Zoe McElligott, Ph.D.
Zoe received her B.S. from New York University in Neural Science in 2003 and subsequently did her Ph.D. in the lab of Danny Winder at Vanderbilt University (2009) studying noradrenergic modulation of glutamatergic signaling in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. Zoe then completed a post-doc with Mark Wightman at UNC learning in vivo and ex vivo fast-scan cyclic voltammetry and spent a year in the Stuber lab at UNC learning optogenetic and behavioral techniques. The McElligott Lab officially launched in the fall of 2015 at the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies and the Department of Psychiatry.
Away from the lab Zoe likes spending time with her family (husband, Tom, and daughter, Georgia) and all the animals on her crazy farm! She enjoys spinning yarn, knitting, cooking, dancing, and traveling to new places and obtaining new cultural experiences. Fun fact: Zoe loves singing karaoke!
Brennon Luster, Ph. D., Postdoctoral Fellow
Brennon received a Bachelor's degree in Biology from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. In 2016, he received a PhD from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences where he worked with Dr. Edgar Garcia-Rill studying intracellular mechanisms underlying sleep dysregulation in the Pedunculopontine nucleus. Results of Brennon's research have yielded several manuscripts and was honored with a Trainee Professional Development award at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in 2015. Brennon is currently a T32 postdoctoral fellow in the McElligott lab with the hopes of providing fundamental insights on neuronal circuits underlying maternal anxiety, opiate/alcohol use disorder and other psychiatric conditions.
Outside of his research, Brennon enjoys a variety of outdoor activities from bike riding to fishing to hiking.
Karl T. Schmidt, Ph. D., Postdoctoral Fellow
Karl received his BS i.n Psychology from Davidson College in 2008 working with Dr. Mark Smith. He received his PhD in Neuroscience in 2016 from Emory University where he worked with Dr. David Weinshenker studying the role of norepinephrine in cocaine addiction related behaviors. When not in lab, Karl enjoys a variety of sports, both playing lacrosse, tennis, frisbee and watching basketball, soccer and football.
Karl also likes cooking with his wife, Allison, and hiking on the weekends.
Elizabeth Cogan, Ph. D., Postdoctoral Fellow
Liz received her BA in Psychology from Montclair State University in 2007, and received her PhD in Biopsychology from the University of Michigan in 2016, where she worked with Dr. Terry Robinson studying individual differences in response to reward paired cues.
Outside of the lab, Liz enjoys cooking, drawing, painting, Brazilian jiu jitsu, crossfit, and karaoke.
María Luisa Torruella Suarez, Graduate Student Neurobiology Curriculum
María Luisa received her BS in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology from Yale University in 2015. Along with learning about medieval manuscripts and the anthropology of bilingualism, she developed a passion for Neuroscience that she is now pursuing in the Neurobiology Curriculum at Chapel Hill. She is currently interested in how amygdalar and hindbrain circuits modulate voluntary alcohol drinking.
She is originally from Puerto Rico and enjoys exploring her new home in North Carolina. When not in lab, she enjoys writing poetry, singing, and feminist critiques of science fiction.
Ashley Meadows, B.S. and M.A.S., Colony Manager
Ashley currently works for the Division of Laboratory Animal Medicine, but works doing colony management with the McElligott lab and others throughout the University. She received her B.S. and M.A.S. in Animal science from N.C. State and came to work at UNC in the fall of 2014. During her Masters’ work, Ashley focused on diverse breeding strategies and improving litter quality at the swine teaching animal unit for State. Since scaling down from pigs to mice, she has taken an interest in improving genetics and increasing litter size through environmental enrichment as well as reducing the number of wasted mice in transgenic lines. She enjoys studying up on complex breeding strategies and challenging herself to set up the optimum pairs in order to achieve the desired genotypes in the fewest number of crosses.
When she isn’t at work, Ashley enjoys spending time with her husband (it’s a new thing as of 5-21-2016) Forrest, and their zoo of critters. She also loves anything to do with the Seattle Seahawks, walking her dog Booker, kayaking or just going for a hike in a new place!
