Student Spotlight

Ellen Rodberg

This month’s student spotlight is on Ellen Rodberg. Ellen is a 2nd year NSB graduate student in Elena Vazey’s lab in the Biology Department, where she works on the role of the Locus Coeruleus in stress responses. This past month, she published a single-author “Journal Club” review in the Journal of Neuroscience, titled, “Stress-Induced Increases in Locus Coeruleus Norepinephrine Underlie Extinction Learning Deficits”. Ellen transferred to UMass from the University of Michigan and was previously an undergraduate at UMass.


UMass Neuroscience Publications – July 2020

Dr. Rebecca Ready

This month’s featured researcher is Rebecca Ready. Rebecca is a Professor and Director of Clinical Training in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. She is a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and of the American Psychological Association and heads the Aging, Emotion, and Cognition Lab here at UMass. This month she had a paper appear in PubMed in which a team validated testing measure to determine outcomes of patients with Huntington’s Disease.

Here’s what else is new for ‘ ”University of Massachusetts” AND Amherst AND neuroscience’ in PubMed. These publications appeared on line in July. They are just a fraction of the research that occurs on campus. You can click on the PubMed ID to find the publication.

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Update from NSB Anti-Racism Action Teams and Focus Groups

Continuing the anti-racism work here on campus, the Neuroscience and Behavior community is making great strides with 5 teams that have worked with trainees within their respective focus groups. Open communication, supportive dialogue and the recognized need for change are driving the teams and trainees to continue this progress. Working with these focus groups has allowed for listening, learning, and brainstorming between faculty team members and trainees. Transparency and communication regarding progress remains a steadfast goal, along with easing the burden of the trainees within the focus groups. Using the student petition as a guideline, they are striving for strengthening scientific growth and mentorship alongside an increased call for social justice within our NSB program, and as an academic community as a whole. If you are interested in getting involved or learning more about the work being done, please contact Luke Remage-Healey ( or Heather Richardson (

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Director’s Channel, July 2020

Humans, as a species, have a remarkable capacity to adapt rapidly to environmental challenges by cooperating in groups. Our group identities are based on shared norms and beliefs that get reinforced by the group. However, these beliefs are not necessarily egalitarian, fair, or even humane. Our country is currently facing several challenges simultaneously: COVID-19, economic collapse, systemic racism and police brutality. These crises are being exacerbated by clashes of beliefs fostered by different groups: partisanship, anti-science beliefs, xenophobia, nationalism, and racism. We need to combat these beliefs if we are going to adapt and thrive as a society.

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Anti-racism in the NSB Community

The Neuroscience and Behavior (NSB) Graduate Program, in conjunction with the other Interdepartmental Graduate Programs (IDGP) and departments in the College of Natural Sciences, has initiated efforts to combat anti-Black racism and increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in our community. A group of IDGP students, led by NSB student president Wayne Barnaby and colleagues, launched a petition to the Chancellor and Provost to demand structural changes to support the UMass Black and Brown Community. Neuroscience community members are urged to read and sign the petition, and share it widely throughout our networks.

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Director’s Channel, May/June 2020

IONs Director, Paul Katz

In these troubled times, community is very precious. It takes effort to maintain a community when you don’t just bump into people in the hallways or at seminars. We have lost opportunities such as the annual awards dinner to meet and celebrate our students’ accomplishments. Please read about the winners of the Golden Neuron Award and the Vincent Dethier Prize. I am particularly impressed by work of Melise Edwards and Kate Otter, who shared the Early Career Award.  Melise is leading (Mentorship for Under-represented STEM Enthusiasts), which aims to provide representation and mentorship to groups in STEM. She is only a first-year PhD student, but she is an active leader in peer mentorship. Kate Otter has been running a Social Justice Discussion group, which relates social justice to science. I attended the most recent group (via Zoom, of course) and it inspired me to think more deeply about how our perception of the world is determined by our identity and our community. There is a concept in ethology called the Umwelt, which is just German for environment. It refers to how an animal experiences the world. We may think that our own experience of the world is universal and that if anything, animals experience an impoverished version of the world that we see, hear, and smell around us. But, this is far from the truth. Continue reading Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Neuroscience and Behavior Early Career Awards

The Early Career Award (1st or 2nd year) is designated for excellence in academics, research, and/or outreach and is selected by the Graduate Operations Committee. The winner receives a small gift and a certificate. Mélise Edwards (working with advisor Agnes Lacreuse) and Kate Otter (working with advisor Paul Katz) were commended for their outstanding accomplishments in research, academic success, and outreach supporting diversity and inclusion in STEM and academia. Erika Correll received honorable mention. Continue reading Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Student and Postdoc Spotlight

Congratulations to Annabelle Flores-Bonilla for being awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (GRPF). Annabelle will be starting as a first year Neuroscience and Behavior PhD student in Heather Richardson’s lab.

Emily Rothwell, a postdoc in the Agnès Lacreuse’s lab, was awarded a Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology travel award to present her work on sleep and cognition in the common marmoset. Continue reading Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

UMass Neuroscience Publications – April/May 2020

This month’s featured researcher is Courtney Babbitt. Courtney is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology. Courtney researches how cis-regulatory element evolution affects phenotypic evolution. In particular, she has investigated brain evolution in humans and other primates. She is the senior author on a review that appeared in PubMed this month examining technological progress in elucidating the role of metabolic changes in human brain evolution.

Here’s what else is new for ‘ ”University of Massachusetts” AND Amherst AND neuroscience’ in PubMed. These publications appeared on line in April and May. They are just a fraction of the research that occurs on campus. You can click on the PubMed ID to find the publication.

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Director’s Channel – April 2020

Zoom screen shot of IONs Director Paul Katz

I am very proud of the way that UMass is working to keep people safe in this extraordinary time. For up-to-date information go to I am also thankful for the way that our neuroscience community is pulling together to maintain contact while remaining physical distant. Like everywhere else in the nation, classes, lab meetings, and seminars are being held by Zoom.  We have a Slack Workspace for people to contact each other ( including a channel to share COVID-19 information. NSB Students and postdocs have created structure in their lives by organizing accountability buddies (aka Accountabilibuddies) who check in on each other regularly.

It goes without saying that this pandemic is creating extraordinary suffering. It is likely to get worse before it gets better. Yes, it’s sad that research projects have been interrupted. Yes, it’s sad that conferences and seminars have been canceled, including our annual Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference. All of our Distinguished Neuroscience Lectures have been rescheduled for 2021. These cancellations and delays are essential measures to flatten the infection curve. Conferences will be rescheduled, life will pick up again on the other end of this calamity. As a privileged academic, I can safely stay at home and work on papers and grants. I have been encouraging my students to use this down time productively by reading the literature more deeply. It’s a chance to learn and think more thoroughly about their projects. I’m hoping that this enforced stop to lab work will result in better planned research going forward and more thorough understanding of the published literature.  Together, we will pull through as a community.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail