Who I Am

In June 2018 I received my Ph.D. from the Behavioral Neuroscience program in the Psychology department at the University of Washington, Seattle. As a neuroscientist, much of my dissertation work examined the influence of sensory input on cortical connectivity as the visual system develops.

Through the course of my research, the techniques I've used include:

  • Histology
  • Cortical & intravitreal tracer injections
  • Electrophysiology
  • In situ hybridization
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Electroencephalography (EEG)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), including the related analysis of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).

I've used these different techniques to characterize development of the visual system. This has allowed me to make comparisons across different species including rats, ferrets and humans in my more recent work.



The image above is a poster I presented at a recent Society for Neuroscience conference. This project used animal models of blindness during development and compared the results with MRI data from adult blind subjects to make predictions about human visual system development at similar developmental time points.

A goal of this project was to gain precision and accuracy when determining therapeutic efficacy of visual prosthetics with blind human subjects.

Previous to my program at the University of Washington, I used EEG to study mu rhythm in human subjects. Suppression of the mu rhythm is thought to be a correlate of mirror neuron activity, and in conjunction with empathy measures, was examined as part of my Master's thesis. I completed this thesis project in 2011 and graduated with distinction from Northern Arizona University.

The picture above is me in front of a custom faraday cage I built, that works with a similarly custom built remote control and LED light apparatus. I designed this setup to deliver visual stimulation to each eye during experiments. The signal is also sent to the computer to time lock the visual stimulus with spikes being recorded during electrophysiology experiments conducted in the Faraday cage.

Being able to build websites like the one you're currently viewing, is among the many skills I've picked up along my path in education.

Anatomy review

An Example Lecture

Among my favorite classes to teach is sheep brain anatomy. Although students often feel intimidated when first approaching the material, I bring my passion for neuroscience to the classroom and find ways to make it fun and interesting. By the end of the quarter, when reviewing for the final practicum, students are often amazed at all they've learned:

 

Goals in Teaching:

My favorite classes as an undergraduate were the ones where I could tell that the instructor cared passionately about the subject matter, and made you feel like you wanted to love it just as much too.

It’s seeing someone else with that kind of passion that can reveal an interest to the student that they may not previously have had. A sincere excitement toward the material being taught is contagious, and is what inspired me to excel in those classes.

I strive to model that same enthusiasm with my students as an instructor today. At the same time, I inject my sense of humor into the way I teach, making my lectures more memorable. Students have told me that this has the added benefit of producing a more comfortable learning environment, allowing them to ask questions that might not have been raised otherwise.

When answering questions where I can tell a student is a bit fuzzy on the material, I try to explain by giving examples that put it in the context of a story. Concepts are more easily grasped when explained this way. These techniques are used to encourage students to think about the ‘how and why’ behind the concepts they are learning.

Goals for Learning:

I believe that although it is possible to grow when things are easy, it’s the moments when we are challenged that truly define us. Being challenged is a unique gift that allows us the opportunity to discover what we’re capable of.

I bring this attitude to the psychology and neuroscience classes I teach, which tend to be more demanding for students. This is why I make it clear at the start of the quarter that they can expect this class to require more effort than they normally apply, but that it’s worth every bit of effort they put into it.

The reason they are in college is because they want to learn, and they want to excel. It’s especially important to remind students of this as exam time is approaching, because it can be easy to forget when things are stressful. Succeeding at an easy course will never compare to the sense of accomplishment one feels after mastering a particularly difficult one.

In addition to preparing them, I also assure them that they have me to support them along the way. I extend my availability if they cannot meet during scheduled office hours, and remind them before exams that they can always reach me and get a quick response via email.

This combination of philosophies and techniques inspires an appreciation for neuroscience that motivates students to meet challenges.

Check out some of the reviews from classes I have done in previous quarters:

My Work & CV

Neuroscience represents a crossroads of several academic fields, requiring a skilled neuroscientist to be familiar with work in a variety of disciplines.

Essentially, we are the MacGyvers of academia. From biology to psychology to chemistry to computer science.

We take on the role of engineer or computer and software designer when constructing custom equipment or writing software scripts for an experiment. We are careful surgeons during surgeries in animal experiments. We are statisticians when it comes time to analyze the data we've collected. We are writers and illustrators when we express our ideas to our peers in the scientific community.

We are public speakers when we engage an audience with our ideas.

You can view my CV by clicking the button below:

Work I've co-authored can be viewed by clicking the buttons below:




Awards & Recognition

In recognition of the importance of my research, I've received support from the Vision Training Grant, awarded during the 2015-2016 academic year by the National Eye Institute (NEI). During the summer 2017 quarter I was awarded the Alcor fellowship to focus on the completion of my dissertation.

Previous Experience

Prior to my program at the University of Washington, I earned a Master’s degree in Psychology from Northern Arizona University. I completed my thesis while working in a lab that examined correlates of mirror neuron activity in humans using EEG.

Mirror neurons are the cells in the brain generally thought to be responsible for the ability to predict the intentions of others, as well as a necessary component for emotions like empathy.

My experiments used electroencephalography (EEG) to examine mu rhythm suppression in the motor cortex, a putative correlate of mirror neuron activity according to previous work. The relationship between traits of empathy and mu rhythm suppression were also assessed through self-report measures.

My thesis detailing this work can be viewed by clicking the button below:


When you aggregate the time dedicated to my Bachelor’s (4 years), Master’s (2 years) and Ph.D. (6 years), I have spent the last 12 years in higher education passionately pursuing the study of psychology; half of those years have been focused in the subdiscipline of neuroscience.

I like to joke that this means I've spent the same amount of time becoming a scientist in the field of psychological research as a person spends going from entering 1st grade to graduating from high school.

 

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