Dr. Shelly Flagel// Principal Investigator

Dr. Shelly B. Flagel was born and raised in Middletown, Ohio, came to Ann Arbor to attend the University of Michigan as an undergraduate, and never left. Dr. Flagel became involved in research through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program conducted an undergraduate thesis project under the mentorship of Dr. Israel Liberzon, and graduated with High Honors in Psychology as a Natural Science. She then matriculated into the Neuroscience Graduate Program and conducted her graduate thesis work under the mentorship of Drs. Delia Vazquez and Terry Robinson. Her thesis project examined the effects of early life stress on drug-taking behavior in adulthood. After obtaining her PhD, Dr. Flagel joined the laboratory of Dr. Huda Akil and conducted her postdoctoral training at the Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute at the University of Michigan and also continued to work closely with Dr. Terry Robinson during this time. In 2011 Dr. Flagel became a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and “opened” her lab in the Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute. In addition to running her own lab, Dr. Flagel enjoys being a mom of two young boys, spending time with her family, being outdoors, exercising and travelling.

Postdoctoral Members

Paolo Campus// Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Paolo was born in Sardinia, Italy, but completed his studies at Sapienza - University of Rome, where he received a B.SC in Psychological Sciences and a M.Sc. in Cognitive Neuroscience. During his studies he worked in the laboratory of ‘Developmental Psychobiology and Behavioral Genetics’ under the mentorship of Prof. Simona Cabib, where he studied how the impact of a previous stress history alters the behavioral and neural adaptations to environmental challenges in different inbred mouse strains. In December 2014 Paolo received his Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience from Sapienza University, with a dissertation titled “A genotype-environment interaction modulates the involvement of different memory systems in the consolidation of stress related memories”. In September 2015 Paolo came to Ann Arbor to join the Flagel Lab as a post-doctoral fellow. His current research interests are focused on the study of the brain mechanisms underlying maladaptive behaviors and the study of individual differences in liability to drug addiction. In his spare time, Paolo loves playing guitar, listening to rock music and home-recording.

Ignacio Rivero-Covelo// Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Ignacio (aka Nacho) got his licentiate (BS + MS) in psychology from the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain in 2004. There, he worked in the Díaz-Lindín lab studying the effects of normal aging on the Bereitschafts potential, an electrophysiological index of motor preparation, and completed his Masters of Advanced Studies in Neuroscience in 2006. In 2007 he moved to Chicago to join the Costa-Guidotti lab in the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) where he focused on studying the behavioral and epigenetic changes of different epigenetic markers in the reeler mouse model of schizophrenia. In 2009, he enrolled in the UIC graduate program in neuroscience and in 2010 joined the Wirtshafter-Stratford lab where he studied how pharmacological manipulations of the ventral pallidum led to alterations in non-homeostatic feeding. Nacho defended his doctoral dissertation in summer 2014 and in fall of the same year joined the Flagel lab as a postdoctoral fellow. Nacho's general interest is the study of the neural basis of motivated behaviors. His doctoral dissertation was focused on behavioral, pharmacological, and histological studies of central non-homeostatic feeding circuits. Nacho's current focus in the Flagel lab is centered on using designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs to dissect a fronto-thalamo-tegmental circuit implicated in the development and maintenance of cocaine addiction. Nacho’s non-scientific interests include biking, kayaking and learning about political history.

Aram Parsegian// Postdoctoral Affiliate

Aram grew up in Washington DC, received his B.Sc. in Psychology from Bates College in 2004, worked three years in Dr. William Carlezon’s Behavioral Genetics Laboratory at McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA, and received his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the Medical University of South Carolina in 2012. His thesis examined the contribution of methamphetamine-induced dysfunctions in the corticostriatal pathway to persistent drug seeking behavior. He is now a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Huda Akil’s laboratory, and collaborates with the Flagel Lab on a regular basis. Aram’s overall research interest is to understand how environment, behavioral experiences, and neurobiological factors contribute to susceptibility for neuropsychiatric conditions including mood disorders and drug addiction.

Graduate Students

Brittany Kuhn// Neuroscience Graduate Student

Brittany graduated from Virginia Tech in 2010 with a B.S. in Biology, and then received her MS in Applied Cognition and Neuroscience from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2013. While in Dallas she worked as a study coordinator and research assistant in the lab of Dr. Francesca Filbey at BrainHealth focusing on the contributions of early life stressors and genetics in chronic cannabis users. Brittany’s interests lie in the neurocircuitry involved in addiction behavior, and understanding at a systems level how differences in neurobiological processes can result in various behavioral phenotypes. Outside of the lab she is an avid runner and soccer referee and loves going to country concerts. She is also a Hokie football fanatic.

