Below is a list of UCSD PhD anthropogeny specialization graduates:

Melanie Beasley's picture

Melanie Beasley is a graduate student in anthropology at UC San Diego and successfully completed the program requirements for the Anthropogeny Specialization in 2014. Melanie is interested in paleodiet and paleoecolgical reconstruction of hominins, stable isotope analysis research, bioarchaeology and California archaeology. Melanie received a BS in anthropology from UC-Davis in 2003 and went on to receive her MA in anthropology from CSU-Chico, a nationally top-rated forensic anthropology program. At CSU-Chico, Melanie discovered her interest in the use of stable isotope analysis to reconstruct paleodiet and paleoecology. She has worked extensively on human skeletal material from Central California to reconstruct prehistoric diet using stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes to address... more

Matthew Boisvert's picture

How do neurons form and maintain connections, and how does the variable activity of these connections lead to thought, action, and, ultimately, consciousness? As a Neuroscience PhD student in Nicola Allen’s lab at the Salk Institute, I hope to slowly chisel away at these questions through investigating the role of astrocytes in the formation and maintenance of synapses. Astrocytes, long overlooked as star-shaped brain glue, have recently been shown to be so much more than that, engulfing synapses and deciding whether or not a particular neuronal connection will form and thrive. I study how astrocytes do this, analyzing and modulating astrocyte gene expression in the mouse during periods of increased or decreased synapse formation. I am also interested in differences in astrocytes... more

Emily Verla Bovino's picture

Emily Verla Bovino is a doctoral candidate in the Visual Arts department at UC San Diego.  Emily is an artist, writer, urbanist, and art historian whose projects often circulate under the anagrams Mobile Irony Valve, Nimble Love Ivory and Inviolably Remove. She earned her undergraduate degree from Barnard College, Columbia University in urban studies, with a concentration in political science and anthropology in 2002; she received a master's degree in Art History, Theory and Criticism from UCSD in 2013 with a thesis on the work of French humorist Alphonse Allais. She has published writing with several international art publications. She has taught university seminars on the use of writing by contemporary artists (Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia (IUAV)) and a survey... more

Alison Caldwell's picture

Alison Caldwell is a Ph.D student in neuroscience at UC San Diego and a member of Dr. Nicola Allen’s lab at the Salk Institute. Alison works to answer questions about the role of astrocytes in synaptogenesis:  How do astrocytes time their release of synaptogenic factors? What are the identities of these factors? How are they secreted by the astrocytes? What are the neuronal receptors responding to them? How do genetic mutations affect astrocyte function and how do those changes manifest physiologically and behaviorally? In many neurodevelopmental disorders associated with alterations in synapse formation, such as Fragile X Syndrome, Rett’s Syndrome, and Down Syndrome, changes in astrocyte function seem to play a large role in the pathology of the disease. Identifying and profiling... more

Ben Cipollini's picture

I would like to understand how the brain computes.  We have an extremely good idea how synapses compute, some basic ideas about how long-distance projections interact, and few general ideas about intra-columnar computation, inter-columnar interactions, and the coordination of these types of information processing.

I address these issues through studies of hemispheric asymmetry and hemispheric communication.  The corpus callosum, the major connective tract between left and right cerebral hemispheres, is the best studied long-distance projection system in the brain.  It generally connects homotopically (an area in one hemishere tends to connect to its homologue in the other hemisphere).  Therefore, studying asymmetries between the hemispheres--and their interactions across the... more

Leela Davies's picture

 I work in the laboratory of Ajit Varki on the sialic acids Neu5Ac and Neu5Gc. In particular, I am interested in the suppression of Neu5Gc in the vertebrate brain, an evolutionarily conserved phenomenon that suggests Neu5Gc presence may be toxic. Humans have lost the ability to synthesize Neu5Gc since our last common ancestors with chimpanzees. If Neu5Gc is toxic to the vertebrate brain, its outright loss in humans may have implications for human brain development.

Kyle Fischer's picture

Kyle Fischer is a graduate student in neuroscience at UC San Diego and a member of Dr. Ed Callaway’s lab at the Salk Institute.  Kyle is developing viral tracing tools for unraveling the “neural knot” that characterizes our nervous system, which is made up of trillions of neurons that fall into distinct morphological, molecular, and physiological classes. These cells form synaptic connections with specific partners both within their local neighborhood and across the brain. This complex network forms the circuitry that defines the flow of information underlying sensation and behavior. Over millennia several species of viruses, such as rabies, have developed neurotropic characteristics that can be co-opted to map neural networks. For instance, by deleting or replacing a small region of... more

Whitney Friedman's picture

Whitney Friedman is a Ph.D student in cognitive science at UC San Diego.  Whitney’s work recruits methods from cognitive science and ethology to study the process of cognition in non-humans as it emerges through interaction. Her research is aimed to contribute to the growing understanding of the relationship between ecological, social, and cognitive complexity as well to analyses of evolutionary convergence and cognitive diversity.  Her dissertation research focuses on social interactions among male bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, Western Australia, as they negotiate a nested structure of alliances critical for reproductive success. These relationships have complex dynamics that may be more similar to those among humans than to any extant primate species - making them an important... more