Rani Richardson, B.A., Rotating M.D./Ph. D Student
Rani received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in Biological Basis of Behavior in 2018. Rani is a first year MD/PhD student doing a summer rotation in the McElligott lab. Her project focuses on the effects of stress on ultrasonic vocalizations in mice.
In her free time, Rani enjoys trying new restaurants, spending time with family, and exercising.Rani received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in Biological Basis of Behavior in 2018. Rani is a first year MD/PhD student doing a summer rotation in the McElligott lab. Her project focuses on the effects of stress on ultrasonic vocalizations in mice.
Patric Perez, B.S., PREP Scholar
Patric received his Bachelors degrees in Cognitive Science and Psychology from Johns Hopkins University in 2016. After graduating, he worked with Dr. Roger Johns at JHMI in a developmental anesthetic neurotoxicity lab, and is currently a PREP scholar aiming to become a Ph.D. candidate in the neurosciences. He is currently interested in circuit dynamics under stress influencers.
Outside of the lab he likes anything to do with the water, preferably drinking some in this hot Carolina heat. Other than that he is an avid gardener and cook, and cryptocurrency amateur.
Isabel Bravo, Research Assistant
Isabel is an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, pursuing a B.S. in Quantitative Biology and Neuroscience, with a minor in Chemistry. She joined the lab during her freshman year and plans to graduate in 2021. Isabel works mainly on alcohol studies with Karl Schmidt, Ph. D. She hopes to attend medical school after graduation to become a physician-scientist.
Outside of the lab, Isabel is a sabre fencer for UNC’s Division I fencing team. She also volunteers weekly in the UNC Hospital Emergency Department. In her (rare) free time Isabel enjoys eating, napping, and traveling.
Shanaya Fozdar, Research Assistant
Shanaya is an undergraduate student at UNC Chapel Hill, pursuing a BS in Health Policy & Management at the Gillings School of Public Health with a minor in Chemistry. She began working for the McElligott lab in the summer of 2017. She is currently pre-med and plans to attend medical school after graduating. Other than her interest in medicine, she also enjoys learning about the policy and administration side of healthcare, enabling her to have a more holistic view of care in the U.S.
Outside of school, she is on the UNC Bhangra Elite dance team as well as a member of Alpha Epsilon Delta, the pre-health honor society. Additionally, she is obsessed with dogs, watches tons of TV shows, and loves to travel to new places around the world!
McElligott Lab Alumni
Catherine Normandeau, BScH, visiting graduate student
Catherine obtained her BScH at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada and is currently a PhD student in Neuroscience at the same institution. Her research focuses on identifying the neurophysiology of neuropeptide neurotensin in the bed nucleus stria terminalis. For her graduate studies, Catherine was awarded a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Master’s Award and holds a Vanier Canada Scholarship for her doctoral work. She is a visiting scholar in the McElligott lab learning optogenetic techniques.
Outside of the lab, Catherine loves to play sports (volleyball, basketball, Frisbee) and go on hiking/biking adventures! She stereotypically has a deep love for maple syrup.
Kedar Dange, Research Assistant
Kedar is currently an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pursuing a double major in Chemistry and Mathematics and a minor in Biology. He is a pre-medical student who plans to matriculate into medical school in the fall of 2017. He began working in the McElligott lab in the summer of 2016.
When not in lab, Kedar can usually be found watching television or exploring town with his friends in search of interesting places to eat. He loves music and spends much of his time playing guitar, writing music, or attempting to learn the drums, flute, saxophone, and violin. Fun fact - Kedar was born in India and moved to the United States at the age of 3.
James Hutson, Lab Technician
James is currently an undergraduate junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pursing a B.S in Computer Science. He is plans on joining the Navy as an officer in the Information Warfare field.
As a former high school wrestler and collegiate rower, James remains physically active, enjoying outdoor pursuits such as hiking and rock climbing.
