Although I have always had a strong interest in science, my focus on social behavior grew out of an educational setting. Starting at a young age, I volunteered in schools for students with learning and developmental differences. The students had a wide variety of attentional and learning challenges, but I saw a clear pattern: despite other special needs, those kids who could interact socially with other students and adults had a particular advantage. Social skills are highly valued and valuable in human societies, and I began to wonder about the origins of these social differences. Why can some individuals navigate the social landscape better than others? The importance of social behavior and social interactions is not unique to humans, and this question continues to guide my research today.

My first research experience (2006) was as an undergraduate intern at James Cook University (Townsville, Australia) during a study abroad semester, and it immediately sparked my interest in a research career. At Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, NY), my home undergraduate institution, I pursued my developing interest in biological research with Dr. Erica Crespi (2007-2008). Vassar’s Undergraduate Research Summer Institute supported my research during summer 2007 at Vassar and summer 2008 at the Mountain Lake Biological Station (University of Virginia field station, Pembroke, VA). After teaching marine science for two seasons at the Newfound Harbor Marine Institute (Big Pine Key, FL), I completed my Ph.D. with Dr. Matthew Grober at Georgia State University (2009-2014). Incidentally, it was Grober Lab research that served as the basis for my first research project at James Cook University with then-doctoral student Dr. Ashley Frisch! My doctoral field research was conducted at the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies (University of Southern California field station, Catalina Island, CA). For research project details, please see my Research page.

I am now a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Hans Hofmann’s laboratory in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas at Austin. It is my goal to pursue an academic faculty position where I can build an independent research program that centers my commitment to teaching and STEM public engagement.