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Our Lab

Please click on each picture to access a person's CV.

Dr. Justin Rhodes


Justin S. Rhodes received his undergraduate BS degree in Biology from Stanford University in 1995, an MS in Fisheries at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1998, another MS in Statistics and a Ph.D. in Zoology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2002. He then was a postdoctoral fellow at Oregon & Health & Science University and an instructor at Lewis & Clark College until 2005 until he joined the Department of Psychology, Biological Division at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in 2005.  Dr. Rhodes currently affiliated with the Neuroscience Program, Program for Ecology and Evolution and Conservation Biology, the Institute for Genomic Biology and a full-time faculty member in the Beckman Institute NeuroTech Group at UIUC. His fields of research interests are behavior genetics and neurobiology of motivation and addiction, effects of exercise on brain function and cognition using mice as a model organism, and the social impact driving neurbiological sex change in clownfish.

Awards/Honors: Young Scientist Award (2008) - International Behavior and Neural Genetics Society (The Society that publishes Genes, Brain and Behavior); LAS Helen Corley Petit Scholar (2012), Evelyn Satinoff Professorial Scholar in Psychology (2012), Medical Scholars Program Advisor of the Year (2013) - UIUC

Classes Recently Taught

The Brain and the Mind (PSYC 210) - Fall and Spring
Advances in Psychobiology
Evolutionary Neuroscience (PSYC 433) - Fall
Capstone Undergraduate Research (PSYC 492) - Fall

Postdoctoral Research Fellows

Dr. Gillian Hamilton


Joined Lab: January 2013
Degree: Ph.d Psychology
Research  Grants/Awards: Beckman Postdoctoral Fellowship (2104)
Bio: Gillian F. Hamilton is a Postdoctoral research fellow in the Rhodes lab with an interest in how various intrinsic and extrinsic factors, such as exercise and drugs of abuse, can affect hippocampal plasticity. She received her Ph.D in the Fall of 2012 from the University of Delaware under the mentorship of Dr. Anna Klintsova. During her time in graduate school, Gillian Hamilton worked with a rodent model of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders where she investigated the long-term impact of a third trimester alcohol exposure on both mPFC Layer II/III dendritic morphology and also on hippocampal adult neurogenesis and dentate gyrus granule cell morphology. In addition, she studied whether an intervention of wheel running alone or wheel running followed by environmental complexity could alleviate the alcohol-induced deficits in both the mPFC and the hippocampus. Currently, she is examining the role of adult neurogenesis on hippocampal dependent tasks through the use of a transgenic mouse model.

Dr. Sam Perez


Joined Lab: January 2013
Degree: Ph.d Human Physiology
Bio: Sam D Perez received a B.S. in Chemistry and did a post-baccalaureate Research Training in Neuroscience at the University of California in Riverside.  Prior to his doctoral work, he served in the US Army in fulfillment of a prior commitment; then worked as a laboratory coordinator in the core center for molecular biology and gene therapy at Loma Linda University.  Sam was awarded his PhD from the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology in the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in 2012. Prior to joining the Rhodes Lab, he briefly held an adjunct faculty position, lecturing in Human Anatomy and Physiology and Molecular & Cellular Biology at the School of Math and Science at the Baltimore County College in Maryland.  A former athlete, his current area of research interests are investigating the effects of exercise on brain cognition, the impact of nutritional enhancement on molecular factors involved in learning and memory, and the measurement of positive synergic of exercise and nutrition as an intervention to treat addictive disorders.

Dr. Jonathan Mun


Joined Lab: August 2013
Degree: Ph.d  Nutritional Sciences
Bio:  Jonathan Mun received a BS in Plant Science at Rutgers University and studied the effects of temperature perturbation, growth regulators, and cluster number on hydroponic tomato fruit maturation, yield, and quality. He received his MS in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign under the mentorship of Dr. Mary Ann Lila and investigated the pharmacokinetics of radiolabeled isoflavones in rats and their implications for bone health. Jon continued his graduate training at the University of Illinois with Dr. Lee Beverly, studying the pathophysiology of impaired glucose counterregulation in type 1 diabetes. He is currently working with collaborators in the Center for Nutrition, Learning, and Memory on multiple research projects and developing the clownfish as a model organism for understanding the dynamic nature of the brain.

Graduate Students

Martina Mustroph


Joined Lab: September 2009
Degree: B.S. Psychology & Neuroscience
Research Awards: SFN Travel Award UIUC 2013
Grants: Beckman Graduate Fellowship (2012); NRSA from NIH (2013)
Bio: I am an MD/PhD student in the neuroscience program. Joining the Rhodes lab was a natural continuation of my interests in drug addiction and exercise-induced hippocampal plasticity. Currently, I am interested in elucidating the mechanisms by which exercise can facilitate extinction of conditioned place preference for cocaine. My long-term goal is to be a physician-scientist conducting basic neuroscience research in the area of drug addiction.

