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SadE SpenceR - assistant professor

Hometown: Grand Prairie, TX

Education: I received my undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa (Roll Tide!) graduating Summa Cum Laude. My thesis research in the lab of Dr. Colleen McClung at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas focused on circadian rhythms and affective disorders with a focus on understanding how the transcription factor CLOCK was involved in the regulation of dopamine transmission. During my postdoc in the lab of Dr. Peter Kalivas at the Medical University of South Carolina I worked to develop innovative animal models to study neuroplasticity and behavior across various stages of addiction and relapse.

Hobbies: When I'm not running a lab, I enjoy running and cooking.


lexi willard - Technician

Hometown: Green Bay, WI

Education: I received my Bachelor's Degree in Neuroscience and Biomedical Science with a minor in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin, River Falls.

Research Interests: I have a wide variety of research interests within the realm of neuroscience ranging from neurodegenerative diseases, neuropsychpharmacology, and social neuroscience. In neuropsychpharmacology, I am most interested in better understanding relapse occurrences and relapse alleviation through pharmacological modulation. I’m also interested in how the use of multiple drugs concurrently affects neural transmission, neurochemistry, and behavior.

Career goals: Ideally, I would like to obtain a PhD in Neuroscience and study Creutzfeldt-Jakob’s Disease with an emphasis on possible pharmacological prion aggregation intervention.

Hobbies: Outside of lab I like to attend and watch various sporting events, horseback riding, skiing, traveling, fishing, and hiking.


Amy chan

- technician

Hometown: Flint, MI

Education: I received my undergraduate degree in Biology with an emphasis in Neurobiology and minor in Chemistry, graduating Cum Laude from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Research Interests: I completed a senior honors thesis with Dr. Lucy Vulchanova in the department of neuroscience at the University of Minnesota, studying neuroimmune mechanisms of chronic pain after spinal cord injury. Pain, neuroimmunology, addiction, and neuropharmacology are my primary research interests and I ultimately plan on attending a graduate program in neuroscience to further explore these interests.

Hobbies: Outside of the lab, I enjoy spending time with my hedgehog, Belle, cooking, and traveling.

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Zia matti - Graduate student

Hometown: Various places within the US, but most recently North Carolina.

Education: I received a Bachelor's of Science in Biochemistry with a minor in Women's Studies from St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota. I am currently working on my Master's in Pharmacology here at the University of Minnesota.

Research Interests: I am interested in drug discovery and the mechanisms behind those drugs, specifically related to mental illness. As my past experience has dealt with the more chemical side of creating novel drugs, I am excited to learn about the biological and behavioral parts of the drug discovery process.

Hobbies: When I am not in lab or studying for classes, I enjoy running, cuddling with my cat, zoning out to Netflix or Hulu, and traveling.


Rotating Graduate Students


Sarah Mulloy - graduate Student

Hometown: Nashville, TN

Education: I graduated from Wake Forest University in 2018 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Latin. I am currently a graduate student in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience (GPN) at the University of Minnesota.

Research Interests: My undergraduate research was in an invertebrate developmental neuroscience lab studying experience-based plasticity in the honey bee mushroom body brain regions. The experience I gained from this lab allowed me to discover my love for studying the neural circuitry and cellular mechanisms of behavior. My current research interests are very broad, but I aim to continue studying behavior both at the organismal and cellular level. Research in the Spencer Lab as a part of the Medical Discovery Team on Addiction appealed to me because models of addiction pose very interesting behavioral questions that can be analyzed with a wide variety of approaches.

Career goals: I hope to graduate from the GPN and continue a career in academic research, ultimately wanting to run my own lab one day!

Hobbies: When I am not studying or doing research, I spend my time painting and drawing, trying to keep my bonsai tree and fish Hades alive, and playing any type of board or video game.


Ashley Anderson - graduate Student

Hometown: Cedar Rapids, IA

Education: I received my undergraduate degree in Neuroscience with a minor in Chemistry from Wartburg College in Waverly, IA. I am currently working on my Ph.D. in Pharmacology at the University of Minnesota.

Research Interests: My previous research experiences have included x-ray crystallography for antibiotic targets, how traumatic brain injury alters actin dynamics, and how novel protein interactions with postsynaptic density proteins change dendritic spine morphology. This broad range of experiences has made it difficult for me to narrow down my interests, but currently my research interests include the neuropharmacology of behavior, addiction, and toxicology, as well as the progression of neurodegeneration.

Hobbies: When I’m not in the lab or studying, I enjoy kickboxing, playing drumset, playing video games, and hanging out with my cat, Pixie.


Former Members


Patrick Haley - Undergraduate Volunteer

Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, FL

Education: I am currently a senior at Macalester College studying Biology.

Research Interests: Previously I have worked in a clinical research facility that studied the efficacy of biologics in treating autoimmune disease. Pursuing my interests in immunology, I then worked in an Immunology lab at the University of Minnesota that aimed to identify specific markers of regulatory T cell progenitors, which are of potential interest in treating autoimmune disease. Recently, I have taken an interest in neuroscience and have begun work in the Spencer Lab to gain more experience via our research on addiction.

Hobbies: Other than studying and spending time in the lab, I enjoy playing football, working out, playing video games, and watching movies with my housemates.