Jose Rodríguez-Romaguera, PhD

Principal Investigator. Dr. Jose Rodríguez-Romaguera received his PhD in Psychology (Behavioral Neuroscience) from the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras,  where he worked with Dr. Gregory Quirk studying the neural circuits of fear and avoidance learning. He then completed his postdoctoral training with Dr. Garret Stuber at UNC Chapel Hill where he studied the neural circuits of arousal and motivation. Dr. Rodríguez-Romaguera is currently a principal investigator in the Department of Psychiatry, the Neuroscience Center and the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disorders at UNC Chapel Hill. He also Co-Directs the Carolina Stress Initiative.


Nicolas Pégard, PhD

Key Collaborator. Dr. Nicolas Pégard is the Principal Investigator of the Computational Biophotonics Laboratory in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences in the College of Arts and Science. He also Directs the Neuroscience Technology Development Core of the Carolina Stress Initiative. His group collaborates with the Rodriguez-Romaguera Lab on a daily basis to create next-generation tools for the field of systems neuroscience. Dr. Rodríguez-Romaguera and Dr. Pégard co-advise multiple students and mentor them in both the engineering and application of neuroscience tools to dissect the neural circuits of arousal and motivation. 


Geronimo Velazquez-Hernandez, PhD

Postdoc (Helen Lyng White Fellow). Dr. Velazquez-Hernandez obtained his graduate degree in biomedical sciences at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) under the mentorship of Dr. Francisco Sotres-Bayón. During his graduate work he studied how the lateral habenula is necessary to select between competing memories (safety vs aversive) and in particular how it facilitates behavioral responses to specific stimuli. Currently, Geronimo's interests are in understanding the neural circuits that govern avoidance and approach behaviors by employing calcium imaging and optogenetic strategies in freely moving mice. 


Maria M. Ortiz-Juza, BS

Graduate Student (HHMI Gilliam Fellow, NSF-GRFP Fellow). Maria Magdalena Ortiz graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in Biology with a concentration in Physiology and minor in Chemistry. Following graduation, Maria worked as a post-baccalaureate with Dr. Khaled Moussawi at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. There, she validated and developed a fentanyl vapor self-administration model in mice to study opioid addiction. Currently, Maria is a PhD student in the Neuroscience Curriculum and is advised by Dr. Jose Rodríguez-Romaguera and Dr. Nicolas Pégard. For her graduate training, Maria hopes to dissect the precise circuitry involved in social behavior and motivation to understand dysfunctions that occur in anxiety and addiction.


Vincent R. Curtis, BS

Graduate Student (Royster Fellow). Vincent Curtis graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in biomedical engineering where he cultivated a robust background in electronics and systems neuroscience. Currently, Vincent is a PhD student in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences in the College of Arts and Science and is co-advised by Dr. Nicolas Pégard and Dr. Jose Rodríguez-Romaguera. For his graduate training, Vincent is interested in leveraging custom hardware and advanced computation to probe and manipulate neural circuitry beyond the capabilities of traditional instrumentation.


Noah Miller, BS

Graduate Student (NRSA T32 Fellow). Noah graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a B.S. in Psychology and B.A. in Biology. During his undergraduate studies, Noah worked in the lab of Garret Stuber, studying the neural circuitry driving motivated social behaviors in mice. After graduation, Noah worked as a Research Technician in Ben Philpot's lab, studying the molecular changes associated with the epileptic phenotype of Angelman Syndrome model mice. As a graduate student in the Rodríguez-Romaguera lab, Noah is interested in investigating how the brain functions to encode arousal responses and motivated behaviors at both the single-cell level and across brain circuits using multidisciplinary methodology.


Carla M. Rivera-Pacheco, BS

Post-Baccalaureate Scholar (UNC PREP Fellow). Carla Rivera graduated from the University of Puerto Rico in Humacao with a degree in Microbiology where she cultivated a solid background in developmental biology. Currently, she is part of the PREP program at UNC. In the Rodríguez-Romgauera lab, she is interested in studying arousal circuits and neurodegenerative diseases.


Samir Patel, BS

Research Technician. Samir Patel majored in Biology with minors in Chemistry and Anthropology at UNC-Chapel Hill. As a research assistant, Samir is involved in research through the Carolina Stress Initiative and in collaboration with Dr. Anthony Zannas. Through research he is doing across the Zannas and Rodriguez-Romaguera Labs, he is learning how to monitor changes in hyperarousal and avoidance behavior induced by social stress in humans. He also hopes to learn and understand more about how the brain overcomes maladaptive states of arousal, anxiety, and stress.


Kisha Young

Admin Support. Kisha Young comes to the lab with a strong background in administrative support from Duke University. She provides admin-related aid and support to all members of the Rodríguez-Romaguera Lab. She manages all ordering, travel-related expenses, and accounting for our group. She hopes to expand her expertise to manage administrative support for large groups.


Ellie McTaggart

Undergraduate Student. Ellie is a current senior in the Biomedical Engineering program of the joint BME Department with UNC Chapel Hill and NC State. She is specialized in Rehabilitation Engineering and Medical Imaging with a minor in Neuroscience. Prior to joining our group, Ellie was mentored by Dr. Jason Franz in the Applied Biomechanics Laboratory, where she developed strong technical skillsets. Ellie hopes to apply her acquired skillset in a Neuroscience context and further develop her expertise under the co-advisement of Dr. Nicolas Pégard and Dr. Rodríguez-Romaguera.


Hannah Baker

Undergraduate Student. Hannah is currently majoring in biomedical engineering via the joint BME Department with UNC Chapel Hill and NC State. She has a brief background in biomedical electronics and lab experience with mammalian cell culture. Hannah is interested in studying psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases and disorders. This is her first neuroscience research experience, and she is excited to learn under the guidance of Dr. Rodríguez-Romaguera, Dr. Pégard, and fellow trainees. 


Sophia Hegel

Undergraduate Student. Sophia is currently majoring in Neuroscience with minors in Chemistry and Spanish for the Health Professions. This is her first research experience, and she is eager to learn and explore her research interests as a member of the Rodríguez-Romaguera Lab. Sophia is interested in understanding the neurological processes and circuits underlying psychiatric disorders. She is particularly excited to research the neural circuity involved in social arousal and hopes to contribute to understanding how such circuitry could be involved in disorders like anxiety.


Kayal Udaiyar

Undergraduate Student. Kayal is majoring in Neuroscience and Psychology with a minor in Creative Writing. She is particularly interested in research that involves human subjects and is currently working on a study that examines how healthcare workers react, at the behavioral and molecular levels, to stressful cues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Outside the lab, Kayal loves ultimate frisbee and taking pictures.


Lab Alumni

Rizk A. Alghorazi, BS 

(Research Technician in the lab from 2019-2021)Now a medical student at UNC School of Medicine. 

Randall Ung, MD, PhD

(Post-doc in the lab from 2019-2021)Now a resident at University of Pennsylvania. 

Rubén García-Reyes, BA

(Post-Baccalaureate Scholar in the lab from 2020-2021)Now a graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis. 

Kattia Mata

(Undergraduate Research Assistant in the lab in 2021)Now a Research Assistant with my colleague/collaborator Dr. Rebecca Grzadzinski.

Penelope Alberdi

(Undergraduate Research Assistant in the lab in 2022)

Ayden Ring

(Undergraduate Research Assistant in the lab from 2020-2022)

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