Margot DeBaker

Ph.D. 2022

Thesis Title:

Patterns of drug-related behavior: role of VTA DA neurons and inhibitory GPCR-dependent signaling

Current Position:

Regional IP and Licensing Associate

Institution and Major: 

Marquette University, B.S., Biomedical Sciences, 2017

Graduate Advisors:

Graduate Research:

My projects focus on studying patterns of drug intake as well as the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying these pathological behaviors. Specifically, mMy graduate research focuses mainly on studying how dopamine neuron signaling in the ventral tegmental area affects intake and responsiveness to drugs of abuse.

Graduate Publications:

  • DeBaker MC, Mitten EH, Rose TR, de Velasco EMF, Gao R, Lee AM, Wickman K. RGS6 negatively regulates inhibitory G protein signaling in VTA dopamine neurons and positively regulates binge-like alcohol consumption in mice. Br J Pharmacol. 2023 Aug;180(16):2140-2155.
  • DeBaker MC, Marron Fernandez de Velasco E, McCall NM, Lee AM, Wickman K. Differential impact of inhibitory G protein signaling pathways in ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons on behavioral sensitivity to cocaine and morphine. eNeuro. 2021 Mar 10:ENEURO.0081-21.2021.
  • Doncheck EM, Anderson EM, Konrath CD, Liddiard GT, DeBaker MC, Urbanik LA, Hearing MC, Mantsch JR. Estradiol regulation of the prelimbic cortex and the reinstatement of cocaine seeking in female rats. J Neurosci. 2021 Jun 16;41(24):5303-5314.
  • Moen JK, DeBaker MC, Myjak JE, Wickman K, Lee AM. Bidirectional sex-dependent regulation of α6 and β3 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors by protein kinase Cε. Addict Biol. 2021 May;26(3):e12954.
  • Doncheck EM, Liddiard GT, Konrath CD, Liu X, Yu L, Urbanik LA, Herbst MR, DeBaker MC, Raddatz N, Van Newenhizen EC, Mathy J, Gilmartin MR, Liu QS, Hillard CJ, Mantsch JR. Sex, stress, and prefrontal cortex: influence of biological sex on stress-promoted cocaine seeking.  Neuropsychopharmacology. 2020 Nov;45(12):1974-1985.
  • DeBaker MC, Moen JK, Robinson JM, Wickman K, Lee AM. Unequal interactions between alcohol and nicotine co-consumption: suppression and enhancement of concurrent drug intake. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2020 Apr;237(4):967-978.
  • DeBaker MC, Robinson JM, Moen JK, Wickman K, Lee AM. Differential patterns of alcohol and nicotine intake: Combined alcohol and nicotine binge consumption behaviors in mice. Alcohol. 2019;85:57-64.
  • Doncheck EM, Urbanik LA, DeBaker MC, Barron LM, Liddiard GT, Tuscher JJ, Frick KM, Hillard CJ, Mantsch JR. 17β-estradiol potentiates the reinstatement of cocaine seeking in female rats: Role of the prelimbic prefrontal cortex and cannabinoid type-1 receptors. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018;43(4):781-790.

Graduate Abstracts:

Graduate Abstracts:

  • DeBaker MC, Marron E, McCall NM, Lee AM, Wickman K. Dissecting the influence of D2 dopamine and GABAb receptor signaling pathways in ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons on drug-induced behavior. Society for Neuroscience conference 2019.
  • DeBaker MC, Moen JK, Wickman K, Lee AM. Unequal interactions between alcohol and nicotine during abstinence in a mouse model of co-consumption. Annual Research Society on Alcoholism meeting 2019.

Graduate Awards:

  • National Institute on Drug Abuse Predoctoral Training Grant 2019
  • Sping and ing-Ngoh Lin Award 2019

Professional Memberships

  • Society for Neuroscience, 2019
  • Research Society on Alcoholism, 2019

Professional Outreach:

  • Brain booth at the Minnesota State Fair 2018
  • Brain awareness week presentations at local middle schools 2017, 2018)

Thesis Committee Members:

Lucy Vulchanova, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience (Chair)
Anna Lee, Ph.D., Department of Pharmacology 
Kevin Wickman, Ph.D., Department of Pharmacology
Jocelyn Richard, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience
Patrick Rothwell, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience

Research Categories:

  • Behavioral and Cognitive Neurosciences
  • Neuroscience of Drug Abuse and Addiction


  • Catherin Kotz, Ph.D., Departments of Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Care (GRECC); Food Science and Nutrition; MN Obesity Center
  • Lucy Vulchanova, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience
  • Anna Lee, Ph.D., Department of Pharmacology
  • Kevin Wickman, Ph.D., Department of Pharmacology

Undergraduate Awards:

Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience Student Travel Award, 2016

Undergraduate or Post-Doc-Bac Research:

I worked in a lab that studied addiction and how different factors can play a role in the relapse of drug seeking. Specifically, the project that I focused on explored how different levels of both stress and ovarian hormones affect relapse of cocaine seeking behavior in rodents.

What Got You Interested In Research?

I have always been interested in science, and I am naturally drawn to solving problems and answering difficult questions. As an undergraduate, I was encouraged to volunteer in a neuroscience lab in order to explore my interests further.  After joining the lab, my passion for neuroscience grew exponentially. I began taking neuroscience classes, and my interest in pursuing a career in neuroscience was solidified.

Why Did You Choose MN?

I chose the University of Minnesota because of the breadth of research being conducted here, along with the warm environment that I experienced when I interviewed. It seemed like a place to grow as a scientist and as a person, surrounded by an endless number of intelligent and supportive faculty and students.

Student Mentor and the Best Advice They Gave:

Janna Moen: She gave me a ton of great advice on how rotations work and the best ways to choose professors with whom to rotate. She also gave me a lot of tips before going to Itasca and moving to the Twin Cities, which made my transition a lot smoother and less stressful!

Favorite Itasca Memory:

My favorite Itasca memory was when the entire class went out on the lake for an afternoon to hang out and relax.


Picture of Margot DeBaker