Sara Goico's picture

Sara Goico is a graduate student in Anthropology at UC San Diego and is interested in how research on homesigners can provide information on the origins and evolution of language. Homesigners are deaf individuals who have grown up isolated from other deaf individuals and sign languages. In order to communicate, they develop idiosyncratic gesture systems known as homesigns. How different are these homesigns across individuals?  How complex can homesigns become when a language model is not present? How do homesigns vary across contexts and interlocutors? Homesigns provide one of a limited set of opportunities to study the birth of a communication system in human population. Sara’s current research takes place in Iquitos, Peru, to investigate a handful of homesigners in inclusion... more

Kiri Hagerman's picture

Kiri Hagerman is a Ph.D student in anthropology at UC San Diego. Kiri has been a student of archaeology for over eight years and has participated in archaeological projects in Syria, Belize, Mexico, and the United States. Her undergraduate degree from Princeton University was in Art and Archaeology with a focus on Amarna period art in Ancient Egypt. In 2009, she came to UC San Diego to pursue a doctorate in Anthropological Archaeology with a focus on Mesoamerica. For her M.A. thesis, she excavated an elite household at the site of Lubaantun in Belize. Her dissertation will be a regional comparative study of ceramic figurines from the Teotihuacan state in the Basin of Mexico. Her interests include household archaeology, ritual and political economy, the origins of art and its uses in... more

Kari Hanson's picture

Raised on a balanced diet of nature documentaries and science fiction in the 'Decade of the Brain,' I began my career studying animal behavior and foraging ecology as an undergrad at the University of Alaska Anchorage under Dr. Gwen Lupfer-Johnson. After a harrowing field season chasing monkeys in Costa Rica and a tour of duty in search of Miocene ape fossils in Hungary, I set my sights on graduate work in comparative neuroscience. I am working with Dr. Katerina Semendeferi in the deparment of Anthropology, utilizing all non-invasive, non-destructive means to comparatively study postmortem brain tissue from all extant ape taxa, including humans, in the hopes of elucidating the means by which our species became so wonderfully strange. Specifically, my work focuses on the chemical... more

Caroline Horton's picture

Caroline Horton is a graduate student in anthropology at UC San Diego. Caroline completed her BA with double majors in Integrative Biology and Anthropology at UC Berkeley.  While at Berkeley, she worked on a range of projects involving the skeletal remains of early hominins and ancient anatomically modern humans with Dr. Gary Richards at the Human Evolution Research Center. Her graduate education is in comparative neuroanatomy at UC San Diego, where she studies under Dr. Katerina Semendeferi in the Laboratory of Human Comparative Neuroanatomy in the Anthropology department. Her research interests lie in the evolution of the social brain and in elucidating the neural correlates for the socio-emotional behavior and cognitive processing involved in social relationships that define human... more

Stephen Johnston's picture

Stephen Johnston is a graduate student in neuroscience at UC San Diego.  He is interested in knowing how we differentiate similar events from each other while at other times make disparate events seem familiar. In one case, your brain may tell you, despite obvious differences, you've experienced something before, as in deja vu. In another case, despite the repetitivity of an event, like daily parking your car, your brain can very efficiently segregate the event as a new memory. This recognition, segregation, and memory formation happens in a brain structure known as the hippocampus.  Stephen works in the lab of Fred Gage, investigating the cellular and systems level activity of neurons in the hippocampus, which give rise to these functions. As a physicist-cum-neuroscientist (ie a... more

Jeremy Karnowski's picture

My interest is in multi-agent coordination and communication. My data mining efforts focus on creating a massive dataset concerning the link between bottlenose dolphin vocalizations, behavior, and social configuration. My modeling efforts focus on the problem of how decentralized agents should coordinate through the use of their bodies and sounds to achieve certain joint goals. 

Bottlenose Dolphin Signature Whistles: Variation and Context
Understanding dolphin communication involves studying the relationships between dolphin vocal and behavioral repertoires and the social contexts in which vocalizations and other behaviors are produced. This project focuses on extracting signature whistles from an audio corpus and clustering those whistles into categories... more

Landon Klein's picture

Landon Klein is a graduate student in neuroscience in the lab of Dr. Mark Geyer at UC San Diego.  His research explores the obscure topic of hallucinogens, which have been used for thousands of years in ritualistic/religious, therapeutic, and recreational contexts to produce profound alterations in consciousness. Nonetheless, we understand remarkably little about how these substances produce their characteristic perceptual effects.  He is investigating the mechanism of hallucinogen action from multiple angles. Using various animal models, Klein probes the neurochemical events and neural circuitry involved in specific hallucinogen-mediated behaviors, while simultaneously characterizing the relationship between the chemical structure of a compound and its potential to produce... more

Emily Little's picture

Emily Little is a graduate student in psychology at UC San Diego studying cultural variation in parent-infant interaction and the related implications for early social and cognitive development. Advanced social cognition and communication skills are often highlighted as human-specific, universal acquisitions, and we emphasize the ability of human infants to display a sense of self awareness, be sensitive to the emotions of others, share attention and engage in cooperative play, and make inferences about novel situations and internal states of others. Although the general importance of early social input is recognized, very little is known about how cultural variation in such input affects the trajectory of infant development. In remote cultures, early patterns of communication with... more

