Below is a list of UCSD PhD students enrolled in the anthropogeny specialization.

Vanessa Bateman's picture

Vanessa Bateman is a doctoral candidate in Art History, Theory, and Criticism at UC San Diego. Currently, her dissertation research focuses on visual representations of hunting in the early twentieth century; connecting hunting practices to technological developments in visual media that were concurrent with the conservationist movement in the United States (1890-1920).

Although Vanessa focuses on the modern, she situates the subjects of hunting and animals through their place in the development of visual language and larger conceptions of the human/animal divide. Broader questions in her research considered the artistic representations of human evolution and the many past species for which we now have fossils and how these representations are by definition between the animal... 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

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

Sean Coffinger's picture

Sean is a PhD student in the Gentner Lab at UCSD. His research interests include temporal pattern processing, auditory recognition/processing, animal communication and bioacoustics. Working primarily with songbirds and bottlenose dolphins, he regularly utilizes comparative techniques, behavioral paradigms, and electrophysiological recordings to perform auditory based investigations. His current PhD projects use both species of vocal learners to study temporal pattern processing and the role of the temporal fine structure in vocal recognition. As a Psychology graduate student, he also has general interest in the evolution of language, the development of communicative systems, and human/non-human auditory processing.

Emily Davis's picture

Emily Davis is a graduate student in linguistics. She is interested in the evolution of human language, especially concerning the phenomenon of recursion-- the process by which one sentence can be nested within another. Recursion is a characteristic of human language, but it may be neither specifically linguistic nor specifically human. For example, there is evidence for recursion in non-linguistic domains of cognition, such as navigation, calculation, task planning, and tool use. And there is evidence that some intelligent animals use recursion in the process of making tools-- such as the highly intelligent New Caledonian Crow. Emily is curious about how these cognitive abilities relate to each other (in both humans and animals) and may have contributed to the evolution of language.... more

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

Giacomo Gaggio's picture

Born and raised in Italy, I've always been fascinated by how humans modified and adapted the surrounding environment in the past. I got my BA and MA in Archaeology from the University of Padua, in Italy, where I focused on settlement patterns change during the Late Roman Period. After attending a semester abroad at the University of Michigan I switched my focus to environmental archaeology, paleoethnobotany and the study of the Tiwanaku civilization (AD 500-1000). I started my PhD in Anthropology at UCSD in 2012. Since then, my research explores the ordinary and extraordinary roles that plants played in the evolution of human diet, agriculture and rituals. My dissertation looks at food production, consumption and exchange during the Tiwanaku (AD 500-1000) and Tumilaca (AD 950-1250)... more

Anupam Garg's picture

Anupam Garg is an MD/PhD student currently in graduate school in Professor Ed Callaway's laboratory at the Salk Institute. Within both medicine and science, Anupam's interests are closely related to understanding the function and mechanisms of the visual system. More specifically, he is a neuroscience graduate student and looks at the role and mechanism of inhibition of various cell types and how they affect neuronal circuit connectivity and visual information processing. Clinically, he is interested in neurology and ophthalmology, aiming to be a clinician scientist studying the mechanism for diseases of the visual system.

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

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

Megan Kirchgessner's picture

Each of our 86 billion neurons makes thousands of connections with other neurons, allowing them to come together to create something immensely greater than the sum of its parts - the human brain. As a Neurosciences PhD student in the Callaway Lab at the Salk Institute, I am fascinated by how different neurons in the cortex - the outer sheath of the brain - connect up with each other in a remarkably organized way, forming "circuits" that underlie perception and complex behaviors. In particular, I study neural circuits in the part of the cortex that is crucial for vision. By manipulating and measuring neuronal activity in the mouse visual cortex using techniques such as optogenetics and electrophysiology, I am able to investigate how specific types of neurons and their connections... 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

Ian Parker's picture

Ian Parker is a graduate student in the department of anthropology at UC San Diego. Ian is interested in social and environmental interactions, including processes of articulation and emergence. His doctoral research focuses on social dynamics of marine conservation in the Raja Ampat archipelago of West Papua, Indonesia – a seascape of diverse species and peoples. In this marine littoral region, migration and trade have long shaped a mosaic of Austronesian and Melanesian communities. Interaction across boundaries of difference has long been important. Evidence suggests that settlement in northwestern New Guinea began as early as 40,000 years ago with migrations from Africa to northern Sahul. Ian is investigating how marine management practices among Papuan Beteo and Ma'ya people, NGOs... more

Sascha Pohflepp's picture

Sascha Pohflepp is a German-born artist, researcher and a PhD student in the Department of Visual Arts at UC San Diego. His work has been known to probe the role of technology in our efforts to understand and influence our environment. His interest extends across both historical aspects and visions of the future and his practice often involves collaboration with other artists and researchers, creating work on subjects ranging from synthetic biology to geo-engineering and space exploration. Sascha holds a diploma from The Berlin University of the Arts (UDK) and an MA in Design Interactions from the Royal College of Art (RCA) London, where he has also been leading the annual project on synthetic biology from 2011 to 2013. Grants and residencies include an... more