Sofia Lopez// Neuroscience Graduate Student

Sofia received a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Texas at El Paso, where she worked with Dr. Edward Castañeda investigating the role of dopamine plasticity in neurodegeneration. In the fall of 2015 she joined the University of Michigan’s Neuroscience Graduate Program. Sofia’s interests include understanding the neural mechanism underlying maladaptive behavior such as addiction, stress, and anxiety. Specifically, she is interested in the individual differences that drive or prevent the manifestation of such behaviors. Outside of the lab, Sofia enjoys training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and going on the occasional jog.

Joshua Haight// Neuroscience Graduate Student Alumni (2012-2016)

Joshua Haight graduated from Connecticut College in 2009 with a BA in psychology, where he worked with Professor Ruth Grahn investigating the role of serotonin in an animal model of obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as with Professor Joseph Schroeder on a project exploring the spatial memory of zebrafish. After graduation, Josh worked as a research assistant under the guidance of Dr. Albert Galaburda and Professor Glenn Rosen in the Dyslexia Research Laboratory at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, in Boston, MA, where he studied the effects of embryonic knockdown of candidate dyslexia susceptibility genes on brain development. In the fall of 2011, Josh matriculated into the Neuroscience Graduate Program at the University of Michigan and “officially” joined the Flagel Lab in the fall of 2012. He enjoys looking at problems from a circuitry/neural-network level, and his research interests focus on the individual differences in neural circuitry underlying motivated learning, and how changes in these systems affect both normal and maladaptive behaviors. When not focusing on science, Josh likes to read and watch science-fiction, root for his favorite Boston-based sports teams, ride his mountain bike, and is an avid homebrewer. Josh completed his dissertation in September of 2016 and will be starting a postdoctoral position in Nii Addy’s lab at Yale University in November of 2016 (http://medicine.yale.edu/lab/addy/).

Undergraduate Students

Vetalise Cheofor// UROP Student

Vetalise is from Cameroon, where he completed his Associate Degree in Physics and Math at the University of Yaounde. He came to the University of Michigan in 2015, and is majoring in Biomolecular Science and minoring in History of Medicine and Health. He has experienced a vast array of research via the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) while at Michigan, but his experience in the Flagel Lab is his first with behavioral neuroscience. Following his expected graduation in the spring of 2017, Vetalise plans to attend Medical School and is considering pursuing a research career as well.

Kanav Gupta// UROP Student/Research Scholar

Kanav is from Grand Blanc, Michigan and joined the Flagel lab at the beginning of his sophomore year, in September 2016. He is a Research Scholar as part of the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) and is pursuing a major in Neuroscience. He would like to go to medical school after graduating. His research interests include investigating the neurobiological mechanisms underlying reward-seeking behavior in rats. In his free time, Kanav enjoys reading, traveling, exploring the restaurants of Ann Arbor, and catching up on the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy.

Allison Johnson// UROP Student

Allison is from Lapeer, MI, and is a freshman in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). She is planning to major in Neuroscience and hopes to either attend medical school or go on to graduate school to pursue research as a career. Her research interests include studying the neurobiology of stress and motivated behavior. Outside the lab, Allison can be found watching Gilmore Girls, doing art, or practicing karate.

Eman Mubarak// Undergraduate Honors Student

Eman is from Ann Arbor and is a freshman in the Honors Program. She is currently undecided on a major, but hopes to go to medical school after graduation. At the present time she volunteers in the lab, and is especially interested in research regarding susceptibility to addiction and reward-based behaviors.

Krittika Pant// Undergraduate Honors Student

Krittika is from Princeton Junction, New Jersey and joined the lab in the middle of her freshman year in January 2015. She is in the Honors Program and pursuing a major in Neuroscience. Currently, she wants to go to medical school and is considering the option of an MD/PhD program after graduating. Her research interests include the neurobiological mechanisms underlying addiction and the genetic basis of reward seeking behavior in rats. In her free time, Krittika loves traveling, playing golf, reading mystery novels and watching Grey's Anatomy.

