Kristen Pleil

Principal Investigator

Kristen began her position as an Assistant Professor in the Pharmacology Department at WCM in June 2016. She received her PhD in 2010 from Duke University, where she studied estrogen-mediated neural plasticity during learning and memory. She then completed her postdoc in the laboratory of Thomas Kash at the UNC School of Medicine, where she characterized neuropeptide signaling mechanisms of binge alcohol drinking and investigated the effects of chronic exposure to stress and alcohol on limbic circuits.      Kristen Pleil CV

follow Kristen on Twitter       connect on LinkedIn

Lia Zallar

PhD Student (Pharmacology)

Lia joined the lab in fall 2019. She graduated from Reed College with a degree in Neuroscience, and her undergraduate research focused on ghrelin signaling in appetitive reward and alcohol use. Lia did a post-baccalaureate fellowship at the National Institutes of Health, where she conducted translational research collaborations in Dr. Lorenzo Leggio’s laboratory at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and Dr. George Koob’s laboratory at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. She is interested in aromatase activity in estrogen modulation of circuits linked to alcohol use and neuropsychiatric disorders.

Peter Hamor

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Irena Pigulevskiy

PhD student (Pharmacology)

Irena graduated with a degree in Pharmacology from Stony Brook University, where her undergraduate research focused on oligodendrocyte development and plasticity. She was then a laboratory technician for two years at Columbia University Medical Center studying the maturation of striatal neurons before starting graduate school. Irena joined the Pleil lab in 2022, where she focuses on characterizing the mechanisms by which estrogen dynamically regulates the function of neuropeptidergic neurons in the BNST through signaling at the membrane.

Dezhi Liu

Research Technician

Dezhi graduated from Boston University with honors in Psychology and Neuroscience. His undergraduate study focused on understanding Sprague Dawley rats’ variations in the modulation of paired pulse inhibition by dopaminergic drugs. Since joining the Pleil lab in 2021, he has been involved in several projects including the examination of sex differences in ventral hippocampal circuits during opioid-context learning and memory, as well as the hormone-sensitive activity of CRF neurons in the BNST during alcohol drinking and avoidance behavior in females. Dezhi is currently preparing to apply for MD/PhD programs.

Jacqueline Welday

PhD Student (Neuroscience)

Jacqueline graduated from the University of Michigan with an honors degree in Neuroscience in 2019 where she worked in the lab of Dr. Henry Paulson. She then worked as a post-baccalaureate fellow at the National Institutes of Health with Dr. Andres Buonanno studying the regulation of dopamine dynamics by the Neuregulin/ErbB4 signaling pathway, particularly in neuropsychiatric disorders. She joined the Pleil Lab in 2023 and currently investigates estrogen modulation of neural circuits controlling the HPA axis response to stress.

Scottie Nelson

Research Technician