Skip to main content

Previous Trainees

Below is a list of former trainees in the Neurogenomics Training Program.  Click on a person’s name to reveal information on his or her mentor, research focus and current position.


Mentor:  Elaine Sanders-Bush
Research Interest:  Genetic analysis of Htr2c RNA editing in amygdala

Currently, David is currently a Research Scientist for Eli Lilly.


Mentor:  Louis Muglia
Research Interest:  The role of transcription factors and axonal growth factors during the development of particular brain circuitry involved in psychiatric disorders including autism, OCD, ADHD and Tourette’s Syndrome

Currently, Melinda is a Research Fellow in the Muglia Lab at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.


Mentor:  P. Jeffrey Conn
Research Interest:  Role of Group I metabotropic glutamate receptors in learning and memory

Currently, Jessica is an Associate Professor and the Chief of Operations and Business Development in the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute.


Mentor:  Roger ​Colbran
Research Interest:  Alterations in signaling cascades of animal models of Parkinson’s disease

Currently, A.J. is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.


Mentor:  Jeffrey Conn
Research Interest:  Agonist enrichment of spinophilin at the cell surface is a2-AR subtype-selective and involves by subunits of Gi proteins

Currently, Ashley is the Director of Career Engagement and Strategic Partnerships for the ASPIRE Program at Vanderbilt University.


Mentor:  Karoly Mirnics
​Research Interest:  Investigating the molecular and cellular basis of mental illness

Dr. Brown is currently a Research Fellow Trainee in the Wikswo Lab in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt.

Currently, Jacquelyn works at the Vanderbilt Institute for Integrative Biosystems Research Education where she directs the Automated Micro-Organ Systems Core.


Mentor:  Jonathan Haines
Research Interest:  Genetic epidemiology of Alzheimer’s disease, autism and other neurological disorders

Currently, William works as an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the Institute for Computational Biology at Case Western Reserve University.


Mentor:  Elaine Sanders-Bush
Research Interest:  Understand the neurobiological mechanisms of emotion regulation, with special interest in elucidating the pharmacological and biochemical mechanisms mediating cognitive responses to hallucinogenic drugs

Currently, Clint is a Research Assistant Professor in the Center for Drug Discovery at Northeastern University.


Mentor:  Randy Blakely
Research Interest:  Regulation of the serotonin transporter function by protein-protein interactions

Currently, Ana is an Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University.


Mentor:  Richard Shelton
Research Interest:  Genetics of depression and bipolar disorder

Currently, Jomo works at the U.S. Department of Defense where scientific training is applied in a position officially designated as Intelligence Analyst.


Mentor:  Jeff Balser
Research Interest:  Differences in pain perception during labor
Currently, Dr. Martinez is the Regional Director for Medicos Para la Familia in Nashville.


Mentor:  Danny Winder
Research Interest:  Effects on stress and cocaine on orexin signaling in the extended amygdala

Currently, Kelly is a Medical Science Director at Alkermes.


Mentor:  Peter Mohler
Research Interest:  Endocytosis at the drosophila NMJ, biogenesis of excitable membranes by ankyrin

​Currently, Shane is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology & Pharmacology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.


Mentor:  Pat Levitt
Research Interest:  Expression and function of RGS4 in the mouse nervous system

Currently, Phil is a Research Scientist at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis.


Mentor:  Michelle Southard-Smith
​Research Interest:  Studying the role of the Sox10 gene in migration and differentiation of neural crest stem cells in the gut

Currently, Angela is the Director of the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt.


Mentor:  Richard Caprioli
Research Interest:  Investigation of protein expression in GBMs by Mass Spectometry.

Currently, Dr. Floyd is an Assistant Professor for the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.


Mentor:  Kevin Ess
Research Interest:  The role of the Tsc1 gene in interneuron development and function

Currently, Dr. Fu is an Assistant Professor in Clinical Neurology in Vanderbilt’s Department of Pediatrics.


Mentor:  Douglas McMahon
Research Interest:  Mediating effects of GRP on circadian rhythms

Currently, Karen is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.


