CURRENT LAB MEMBERS

NICOLE ("NIKO") RIGNEY

PhD student

I am originally from Louisville, Kentucky and decided to move to Atlanta to finish my B.S. in Psychology and begin my Ph.D. at Georgia State University. As an undergrad, I developed my interests in the neurobiology of motivational behaviors. As a graduate student, I began to investigate the neuropeptide vasopressin and sex differences in the mechanisms underlying social behavior and communication. I seek to broadly advance our understanding of how social stimuli generate specific behavioral responses, to what degree sexual differentiation of the brain contributes to these responses, and how this might be leveraged to understand mechanisms relevant to social disorders, such as autism. When I am not working on research, I like to write music on my computer, synthesizers, and guitar. I also really enjoy reading and playing video games for fun.

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ALEXANDRA ("ALEX") SELKE

PhD student

I was born and raised in San Diego, CA where I completed my BA and MA in Psychology at California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM). During my training at CSUSM, I developed an interest in sexual dimorphisms in neurobiology and social behaviors. This interest brought me to GSU where I just recently started in the Neuroscience PhD as a graduate research assistant in the Petrulis lab. My first projects are investigating the role of the Vasopressin receptor 1a (V1aR) on social behavior and communication. Additionally, I hope to further explore sex differences in the neurobiology of competitive behaviors. This work will contribute to a broader understanding of how sexual differentiation in the brain can lead to a diversity of social behaviors and behavioral responses to various social scenarios and stimuli. In my free time I enjoy roller skating, painting, and playing any and all Nintendo games.

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BEHNOUSH DADKHAH

Masters student

I received my B.S. in Biology from Georgia State University. Currently, I am a Master's student and a graduate research assistant at Petrulis-de Vries lab. I am interested in the study of the neural circuitry underlying social behavior. In my project, I investigate the effects of deleting oxytocin- and vasopressin-expressing neurons on behavioral communication in mice of both sexes. As an outcome of my research, I hope to add to our understanding of social communication disorders like autism on a neuronal level. In my free time, I like reading books and hanging out with my friends.

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TIMOTHY COPELAND

Masters student

I came to GSU and discovered my interest in neuroscience through interactions with the amazing faculty we have here. As a non-traditional student, my life experiences have drawn me toward the mysteries of the brain and mind, from the anatomical components of the brain, to the hormones and neurotransmitters that make us who we are. I’m excited by the opportunities offered by the Petrulis – de Vries lab to study behavioral changes in mice caused by vasopressin action within the basal nuclei of the brain.

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BRIAN REID

Masters student

I am a metro-Atlanta native, living in Cumming, Georgia most of my life. I previously attended Georgia State University majoring in accounting with an interest in corporate finance and auditing. After numerous years of working in both the private business sector, I returned to GSU as a non-traditional student where I first worked with Dr. Sid Crow and Dr. Christopher Cornelison in the Biology department, studying the collapse of honeybee hives. This experience, along with teaching sections of anatomy & physiology lab, led to me to join the Neuroscience Institute and ultimately receive my Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience. I am excited by the opportunity to work in the Petrulis – de Vries lab. My broader interest is in PTSD, its relationship with stress & anxiety, and how it might be related to expression of sex-different vasopressin. Outside of lab, I enjoy hiking, spending time with my dogs and exotic birds, and traveling with friends.

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SELMA BELKASIM

Masters student

I was born in Toronto but have lived in Atlanta for most of my life, where I have just completed my B.S in Neuroscience at GSU and am starting on my M.S degree. Early on in my undergrad, I discovered my research interests in behavioral neuroscience, which led me to pursue a dual-degree B.S/M.S. After exploring the role of vasotocin in reptile behavior, my research interests shifted to its mammalian counterpart, vasopressin, and sex-different neural mechanisms of communication. My current research uses relevant techniques, like optogenetics, to explore how the vasopressin system modulates social behavior in vivo. Besides school and science, I love reading and writing. I also like to pretend I have a green thumb, which is arguable, but none of the plants in my garden have died…yet.

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RACHAEL BEAUMONT

Research technician

I was born and raised in Atlanta and began my scientific career when I participated in the Institute on Neuroscience (ION) high school summer research program. Here I began my work under Dr. Paul Katz at Georgia State University, identifying nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunits in several molluscan species. After graduating high school, I joined the GSU family to obtain my bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience. I continued my research under Dr. Katz until fall 2017 when I moved to the Petrulis lab for the duration of my undergraduate education. Here I have developed a significant interest in understanding the brain vasopressin (AVP) system and the social behavior network. My current project involves activated-caspase deletion of AVP cells in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) and the medial amygdala (MeA) and examining changes in social behavior and communication. Next year, I plan to attend a PhD program in a related field of study. When I’m not in the lab, I enjoy working on my car, playing video games, and taking my dogs to the park.

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JADE CHRISTMAN

Undergraduate student

I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, up until I moved to Alpharetta, Georgia. Due to my love of the city, I've returned to Atlanta to complete my undergraduate education as a major in biomedical science and enterprise at GSU. Early on during the first year of undergrad, I was given the great opportunity by Dr. Petrulis to conduct research in a laboratory setting. I've always had a great curiosity and interest in lab work, so conducting experiments related to the sexual dimorphism of vasopressin and social behavior has allowed me to gain new and important experiences. Outside of academia, I thoroughly enjoy going to the gym, exploring the city with friends, and playing/streaming video games.

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ADAM ZBIB

Undergraduate student

I was born and raised in Alpharetta, Georgia. I am currently a junior majoring in Neuroscience at GSU. After completing my first neuroscience course, I became heavily interested in behavioral neuroscience, specifically how hormones influence behavior. The Petrulis – de Vries lab is providing me an opportunity to study behavioral changes in mice caused by vasopressin action in various hypothalamic nuclei. In the future I plan on attending medical school. Outside of research and school, my hobbies include running, hiking, soccer and skateboarding – basically anything outdoors.

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