Catie Profaci's picture

Most neuroscientists’ work revolves around neurons—their activity, the molecules that underlie their function, the networks that they form, and the behaviors that they mediate. Other neuroscientists champion the underestimated importance of glial cells and their role in the development and maintenance of neural function. With the spotlight on neurons and glia, most neuroscientists completely overlook the central nervous system's vast and intricate network of blood vessels. These blood vessels are different from those in the rest of the body; the endothelial cells that comprise the blood vessels in the brain and spinal cord have a specific set of properties that enable them to deliver glucose, oxygen, and other essentials while keeping extraneous molecules from entering the pristine... more

Tim Sainburg's picture

Tim is a PhD student in the Gentner Lab at UCSD. His research interests touch on the evolution, computation, and development of communicative systems, both in humans and non-humans. Of particular interest is how these systems differ, both from each other and from other cognitive mechanisms. His PhD is currently focused on sequence learning in songbird species, and developing techniques for communication analysis that draw on approaches in computational neuroscience, machine learning, operant conditioning, electrophysiology, and field/behavioral analysis. At UCSD he has worked primarily with songbirds, but has also previously studied Cotton-Top Tamarins and Chimpanzee communication, and hopes to continue working with primates, and other vocal learners, such as dolphins, whales, bats,... more

Laura Sancho's picture

 I study the connections between neurons in the mouse brain in Dr. Brenda Bloodgood’s lab. In particular, I’m interested in a specific type of neuron in the visual cortex that provides strong inhibition and modulates the activity of entire neural circuits. I am interested in learning how the synapses (or the sites where neurons talk to each other) onto these cells function and change during development. I use in vitro electrophysiology, calcium imaging, and neurotransmitter uncaging to examine the functional properties of these synapses. This is an important question because this cell type that I’m looking at plays a huge role in regulating the visual critical period. Critical periods are times during development when the environment can reshape and mold neural circuits. Improper... more

Arturs Semenuks's picture

Language is a cognitive ability that both belongs uniquely to humans and is crucial for being a human. Because of that, if we want to understand the human phenomenon fully, we necessary need to figure out how language came to be, what underlying mechanisms make it possible and how it affects other aspects of cognition. As a graduate student in the Cognitive Science department at UCSD, my goal is to bring us a bit closer to the answers to these questions. My current project is investigating whether cross-linguistic differences in grammars of languages translate into differences between how speakers of these languages think about the world around them. For example, does the necessity to constantly mark a noun as feminine (or masculine) in your language make you think of its referent as... more

Nina Semushina's picture

I am a graduate student in Linguistics at UCSD, and work with professor Rachel Mayberry in the Laboratory of Multimodal Language Development. My specialization is Sign Language Linguistics and I currently work on numeral incorporation in Russian Sign Language which, being a moderately productive and highly constrained, but possibly universal sign language phenomenon, can give unique insights about morpho-phonology of sign languages and therefore must be studied crosslinguistically. It also a great material to study the acquisition of numeral morphology.
I am interested in the relationship between language and number and am passionate with the following questions. How linguistic is number and counting itself? Does the age of language acquisition influence the mathematical ability... more

Michael Vaill's picture

Michael is a graduate student in the lab of Ajit Varki. He completed his undergraduate work in biochemistry at the University of Georgia. At UGA he studied archaeal CRISPR-Cas defense systems in the lab of Mike Terns, and O-GlcNAc glycosylation in the lab of Lance Well. He then went on to study leptin signaling in Ruth Harris’s lab at the Medical College of Georgia before arriving at UC San Diego to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences with a specialization in anthropogeny. His current research aims to uncover the role of sialoglycoconjugates in the evolution of the human brain, combining his interests in glycosylation, neural development, and human evolution.

Linnea Wilder's picture

Linnea Wilder is a PhD student in anthropology at UC San Diego working under Dr. Katerina Semendeferi in the Laboratory of Human Comparative Neuroanatomy. Her research interests lie in the evolution and development of the brain, and in defining neuroanatomical features and developmental patterns that are either unique to humans or shared with our closest living relatives, the great apes. Her current project focuses on the development of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is critically involved in social behavior and decision making, in humans (typically developing and Williams Syndrome) and non-human apes. The goal of this research is to elucidate the specializations in neural circuitry that underlie human social behavior and decision making, with a focus on how these develop in... more

Haleh Yazdi's picture

Haleh Yazdi is a Ph.D student in psychology at UC San Diego who explores how individuals across cultures develop prosocial behaviors such as sharing, altruism and cooperation.  Her current research investigates this with two main questions: (1) Do children across cultures begin life as innately prosocial or are these developmentally acquired? And (2) How are prosocial tendencies affected by social and environmental factors such as socioeconomic status and cultural obligations?  From an evolutionary standpoint, positive self-presentation is advantageous for social inclusion. Humans and primates selectively interact with individuals who have proven to be trustworthy and cooperative social partners, while excluding selfish individuals and cheaters. There is developmental evidence that... more