Kash Lab Members
Thomas Kash, Ph.D
Tom received his BS in chemistry from SUNY ESF at Syracuse, then following graduation, worked briefly in the Medical Department at Brookhaven National Labs. He then moved to Manhattan for graduate school (Weill Medical College at Cornell University) and earned his PhD in Neuroscience working on GABA-A receptor structure/function in Neil Harrison’s lab. At this point, Tom felt like he spent too much time up north, so moved down to the Winder Lab at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. While a post-doc, Tom’s work focused on examining the impact of alcohol and neuropeptide signaling on synaptic function in the amygdala. In 2009, Tom moved to UNC to start his own lab. Tom lives in the rural buffer between Chapel Hill and Durham with his wife, 1 dog, more goats than one would need, 2 llamas and 7 chickens.
Kristen came to the Kash Lab as a postdoc in the summer of 2010 and was promoted to research associate in the spring of 2015. Her academic career began as an undergraduate at Emory University, where she worked in a neurology lab at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. In graduate school at Duke University, Kristen combined molecular and immunohistochemical techniques with behavioral assays to study the roles of estradiol in the organization, activation, and plasticity of neural circuits underlying spatial learning and memory. In the Kash Lab, Kristen’s research combines chemogenetic and optogenetic approaches with ex vivo slice electrophysiology and behavioral assays to examine how neuropeptide signaling modulates the cellular and synaptic function of genetically-defined neuron populations within discrete limbic circuits to regulate binge alcohol drinking and affective behaviors. She is particularly interested in how this signaling is disrupted in individuals with neuropsychiatric disorders such as alcoholism and anxiety and how modulation by sex and stress hormones contributes to sexual dimorphisms in the prevalence and behavioral expression of these diseases. Kristen lives in downtown Durham with her husband, Carl, and their toothless cat, Magnus.
Lara started her post-doc in the Kash lab in August 2015. After growing up in The Woodlands, Texas, Lara did both her undergraduate and graduate work at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts investigating rodent models of excessive alcohol consumption and withdrawal. Her dissertation researched mice that escalated their alcohol drinking after social defeat stress. She used behavioral pharmacology and in vivo microdialysis to study how corticotropin-releasing factor receptors in midbrain areas like the ventral tegmental area and dorsal raphe affect monoaminergic transmission to forebrain regions in the drinking mice. She came to the Kash lab to expand her scientific toolkit, to learn slice electrophysiology, molecular biology, and optogenetics in stress-reactive corticolimbic areas involved with escalated drinking. Lara is also an avid sailor, and an aficionado of red wine and tapas.
Andrew joined the Kash Lab in the spring of 2014. Andrew received his PhD from Vanderbilt University where he worked with Randy Blakely and others to reveal novel genes that regulate dopamine signaling and locomotory behaviors using genomic approaches in the nematode Caenhorhabditis elegans. In the Kash lab, Andrew is investigating opiod contributions to binge eating and is applying circuit level manipulations like DREADDs, optogenetics, and in vivo Ca2+ imaging to construct valid models of binge eating disorder (BED). Additionally, he is applying novel viral strategies to probe gene expression changes within genetically and anatomically defined cell types in response to behavioral and metabolic perturbations to reveal novel genes that contribute to maladaptive circuit alterations following binge eating. He lives in Carrboro with his wife (Abby) and pets (Tonks, Zeda, and Duncan). When he’s not in lab, Andrew is usually found brewing beer. His favorites are Bavarian Lagers. Prost!
Catherine joined the Kash lab as a postdoc in January 2011. Her main goal is to understand how ethanol-induced adaptations in serotonin signaling in the extended amgydala contribute to anxiety using a combination of slice electrophysiology, molecular biology and behavioral pharmacology. She also has a background in Biomedical Engineering and obtained her bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University before deciding to pursue a career in Neuroscience. Originally from Florida, Catherine received her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Florida in December 2010, where she studied the role of organic cation transporters in stress-induced psychopathology. Catherine plans to eventually run her own lab to study the neurobiological underpinnings of depression. Catherine now lives in Carrboro and enjoys kayaking, hiking the trails of Carrboro, and has even developed a taste for southern cuisine. Fun facts: Catherine once contemplated a career as a fighter pilot, but decided that playing with brains was much more fun.
Jessica joined the Kash lab in January of 2015 after completing her PhD in neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati in Dr. Jim Herman’s lab. Jessica’s dissertation focused on the role of prefrontal glucocorticoid signaling in acute and chronic stress regulation at the synaptic, neuroendocrine, and behavioral level. In the Kash Lab, Jessica is studying circuit-level effects of binge drinking using slice electrophysiology, ontogenetics, and DREADD technology. Jessica lives in Durham with her husband Brian and two dachshunds, Frankie and Spock. In her spare time, Jessica makes hand-poured candles in upcycled containers and participates in local art and craft shows.
Chris joined the Kash Lab as a graduate student in May of 2012. He graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2009 and then worked as a lab technician at the University of Connecticut Health Center with Dr. Richard Mains and Dr. Betty Eipper where he worked on projects assessing anxiety and drug sensitization phenotypes in a line of transgenic knockout mice. In the Kash Lab, Chris is studying how discrete subpopulations of cells within the extended amygdala contribute to anxiety and fear behaviors. His work combines electrophysiology with optogenetic and chemogenetic manipulations of genetically defined cells to probe how they fit within a circuit both anatomically and behaviorally.
RESEARCH TECHNICIANS/SUPPORT STAFF
Jeff joined the Kash Lab as a research technician in February of 2015. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2013 where he majored in psychology and public policy and minored in biology. As an undergraduate, he conducted research in the laboratory of CJ Malanga, MD, PhD where he investigated the biological basis of motivated behavior in mouse models of Fragile X syndrome and substance abuse disorders using intracranial self-stimulation. Jeff continued his work in the Malanga Lab as a lab manager after graduating and before joining the Kash Lab. He is broadly interested in the mechanisms underlying neuropsychiatric disorders and the translation of basic research tools used to study them (e.g. DREADDs) into clinical application.
Michelle joined the Kash Lab in July 2014. She is originally from Iowa and graduated from Grinnell College in 2014 where she majored in psychology with a concentration in neuroscience. Among other tasks, Michelle is responsible for training new members of the lab, ordering and taking inventory of lab supplies, assisting with experiments, and managing the lab’s website/Twitter. Michelle is considering pursuing a career in neuroscience research but is also interested in studying health behavior and issues surrounding mental health and health disparities.
Jonathan Sugam (Postdoctoral fellow) - Senior scientist, Merck
Emily Lowery-Gionta (Postdoctoral fellow) - Postdoctoral fellow, Koob Lab, National Institute of Drug Abuse
Alexis Kendra (Research technician/Lab manager) - Graduate student, Master of Biotechnology Program at Northwestern University
Chia Li (Graduate student) - Postdoctoral fellow, National Institutes of Health
Alberto Lopez (Research technician/Lab manager) - Graduate student, University of California Irvine
Nora McCall (Research technician/Lab manager) - Graduate student, University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Ana Jijon (Research technician)