Petra Majdak



Joined Lab: Summer 2011
Degrees: B.A. Biochemistry, M.S. Biomedical Sciences
Research  Grants/Awards: SFN Travel Award UIUC 2013
Bio: I am a Neuroscience MD/PhD student with a long standing interest in studying the neurobiology of addiction. My previous research projects in pharmacology and neuroscience focused on adolescent psychostimulant abuse, and my Master’s project investigated the effects of a genetic polymorphism on heroin and morphine addiction in a transgenic mouse model. Currently, I am interested in investigating the effects of amphetamine administration on neurogenesis and cognition in various mouse models.

Kristy Du


Joined Lab: August 2013
Degrees: B.S. Biological Sciences, M.S. Nutritional Sciences
Bio: Kristy Du is currently a PhD student in the Division of Nutritional Sciences with an interest in how diet may affect cognitive and feeding behavior. She received a B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of California Irvine. Kristy completed her M.S. in the Division of Nutritional Sciences with Dr. Lee Beverly where she used a rodent model to study how breakfast dietary protein sources affect satiety and cognitive performance. 

Ross DeAngelis



Joined Lab: Fall 2013
Degree: B.S. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Bio: Broadly, Ross is interested in how social experiences and group dynamics shape the brain and behavior. Many fundamental behaviors such as aggression, reproduction, and parental care are ubiquitously exhibited across all vertebrate taxa; and it is thought the neurological mechanisms, which facilitate these decisions, are highly conserved. Specifically in the Rhodes lab, we use the developing anemonefish model, A. ocellaris, to study these behavioral patterns. Anemonefish are capable of complete morphological sex change, a remarkable adaptation in response to their unique life history characteristics. Sex change is an extreme example of how social experiences influence morphology and physiology. This tractable and dramatic transformation allows us to explore many aspects of the underlying pathways involved.  Previous research at the University of Texas examined the neuroendocrine mechanisms engendering social decisions within cichlid fishes.

Research Coordinator

Tushar Bhattacharya

Tushar Bhattacharya


Joined Lab: May 2009
Degree: B.S. Molecular and Cell Biology and Psychology

Laboratory Technicians

Daniel Miller


Joined Lab: Fall 2007
Degree: B.S. Molecular and Cell Biology and Psychology
Research Awards: James Scholar Research Award (2009 and 2010); UIUC Undergraduate Reserach Symposium Award (2009 and 2010); SFN FUN Travel (2010), Janet Tritsch Memorial Award (2011), Donald O. Hebb Award (2011); Procter and Gamble (2011)

Jennifer Merritt


Joined Lab: Summer 2012 
Degree: Psychology; Minor: Integrative Biology
Research Award: SFN FUN Travel (2013), Best Undergraduate Poster Presentation at UIUC Undergraduate Research Symposium (2013), UIUC Office of Undergraduate Research Travel Award (2013); Undergraduate Certificate of Research Award (2014)

Paula Bucko 


Joined Lab: Fall 2011
Degree: IPS (Neuroscience)
Research Awards: James E. Spoor Scholarship (2013), James Scholar Travel Award (Spring 2013), James Scholar Research Award (Summer 2013), UIUC Office of Undergraduate Research Travel Award (Fall 2013), James Scholar Research Award (Fall 2013)

Undergraduate Students

Adam Cobert    



Joined Lab: Spring 2012
Major: Neuroscience

Christopher Krebs


Joined Lab: Fall 2012
Major: Psychology

Heinrich Pinardo


Joined Lab: Fall 2012
Major: Psychology

Brent Panozzo


Joined Lab: Spring 2013
Major: Molecular and Cell Biology and Psychology

Victoria (Tory) Cross


Joined Lab: Spring 2013
Major: Neuroscience
Research Award: Erik Haferkamp Memorial Fund (2014)

Paul Kozak


Joined Lab: Spring 2013
Major: Molecular and Cell Biology and Economics

Andrew Sheriff


Joined Lab: Fall 2013
Major: Psychology; Minor: Molecular and Cell Biology

Madison Barker


Joined Lab: Fall 2013
Major: Molecular and Cell Biology
Research Awards: Campus Honor Program Summer Research Grant (2014)

Elizabeth Grogan


Joined Lab: Fall 2013
Major: Molecular and Cell Biology and Psychology

Ivy Hernandez


Joined Lab: Fall 2013
Major: Psychology; Minor: Molecular and Cell Biology

Kevin Jorgensen


Joined Lab: Fall 2013
Major: Molecular and Cell Biology

Stephen Tse


Joined Lab: Fall 2013
Major: Molecular and Cell Biology and Psychology

Alice Foltyn


Joined Lab: Spring 2014
Major: Molecular and Cell Biology and Psychology

Joseph Gogola


Joined Lab: Spring 2014
Major: Psychology and Integrative Biology

Summer Students

Gabrielle Hofman


From: College of Veterinary Medicine at University of Illinois

David Anderson


From: Urbana High School



Past Lab Members