drs. Teresa Wilcox, Elan Barenholtz, and William Alexander. I hope you will consider joining our program!” 

"I am working on fitting a computational model to data I had previously collected. The data was collected during a study that investigated learning rates and preferred sequencing of informational cues.”