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. Dr. Flagel "opened" her lab in the Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute at the University of Michigan in 2011 and is now an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry. In addition to "doing science", Dr. Flagel enjoys being the mom of two young boys, the outdoors, exercising and travelling.


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.

Stephen Chang// Research Specialist Sr

Steve began his research career at the University of Michigan, where he received a B.S. with High Honors in Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science while working in the laboratory of Dr. Kent Berridge. He then obtained his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University in Dr. Peter Holland's laboratory, completing a thesis on the neural basis of sign-tracking. Steve next completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Dartmouth College in Dr. Kyle Smith's laboratory investigating the neural circuitry of cue-reward learning. Steve joined the Flagel lab in September 2018. His current research interests are focused on understanding the neural pathways mediating reward-seeking behaviors that may result in the development of drug addiction.

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.

Amanda Iglesias// Neuroscience Graduate Student

Amanda was raised in Southern California and received her B.A. in Psychology from California State University – Fullerton (CSUF). While at CSUF, she participated in the Maximizing Access to Research Careers program under the mentorship of Dr. Jennifer Trevitt; where she studied the effects of a western diet and physical activity on anxiety and learning. Amanda joined the Program in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Michigan and matriculated into the Neuroscience Graduate Program in the fall of 2017. Her research interests include the complex biological mechanisms and subcortical, hypothalamic neural circuitry that may subserve individual differences in cue-motivated behaviors. And, more specifically, how these differences can help us understand maladaptive behaviors related to reward and motivation, such as drug addiction. Amanda enjoys spending time with her dog, hiking, and crafting in her spare time.

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.

Undergraduate Students

Aryamaan "Arya" Gaddam// Undergraduate Student

Arya Gaddam is a Senior from Troy, MI and joined the Flagel Lab in February of 2017. He is currently pursuing a major in Biopsychology and has plans to go to medical school. He is currently volunteering his time in the lab and is interested in the neurobiological basis of addictive behavior. During his free time, he enjoys listening to podcasts, playing his guitar and exercising.

Erin Canfield// UROP Student

Erin is from Williamston, Michigan and joined the Flagel Lab at the start of her Freshman year, in September 2018. She is a student in LSA and is currently pursuing a major in Neuroscience. She is also a part of the Health Science Scholars Program. After graduation, Erin hopes to go to medical school. When she is not in the lab, she is studying at the Ugli, dancing, hanging out with her friends or at a University of Michigan football, basketball or hockey game. Go blue!

Allison Johnson// UROP Student/Research Scholar

Allison is from Lapeer, MI, and is a Junior 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.

Jason Wong// Undergraduate Student

Jason is from New York City and originally started off his undergraduate career conducting nonlinear optics research in the Jang Lab at Binghamton University. After receiving an offer to transfer into the University of Michigan and still unsure about his future career plans, Jason began neuroscience research in the Kennedy Group under Dr. Zestos through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. There, he investigated the in vivo neurochemical effects of PKC inhibitors on the attenuation of cocaine-stimulated dopamine efflux and cultivated his interest in the neuroscience behind addiction. After declaring a major in Neuroscience at the end of his sophomore year, Jason officially joined the Flagel Lab in July 2017. He hopes to write a neuroscience honors thesis in the near future and plans on applying to medical school. In his free time, Jason enjoys playing ping pong, weight-lifting and Wiki-binging.

Catherine Yang// UROP Student

I am from Fremont, CA and joined the Flagel Lab in October 2018. I am a freshman in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and I plan to major in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience. In the future, I hope to attend medical school or graduate school. My research interests include understanding how neurological differences affect behavior such as addiction and stress. During my free time, I like to watch Netflix, bullet journal, and listen to lo-fi music.

Charlotte Yang// Undergraduate Honors Student

Charlotte is from Ann Arbor and joined the Flagel Lab at the start of her Sophomore year, in September 2017. She is in the LSA Honors Program and is currently pursuing a major in Neuroscience. Her research interests include factors contributing to addiction liability and the relationship between stress responsiveness and stimulus-reward learning. Upon graduation, Yiqiu hopes to go to medical or graduate school. When she is not in the lab or cramming in the Fishbowl, Yiqiu can be found practicing table tennis, solving Rubik's Cubes, or cooking Chinese food. She is also an avid sci-fi reader.

Sewit Yohannes// Undergraduate Student

Sewit is from Albuquerque, New Mexico and is a freshman at the school of Literature, Science and the Arts. She is undecided but planning to go into medical school and become a psychiatrist. Her end goal is to go to East Africa and establish a clinic to help educate the population about mental health. When she isn't in a club meeting or doing homework, Sewit enjoys exploring Ann Arbor, hanging out with friends, swimming or trying new foods.

Lab Managers/Technicians

Maurice Chojecki// Laboratory Manager // Research Laboratory Specialist

Maurice Chojecki grew up outside of Chicago where he attended The University of Illinois at Chicago for his Bachelors in Bioengineering. While there he assisted in creating cortical vascular computer simulations as well as stroke therapy games for rehabilitative engineering. In August 2015, after working in industry for a year-and-a-half, he left Chicago to attend U of M to obtain his MSE in Biomedical Engineering. Under the guidance of Drs. Yue Cao and James Balter he analyzed data regarding radiation therapy and white matter integrity with magnetic resonance and diffusion tensor imaging and graduated in the Fall of 2016. Having fallen in love with Ann Arbor he decided to stay and can be found at a local bar or playing board games around town with friends.

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.

Recent Lab Alumni

Ignacio Rivero-Covelo// Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2014-2017)

Current position: Faculty/Instructor Marquette University

Zhongyan Gong// Undergraduate Honors Student(2017-2018)

Current position: Research Assistant at the Rockefeller University

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

Current position: Medical Student at University of Pittsburgh

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

Current position: Graduate Student at Johns Hopkins University (http://www.janaklab.com/)

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

Current position: Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale University (http://medicine.yale.edu/lab/addy/)

Alesa Hughson// Research Technician (2015-2018)

Current position: Graduate Student in Biomedical Engineering, Michigan State University

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

Current position: MSTP Student, University of Chicago (http://bensmaialab.org/lab-members/)

Eman Mubarak// Undergraduate Honors Student (2015-2018)

Current position: Medical Student at University of Michigan Ann Arbor.

Krittika Pant// Undergraduate Honors Student (2015-2018)

Current position: Pursuing Masters in Public Health at the University of Michigan

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

Current position: Medical Student at the University of Cincinnati

Previous Lab Members

Roshini Ankireddygari// Undergraduate Student (2017-2018)
Julia Boese// Lab Manager (2014-2015)
Layne Bond// Undergraduate Student (2017-2018)
Vicky Chu// Undergraduate Student (2012-2013)
Annie Gencay// Undergraduate Student (2014-2015)
Kanav Gupta// Undergraduate Student (2016-2018)
Rebeca Kelly// Lab Manager (2011-2013)
Marin Klumpner// Lab Manager (2015-2017)
Allison Lang// Undergraduate Student (2014-2015)
Matea Mustafaj// Research Technician (2014-2015)
Tessa Shapiro// Undergraduate Student (2014-2015)
Betul Tatar// Undergraduate Student (2013-2014)