Anna Jones, Research Assistant
Anna is an undergraduate at UNC Chapel Hill pursuing a BS in Psychology. She plans to attend graduate school for Psychology and Neuroscience after college and pursue a career in Neuropsychopharmacology. Other than science, her interests include music, she plays trumpet and guitar and is a member of the Marching Tar Heels, cheering on Carolina football and basketball, and playing with her three miniature dachshunds at home.
Fun fact! She has a black belt in TaeKwonDo.
Greg Tipton, B.S., Lab Manager
Greg received his BS from Duke University in Psychology & Neuroscience in 2009, where he researched cognitive neuroscience and stimulant pharmacology. Following graduation, Greg did a year of post-baccalaureate graduate coursework at East Carolina University, where he also studied vestibular physiology in mice. Greg subsequently began research in an oncology lab at ECU, studying prostate cancer. Following those 4 years, Greg began in the McElligott lab in the fall of 2014, and he hopes to matriculate into medical school in the fall of 2016.
When Greg is not in lab, he’s generally with his girlfriend, Caitlin, who is pursuing her PhD in Microbiology at Duke. Greg is currently in pursuit of finishing Netflix (all of it), and is a huge fan of discovering new music and going to concerts. He’s also an avid Duke fan – football, basketball, and rugby. Fun facts – Greg was born in Alaska, and is pretty sure he knows the screenplay to Happy Gilmore by heart.
Gunjan Patel, Research Assistant
Gunjan is currently an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is pursuing a double major in Biology and Asian Studies, with a minor in Chemistry. Gunjan is a pre-medical student who plans to matriculate into medical school in the fall of 2016. Gunjan began working with Zoe in the Stuber Lab in the fall of 2013 and has been working with her ever since.
When Gunjan is not in the lab he’s usually with his roommates gaming, cooking, and going out. He is currently obsessed with the USA Drama Suits and wants to be as cool as Harvey Specter when he grows up. Gunjan is also a huge comic book fan and loves to watch anything superhero/superheroine related. Fun facts – Gunjan moved to the US from India when he was nine, and he’s fluent in three languages: Gujarati, Hindi, and English.
Jessica Vandenberg, Research Assistant
Jessie is currently working on her undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She plans to graduate in May of 2016 with a major in Biology (B.S.) and minors in Chemistry and Japanese. Jessie is on the pre-medical path with hopes to matriculate into a veterinary program in the future. She began working in the McElligott lab in the fall of 2014.
When Jessie is not in lab, she is usually cuddled up with her foster cats at home watching documentaries, getting distracted from her work with music, or running around in the woods. She also enjoys spending weekends volunteering at a feral cat spay/neuter clinic in Durham. Jessie loves wilderness, photography and comic books. Fun facts- Jessie moved to North Carolina from Japan when she was 5 and has an unusually long tongue.
Viren Makhijani, Rotating Graduate Student
Viren received his B.S. in Neuroscience from UCLA in 2015 where he studies the involvement of anti-inflammatory neuropeptides PACAP and VIP in multiple sclerosis. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Neuroscience at UNC and began a rotation in the McElligott Lab Winter of 2015.
When Viren is not in the lab the is playing with his two cats Bacon and Eggs. He enjoys cooking and eating good food, and getting ideas from Chopped on Food Network. Fun facts – Viren was born in California and enjoys fishing!
Anže Testen, MSc, Rotating Graduate Student
Anže is an international student and he came to Chapel Hill from Slovenia. There he did his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Biology and Molecular biology, respectively. For his thesis he researched dynamics and consequences of interactions between nanoparticles and biological surfaces. Right before joining the graduate program at UNC, he spent a year as a research assistant in Professor Oliver Smithies’ lab at UNC studying kidney filtration models. After being accepted into the BBSP program he decided for an early career change and completely shifted interests to his long love and hobby, neuroscience.
Since his hobby is now his job he spends his free time hiking, off-road biking and perfecting his world domination plan.