Hope Morgan's picture

Hope Morgan is a graduate student in linguistics at UC San Diego and in 2013 successfully completed the program requirements of the Anthropogeny Specialization. Her research focuses on the sub-lexical structure (i.e., phonology) of sign languages. Similar to spoken languages that use the tongue and vocal tract to create words, sign languages use configurations of the hands and face in structured, systematic, and language-specific ways. Hope is interested in the composition of signs and how articulations are mapped to meanings—both in highly iconic signs (e.g., “eat”) and in fully abstract, arbitrary signs (e.g., “experience,” “international”).  Currently, Hope is working on an analysis of Kenyan Sign Language (KSL), which is approximately 50 years old. KSL is a language indigenous to... more

Corinna Most's picture

Corinna Most is a graduate student in anthropology at UC San Diego.  Corinna’s focus is on the origins, evolution, and development of social cognition, and her approach is broadly interdisciplinary. She applies theories and methods not only from within the field of Anthropology, but also from others such as developmental psychology, cognitive sciences, and education studies. The goal of her research is to identify factors that affect the development of social skills in infant baboons, animals that are closely related to us and live in large and socially complex groups. Moreover, baboons are often used as socio-ecological models for the early hominins that first shifted to more open environments. The results of my research will thus have implications for comparative developmental... more

Hector Reynoso's picture

Sequoyah Reynoso is a Ph.D student in neuroscience at UC San Diego.  Sequoyah’s research interest include sexual attraction and selection and he is currently studying cell-surface molecules on sperm cells in the lab of Pascal Gagneux. Whereas many think that winning a mate signals the end in the game of sexual selection, there are actually many more biological obstacles for a pair of organisms to hurdle in order for successful procreation. For instance, compatibility between male and female gametes is vital for successful fertilization and survival of the embryo. He wonders whether such hidden biological (in)compatibilities somehow manifest themselves via surface attraction between two individuals, and what neural mechanisms exist to mediate the selection of a suitable mate.

Andrew Schork's picture

Andrew Schork is a graduate student in cognitive science at UC San Diego. Andrew is interested in the origins of cognition across many scales, be they evolutionary or developmental.  As an undergraduate, he studied anthropology, focusing on human evolution and evolutionary psychology, and applied mathematics.  During this time, Andrew developed a deep philosophical interest in understanding where thoughts come from, focusing on how evolution shaped humans to support our very unique cognitive abilities.  Now, as a graduate student in cognitive science, his research is focused on mapping natural genetic variation in humans to variability if brain structure, cognitive abilities and risk for psychiatric conditions.  His goals are to frame this research in a developmental context,... more

Heidi Sharipov's picture

 I am a neuroscientist interested in the developing visual system. I am currently studying the response and recovery after neural injury in the optic tectum (a region analogous to the mammalian superior colliculus) of Xenopus laevis tadpoles. By studying the effects of altered gene expression of a highly conserved gene such as Candidate Plasticity Gene 15 (CPG15), I can begin to understand the differences between neural injury response in the adult system versus the developing system. Since CPG15 is a highly conserved gene, these results can be more broadly applied to other species, including primates. I am particularly interested in the developing nervous system because there are many similiarities that exist only during development between species, and the developing system is much... more

Robert Thomas's picture

I was born in San Diego, California. I attended Santa Clara University and majored in Chemistry. In 2007, I entered the MD/PhD program at UCSD. I am currently working towards my PhD in Dr. Åsa Gustafsson’s laboratory. We are interested in mitochondrial integrity and autophagy in the setting of heart disease. Mitochondrial research lends itself readily to questions about human origins, prompting me to join the anthropogeny specialization track in 2012. I am interested in mitochondrial polymorphisms that affect human disease susceptibility. Evolutionary medicine and comparative biology have the potential to explain the incidence and pathophysiology of illnesses facing modern humans. Ultimately, understanding our origins may highlight new therapeutic opportunities.

Camille Toarmino's picture

Camille is a graduate student in psychology who studies animal behavior in the laboratory of Dr. Cory Miller at UC San Diego. Her research focuses on the social rules that govern nonhuman primate communication systems, in particular how perturbations to those rules effect ongoing vocal signaling. Another aspect of her research involves examining communication in a naturalistic network of individuals, and determining what prompts an individual to vocalize in these settings.

Rachel Zarndt's picture

Rachel Zarndt is a graduate student in biomedical sciences at UC San Diego and in 2014 successfully completed the program requirements of the Anthropogeny Specialization. Rachel’s research aims to determine novel genetic pathways underlying physiologic adaptations to hypoxia through an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach. Using a unique population of hypoxia-adapted fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), she investigates key genetic pathways underlying physiologic response of the heart during low oxygen exposure. This research is unraveling completely novel molecular interactions occurring during either acute or chronic hypoxia, and altered after multi-generational adaptation. Further, Rachel aims to determine the relevance of these findings to human high altitude... more