CURRENT LAB MEMBERS
CAITLIN FRIESEN, PHD
I was born and raised in Lethbridge, Alberta where I completed my B.S. in Biology. I moved to Montreal, Quebec to complete my M.S. and developed an interest in the hormonal basis of social behavior. When I moved to Austin, Texas to complete my Ph.D. in Integrative Biology, I became more interested in how neural mechanisms, hormones, and social context contribute to variation in social behavior. This interest brought me to GSU to work as a postdoctoral researcher in the Petrulis – de Vries lab where I will be examining how the vasopressin system modulates social behavior and the impact of sex differences on this neural control. At a broader level, this work contributes to our understanding of how sexually dimorphic neurobiology can translate to a diversity of social behaviors and responses. When I’m not working on research, I enjoy biking outdoors, painting, reading, and listening to music. https://caitlinfriesen.com/
NICOLE ("NIKO") RIGNEY
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.
ALEXANDRA ("ALEX") SELKE
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.
DELENN HARTSWICK (THEY/THEM/THEIRS)
I am from Akron, Ohio, and I completed my B.S. in Neuroscience and Psychology at Baldwin Wallace University near Cleveland, Ohio. During my undergraduate studies, I found an interest in sex differences, particularly the development of, and interaction between, sex differences in structure and sex differences in function. I moved to Atlanta, Georgia for my graduate studies to pursue these interests in the Petrulis-De Vries lab. I wish to improve a broader understanding of sex differences with a focus on application toward improving the lives and medical care of transgender and intersex people. I am passionate about teaching and facilitating diversity in STEM. In my free time, I like to sing, travel, watch horror movies, draw, and do all sorts of arts and crafts.
After a childhood of moving steadily up the East Coast, I attended St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, to earn Bachelor of Science degrees in Behavioral Neuroscience and Biology. I began my graduate student career in Fall 2021 and was thrilled to find a home in the Petrulis Lab. Broadly, my research interests involve the role of vasopressin and its associated brain areas in the social behaviors of mice. In my free time, I enjoy bird watching, playing card games, and trying to keep my plants alive.
I am a Georgia local and a 2016 graduate of Georgia Tech, where I researched genetic effects on behavior in a variety of model organisms, after which I spent several years as a technician in the field of neuroscience before beginning my PhD here at GSU. I am broadly interested in the set of factors that influence individual variation in social behaviors. To this end, I am interested in asking questions through the lens’ of genetics, endocrinology, evolutionary psychology, and game theory to understand how individual animals come to make decisions about how to interact with conspecifics. I am currently applying fiber photometry techniques to examine the real-time activity of vasopressin- and vasopressin 1a receptor-expressing cell populations in the brains of mice to understand how these systems function in a sex-different manner to affect social behavior. When I am not in lab, I am typically trying to convince an unwitting group of people of people to try out a new board game or join a home-brewed DnD campaign.
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.
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.
I was born in Hyderabad, India. I moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 2008, and then to Cumming, GA in 2019. My urge to pursue my dreams led me to the well-known Neuroscience program at GSU. I began my research experience in 2019 in the Cox Lab. In 2021, I saw myself exploring other topics in Neuroscience which led me to thinking about the sexually different effects in social behavior and communication. The Petrulis-de Vries lab became my destination. I hope to continue my career in research while exploring the medical field. My goal is to pursue a M.D., Ph.D, or M.D./PhD in the Neuroscience field. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with friends, crocheting, drawing, or making jewelry. I am also an Indian classical singer and dancer. Additionally, I embrace my career, profession, and culture.
I am currently a third-year undergraduate student majoring in Neuroscience, with a minor in Psychology. I have had a passion for studying neuroscience since I took Anatomy and Physiology in my junior year of high school and became fascinated with the mechanisms of the brain and how it reflects who we are as people. I am eager to continue to learn about the brain, its functions and how that affects us. This interest has led me to pursue experiences that allow the opportunity to engage in the process of scientific discovery. Working in the Petrulis-de Vries lab, investigating the role of vasopressin receptors on social behavior and communication, aligns perfectly with my passion for both neuroscience and learning new things. My future goals include engaging in research that can address long-term health conditions and ways to reduce their impact on the lives of people. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, practicing yoga, and playing the flute.
I am an Atlanta native studying neuroscience and psychology with a pre-med concentration at Georgia State University. I am incredibly fascinated by how molecular-level changes in the brain produce noticeable behavioral differences. In November of 2021, I joined the Petrulis - de Vries lab with the intent to study a more socially complex animal model. Currently, I stimulate/inhibit vasopressin-expressing neurons using optogenetics to observe changes in mouse social behavior. Outside of schooling, I lift weights, run long distances, and listen to comedy podcasts.