Undergraduate Institution and Major:
Wesleyan University, B.A. in Neuroscience and Behavior, 2018
Benjamin Saunders, Department of Neuroscience)
Undergraduate or Post-Bac Research:
At Wesleyan I studied motivated behaviors, particularly addiction, under the guidance of Dr. Mike Robinson. My senior thesis utilized optogenetics to understand what role the Central Amygdala could play in the compulsive desire to take drugs in an addiction model. During the summer of 2016 I also worked with Dr. Katherine Serafine to study the connections between diet and addiction through a program funded by the NIH that brings undergraduate researchers from across the country to study the neuroscience of addiction.
Hernandez-Casner C, Woloshchuk CJ, Poisson CL, Hussain S, Ramos J, Serafine KM. Dietary supplementation with fish oil reverses high fat diet-induced enhanced sensitivity to the behavioral effects of quinpirole. Behav Pharmacol. 2017;28:477-484.
Honors Thesis: The slippery slope: exploring the role of the central amygdala in creating compulsive preference. A yearlong research project in consideration for university honors. Wesleyan University, May 2018.
Awarded high honors in the Neuroscience & Behavior department for senior thesis. Phi Beta Kappa inductee on May 2018. Awarded Best Poster of the natural sciences at an undergraduate research symposium at the University of Texas El Paso.
What Got You Interested In Research?
I’ve always been curious about why people are motivated to do certain behaviors, especially behaviors that are harmful, and how emotions play a role in these processes. I got into addiction research because of the opioid crisis that hit my home state of Maine. Neuroscience allows me to study the biology and chemistry of motivated behaviors and how they go awry in diseases like addiction. In this way I can help my community by doing what I love: being curious and exploring the brain.
Why Did You Choose MN?
I chose Minnesota because of three reasons: the research, the people, and the Twin Cities. The Addiction Medical Discovery Team has brought a lot of talented researchers to the U and builds on the impressive addiction research that was already here. Secondly, the grad students I met during the recruitment weekend were really genuine. They all seemed like they wanted the best for us no matter where we ended up going. The weekend was also really professional and thoughtful; every detail seemed taken care of (shout out to John and Elaine!). Finally, I really loved the Twin Cities. This is my first time living in a city, and I’m struck by how beautiful and affordable it can be to live here. Plus, the music scene is fantastic.
Student Mentor and the Best Advice They Gave:
Margot DeBaker is my mentor and gave me the really good advice to put effort into becoming friends with the people of our cohort; we are going to need each other through all of this!
Favorite Itasca Memory:
My favorite Itasca memory is of building a fire outside one night with smores and looking at the moon through Dakota’s telescope.