Lab Managers/Technicians

Marin Klumpner// Lab Manager

Marin graduated from Lawrence University in 2007 with a B.A. in Biology. After completing her undergraduate degree, she worked for two years in Chonghui Cheng’s laboratory at Northwestern University investigating the role of dysregulated alternative RNA splicing in cancer. She went on to earn a M.S. in Nursing from Marquette University and worked at Prentice Women’s Hospital as a research clinician for the anesthesiology department. Returning to her passion for laboratory research, in the fall of 2015 she joined the Flagel lab and took on the role of Lab Manager. Outside of the lab she enjoys taking art classes, being with friends and family, and spending time outdoors

Aidan Horvath// Research Technician

Aidan holds a BS in Zoology from North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND. After graduating in 2013, he began volunteering in Israel Liberzon’s lab at the University of Michigan where he studied the effects of Single Prolonged Stress on fear learning and retention. His interest in behavioral neuroscience and individual differences drew him to the P50 project, a collaborative effort between Dr. Flagel and Dr. Terry Robinson, as well as others at other institutions (ratgenes.org). The primary goal of the P50 project is to investigate genetic factors underlying behavioral phenotypes related to addiction, specifically the attribution of incentive salience to a reward cue. Aidan’s long term goal is to obtain a PhD and guide future generations of scientists as a teacher and researcher. His other pursuits include various creative ventures such as animation and music writing.

Alesa Hughson// Research Technician

Alesa graduated from Alma college in 2014 with a B.S. in Neuroscience. As an undergraduate, she conducted an independent research project investigating the effects of nicotine on neural plasticity and functional recovery after stroke-like injury in the adult rat. She is currently working on the behavioral portion of a large collaborative study investigating genetic factors involved in addictive behaviors (ratgenes.org), including the attribution of incentive salience to a reward cue and the tendency to seek out novel environments. Alesa is planning to attend graduate school to get a PhD in either neuroscience or genetics. She is particularly interested in neurodegenerative research and considering a career in academia. Outside of the lab, Alesa enjoys crafting, playing board games, and cooking.

Undergraduate Alumni

Kurt Fraser// Undergraduate Honors Student (2013-2015)

Kurt is from Richmond, Michigan and joined the Flagel Lab at the end of his sophomore year, in 2013. Kurt majored in Neuroscience and graduated in the spring of 2015. He has interests in neuropsychopharmacology and analyzing neural circuitry/networks, in addition to the neurobiological aspects of addiction, stress, and motivated behavior. Kurt joined the lab with intentions to pursue an MD post-graduation, but thanks to the experience the lab has given him, he is now pursuing his PhD at Johns Hopkins University in the laboratory of Patricia Jana (http://www.janaklab.com/). When he is not in the lab, Kurt can be found trying to become a long-distance runner, looking for new music to listen to, watching really bad reality television or Tweeting (although he Tweets while in the lab too).

Zachary Fuller// Undergraduate Honors Student (2015-2016)

Zack is from Flint Michigan and joined the Flagel lab in January 2015. He majored in Neuroscience and graduated with Honors in the spring of 2016. His Honor’s Thesis examine the role of the thalamo-striatal circuits in addiction-related behaviors. Zack plans to start medical school in the fall of 2017. Outside of lab, Zack enjoys spending time with friends and family, playing sports, and is an avid Michigan sports fan.

Katie Long// Undergraduate Honors Student and Lab Manager (2012-2014)

Katie joined the Flagel Lab in the fall of 2012, as an honors student, and conducted her undergraduate thesis project examining the effects of social stress on addiction liability in an animal model. Katie graduated with Honors in the spring of 2013, and was the Flagel Lab Manager until spring of 2014. Katie is now in the Medical Scientists Training Program (MSTP) at the University of Chicago.

Salima Sewani// Undergraduate UROP and Honors Student (2012-2014)

Salima joined the Flagel Lab during her sophomore year via the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and graduated with High Honors in the spring of 2014. Her honor’s thesis examined the effects of glucocorticoid receptor antagonism on the propensity to sign- and goal-track. Salima was also awarded a prestigious summer fellowship from the Irene and Eric Simon Brain Research Foundation for her work examining gene expression related to addiction liability in the summer of 2012. Salima is now attending medical school at the University of Cincinnati.

Previous Lab Members

Julia Boese// Lab Manager (2014-2015)
Rebeca Kelly// Lab Manager (2011-2013)
Matea Mustafaj// Research Technician (2014-2015)
Allison Lang// Undergraduate Student (2014-2015)
Annie Gencay// Undergraduate Student (2014-2015)
Betul Tatar// Undergraduate Student (2013-2014)
Tessa Shapiro// Undergraduate Student (2014-2015)
Vicky Chu// Undergraduate Student (2012-2013)