Students

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

Jason Adams's picture
Neurosciences

Jason Adams is a Ph.D. student in the UC San Diego Department of Neurosciences and the lab of Dr. Alysson Muotri. Jason is particularly interested in how microscopic neurological systems, such as neuronal structural and functional interconnectivity, manifest as macroscopic phenomena, including memory, cognition, and behavior. In addition, he is interested in neural structure across the lifespan, from development to degeneration.

Julia Adrian's picture
Cognitive Science

I am a third year PhD student in cognitive science. What I love about cognitive science and the anthropogeny specialization is their interdisciplinarity​. I myself went through multiple research fields, starting with studying protein expression of cells following heavy ion irradiation (TU Darmstadt, Germany), brain development of young rats exposed to fluctuating oxygen levels (NTNU, Norway) and now cognitive and brain development of preterm and full-term born children during childhood at UC San Diego. 

I volunteer as a doula at the UCSD hospitals, where I get to support women during childbirth. I am fascinated by how our birth process developed from an evolutionary perspective, and by birth practices in different cultures.

Tanushree Agrawal's picture
Psychology

Tanushree Agrawal is a PhD student in Psychology at UC San Diego. As a member of the Mind and Development Lab, run by Dr. Adena Schachner, she studies social and emotional aspects of music perception. Tanushree is particularly interested in why music is able to evoke incredibly strong emotional responses in listeners, and how such feelings may be prosocial in nature.

Her current research program involves understanding: (1) Moral consequences of music: Why does music motivate prosocial behavior? Does witnessing others’ capacity to experience music lead us to believe that they are higher moral beings with a greater capacity for intelligence or emotion? (2) Cultural evolution of music: How do people detect intentional social transmission, or copying/plagiarism, of melodies? (3)... more

Vanessa Bateman's picture
Visual Arts

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

Elizabeth Clausing's picture
Anthropology

Elizabeth Clausing is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology working in Dr. Amy Non’s Genetic Anthropology Lab. She is particularly interested in how stress can impact the body through epigenetic inheritance via DNA methylation. She is also interested in how early childhood experiences (e.g., low socioeconomic status, childhood adversity) can affect health in adulthood. From an evolutionary perspective, epigenetics provides a way for variation within a species to rapidly increase, providing opportunity for adaptation to new, arising selection pressures. Her current project focuses on how stress is embedded, especially under the current political climate (i.e. proposed anti-immigrant policies) in Latina immigrant mothers and their children, and how this in turn can be... more

Emily Davis's picture
Linguistics

Emily Davis is a graduate student in linguistics who is also in the Gentner Lab. She is interested in the evolutionary basis of human language, especially concerning the phenomenon of recursion-- the process by which one sentence can be nested within another. Recursion is a key 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. 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. She investigates these phenomena through the process of iterated learning (the modification of sequences... more

Anupam Garg's picture
Neurosciences

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.

Javier How's picture
Neurosciences

Javier How is a Ph.D. student in Neurosciences at UC San Diego and in Saket Navlakha’s lab at the Salk Institute. He is currently collaborating with Shrek Chalasani to study how odors are encoded in the nervous system of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. To that end, he is using calcium imaging on half of the worm’s brain in order to describe how the network distinguishes between attractive and aversive odors, and how the representation of an odor changes with learning. He hopes to find that there are general principles at work in the worm, fruit fly, and mouse.

Stephan Kaufhold's picture
Cognitive Science

I am a graduate student in the Department of Cognitive Science at UCSD working in the Comparative Cognition Laboratory of Dr. Federico Rossano. A psychologist by training, I have spent the last years mainly studying the behavior and cognitive abilities of different ape species (gibbons, orangutans, gorillas, humans, bonobos, chimpanzees). My research aims at gaining insights about the ultimate and proximate origins of social cognition in humans and animals through comparative and developmental approaches. More precisely, I am asking questions such as:

  • To what extent do cultures influence the social behavior in primate societies?
  • How much intraspecific variation can be found in different primate species?
  • What are the ultimate and proximate factors that... more
Nicole Theresa King's picture
Visual Arts

Nico King is a researcher, artist, and landscape designer. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in Art History, Theory & Criticism with a concentration in Art Practice at the University of California, San Diego. Her current research focuses on speculative natures, materialism, and landscape as theory of utopia. She examines the ways in which nature and landscape (as Ersatz nature) have been conceptualized through art and design interventions, both historically and in our contemporary moment. Through several case studies, but taking California as its point of departure, her dissertation looks at the way in which the environment is situated on a constantly shifting spectrum between untamed wilderness and mediated fantasy. In the context of the anthropogeny specialization... more

Megan Kirchgessner's picture
Neurosciences

Megan Kirchgessner is a Ph.D. student in Neurosciences at UC San Diego and in the Callaway Lab at the Salk Institute.  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. Megan is 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, she studies 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, she is able to investigate how... more

Catie Profaci's picture
Neurosciences

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
Psychology

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

Arturs Semenuks's picture
Cognitive Science

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
Linguistics

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 Russian Sign Language (RSL) and ASL. One line of my research is related to numeral systems and time expressions and in sign languages around the world. I did research on numeral incorporation (when a calendric term simultaneously combined with numeral) - a typologically frequent phenomenon in sign languages, which, being a moderately productive and highly constrained, 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 and historical change... more

Michael Vaill's picture
Biomedical Sciences

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.

Katie Van Alstyne's picture
Psychology

Katie is a second-year Ph.D student in Experimental Psychology at UC San Diego and a member of Dr. Stephan Anagnostaras’s Molecular Cognition lab. Katie's primary research interests include contextual memory and dementia. Additionally, Katie also studies cognitive performance and neuroplasticity in bottlenose dolphins. She works primarily with non-human animals (mice and dolphins), and her work includes the use of behavioral paradigms and comparative techniques. Katie is also particularly interested in evolutionary neuroscience and cognitive archaeology.

Linnea Wilder's picture
Anthropology

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
Psychology

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

Matthew Zaslansky's picture
Linguistics

Matthew Zaslansky is a Ph.D student in Linguistics at UC San Diego who investigates the (in)stability of redundant subsystems in languages at the individual and population levels. Language exhibits the complex coexistence of a tendency towards efficiency and economy on one hand, and variable amounts of stable redundancy (e.g. synonymy) on the other hand. Matthew’s earlier research has focused on synonymy and morphological variation in American Sign Language (ASL) and Azerbaijani. The question driving this line of inquiry is this: Given that synonyms are rare or simply unknown in animal communication systems, what unique properties of human language allow redundant variants to be maintained across generations? There is some evidence which suggests that redundant grammatical systems... more