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. Rodriguez-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.

Email:; Twitter: @JoseRodRoma

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 (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.


Ayden Ring

Undergraduate Student. Ayden Ring received her associate's degree at Alamance Community College and is currently majoring in Neuroscience with a minor in psychology at UNC Chapel Hill. This is her first lab position and she is excited to learn and develop her neuroscience laboratory skills as a member of the Rodriguez-Romaguera Lab. She is interested in the techniques used to image and manipulate the brain, specifically optogenetics. She is also very passionate about brain biochemistry and how it impacts behaviors.


Samir Patel

Undergraduate Student. Samir Patel is majoring 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.


Penelope Alberdi

Undergraduate Student. Penelope Alberdi is majoring in Psychology and Asian Studies with a Korean concentration at UNC Chapel Hill. She is interested in exploring the mechanisms behind traumatic or anxiety-inducing events and their effect on cognitive functions in the brain. She is also eager to learn more about fear and avoidance behaviors in response to certain stimuli and how to employ techniques like calcium imaging and optogenetics.


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

(Undergrad Research Assistant in the lab in 2021)

If interested in joining us, please see the Join section for more details.

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