Mentor:  P. Jeffrey Conn
Research Interest:  The biology of mGlu receptors, Rett Syndrome and drug discovery.

Currently, Rocco is a Research Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt.


Mentor:  Pat Levitt
Research Interest:  Neural mechanisms of mammalian socio-emotional development

Currently, Elizabeth is an Assistant Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience at The Florida State University.


Mentor:  Randy Blakely
​Research Interest:  Structure/function studies of the human serotonin transporter

Currently, Keith is an Assistant Professor in the department of Pharmacology, Physiology & Therapeutics at the University of North Dakota’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences.


Mentor:  Tricia Thornton-Wells
Research Interest:  Genetic and neuroimaging biomarkers of Alzheimer’s Disease

Currently, he is an Assistant Professor of Neurology in Vanderbilt’s Memory and Alzheimer’s Center.


Mentor:  Randy Blakely
Research Interest:  Regulation of intracellular trafficking of the high-affinity choline transporter

Currently, Ericka is a Senior Decision Support Analyst at Highmark Health in Pittsburgh.


Mentor:  Alfred George
Research Interest:  Mechanisms of NaV1.1 dysfunction in inherited epilepsy syndromes

Currently, Kris is an Associate Director, Biology at Praxis Precision Medicines.


Mentor:  David Miller
Research Interest:  UNC-24, a stomatin-like protein directs forward locomotion in C. elegans neurons

Currently, Julie serves as the Director of Foundation Relations at Vanderbilt University.


Mentor:  Bruce Appel
​Research Interest:  The role of perinuerial glia in motor nerve root organogenesis in zebrafish

Currently, Dr. Kucenas is an Assistant Professor in Biology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.


Mentor:  James Sutcliffe
Research Interest:  Screen autism probands and parents for evidence of CNV to identify loci that cause or confer susceptibility for autism.

Currently, Sabata is a Regulatory Specialist in the Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C.


Mentors:  Brian Wadzinski and Ana Carneiro
​Research Interest:  Alpha-4 modulates phosphatases that are important in cell differentiation, proliferation and adhesion

Currently, Monique is a Research Compliance Coordinator at Tennessee State University.


Mentor:  Roger Cone

Research Interest:  Neurogenetics of feeding behavior and energy homeostasis in the zebrafish

​Dr. Michel is currently a Research Investigator at the University of Michigan.


Mentor:  Douglas McMahon
Research Interest:  Circadian regulation of mood

Currently, Leigh is a Senior Program Officer at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.


Mentor:  Kendal Broadie
Research Interest:  Evaluation of HSP70’s role in neuronal preconditioning

Currently, Stephanie is the Chair of Middle School Science at Harpeth Hall School in Nashville.


Mentor:  Danny Winder
Research Interest:  Models of drug and non-drug addiction in mice

Currently, Christopher is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Medical College of Wisconsin.


Mentor:  Christine Konradi

Research Interest:  Mitochondrial dysfunction in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder

Dr. Perna is currently a Research Fellow in the Skelton Lab in Neurology at Cincinnati’s Children’s.


Mentor:  Randy Blakely
Research Interest:  Regulation of the dopamine transporter in C. elegans

Currently, Sarah is a Assistant Professor at the University of Georgia.


Mentor:  Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele
​Research Interest:  Development of serotonin transporter knock-in mice based upon variants identified in autism

Dr. Rogers is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Middle Tennessee State University.


Mentor:  Maureen Hahn
Research Interest:  Central and autonomic function in A457P norepinephrine transporter knock-in mice

Currently, Jana is a Project Manager at the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical & Translational Research (VICTR)


Mentor:  Heidi Hamm
Research Interest:  Regulation of protein acetylation by G-proteins

Bryan is currently an Assistant Professor II in the Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Physics at Rider University.


Mentor:  Roger Colbran
​Research Interest:  CaMKII regulation of striatal endocannabinoid plasticity

Currently, Brian is a Research Assistant Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics at Vanderbilt.


Mentor:  Alfred George
Research Interest:  The influence of alternative splicing of voltage gated sodium channels on susceptibility to anticonvulsant drugs

Currently, Christopher is a Research Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.


Mentor:  Ronald Emeson
Research Interest:  Determine the molecular bases of mRNA editing-dependent changes in serotonin receptor 2c-subtype gene expression

Currently, Randi an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences at Missouri State University.


Mentor:  P. Jeffrey Conn
Research Interest:  In vitro pharmacological characterization of modulators for muscarinic acetylcholine transporters

Thomas is a Licensing Officer for life science technologies in the Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization at Vanderbilt.


Mentor:  Randy Blakely
​Research Interest:  Development of serotonin transporter knock-in mice based upon variants identified in autism

Dr. Veenstra-VanderWeele is currently the Mortimer D. Sackler Associate Professor at Columbia University Medical Center.


Mentor: Danny Winder

Research Interest: I’m interested in understanding the interaction between NMDA receptors and corticotropin releasing factor within the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in alcohol use disorders. Specifically, I’m examining whether a signal injection of ketamine can be protective against anxiety and depression during withdrawl in animals with a history of alcohol use disorders.

Oliver is currently a Research Fellow in Dr. Winder’s Lab at Vanderbilt.


Mentor: Jeff Conn

Research Interest:  Psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia are associated with hyperactive dopaminergic signaling in striatal and mesocortical pathways. Currently available treatments for schizophrenia are often effective in ameliorating psychotic symptoms but induce adverse parkinsonian-like effects that limit their long-term utility. Given the shortcomings of current antipsychotics, novel therapeutic approaches are needed that exhibit clinical efficacy with reduced adverse effect liability. Activation of the muscarinic M4 receptor has previously been demonstrated to have antipsychotic-like efficacy in several preclinical models. Recently the Conn laboratory reported that these antipsychotic effects are mediated through a novel wherein activation of M4 receptors reduces dopamine release through a CB2 cannabinoid-dependent mechanism. We present new data suggesting that metabotropic glutamate 1 receptor (mGlu1) plays a critical role in mediating these M4-dependent dopaminergic effects. A key role for mGlu1 in regulating DA release could provide important new insights into mechanisms by which loss of mGlu1 signaling could contribute to symptoms observed in schizophrenia patients. Interestingly, substantial preclinical and clinical evidence has implicated mGlu1 in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (nsSNPs) of GRM1 (the gene that encodes mGlu1) are enriched in schizophrenic populations. Through use of both ex vivo and in vivo fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV), application of a mGlu1 positive allosteric modulator (PAM) reduces striatal DA release and possesses antipsychotic-like efficacy in rodent models of schizophrenia, suggesting that mGlu1 selective compounds may alleviate the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. Through an integrated approach of electrophysiological and behavioral studies, Samantha hopes to determine the mechanism whereby mGluR activation alters striatal dopamine (DA) signaling and ultimately exerts antipsychotic-like effects. Developing an understanding of these mechanisms will provide insights into signaling pathways with the potential to mediate antipsychotic efficacy and will assist a drug discovery efforts aimed at developing novel treatments for schizophrenia.

Samantha is currently a Research Fellow in Dr. Conn’s Lab at Vanderbilt University.


Mentor: David Sweatt

Research Interest: Understanding long-term repression of Hdac2 by an antisense oligonucleotideac2

Celeste is currently a Research Fellow in Dr. Sweat’s Lab at Vanderbilt.


Mentor:  Sachin Patel
Research Interest:  Substrate-selective inhibition of Cox-2 as a treatment for anxiety-related behaviors

Currently, Amanda is a Research Fellow in Dr. Patel’s Lab at Vanderbilt.


Mentor:  Douglas McMahon
Research Interest:  Neural mechanisms of photoperiodic programming of the dorsal raphe serotonin neurons.

Currently, Manuel is a Research Fellow in Dr. McMahon’s Lab at Vanderbilt.


Mentor: Erin Calapari

Research Interest: The main goal of my research has been to elucidate the genetic mechanisms underlying sex differences in behavioral strategies and learning that may influence differences in several mental health diseases including depression and addiction.

Amy is currently a Research Fellow in Dr. Calipari’s Lab at Vanderbilt.