Of the cognitive, physiological and behavioral impairments associated with prenatal alcohol exposure documented in the clinical and pre-clinical literature, lifelong social behavior deficits serve as a unifying feature across the entire continuum of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Social behavior deficits emerge early in development and become more pronounced prior to and during adolescence, when the transition to a more complex social environment may exacerbate existing social behavior impairments. My research focuses on investigating social behavior and its underlying neurobiology during the key developmental period of adolescence. Specifically, I’m interested in understanding the role of oxytocin and vasopressin – two proteins produced in the hypothalamus – in mediating social behavior development, especially in the context of prenatal alcohol exposure.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
The climate of Vancouver is really great - even the rainy winters. Coming from Oklahoma, where the summer temperatures can reach 40 degrees, I fell in love with the perfectly pleasant Vancouver summers.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
The opportunity to work at UBC, with it's international reputation for research excellence, as well as to work with my mentor, Dr. Joanne Weinberg, an internationally renowned expert in behavioural neuroendocrinology and research into early development, made choosing UBC for my graduate studies an easy choice.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
I was excited by the highly interdisciplinary nature of the neuroscience program, where I have the opportunity to interact with neuroscientists in a broad range of fields working in both basic and clinical research.
What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?
Finding a job - academic positions are few and getting one is very competitive.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
I love taking my English bulldog, Lucy, to the Spanish Banks Beach dog park for lots of play with other dogs and swimming in the ocean. I also love finding a nice patio somewhere and drinking some of the delicious craft beer brewed locally in BC.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
Reach out to more senior graduate students to help mentor you through the process. You don't know what you don't know, and having a graduate student mentor to help guide you through some of the minutiae of graduate school can make the process much easier, enjoyable, and rewarding.