Cornell University
Department of Psychology
Behavioral & Evolutionary Neuroscience
Download my CV here



Dr. Angela R. Freeman – Postdoctoral Fellow:

2017 – Present
 PhD (2016), Kent State University

MSc (2012), University of Manitoba

BA (2008) University of Waterloo

Research Interests: social communication, signaler-receiver interactions, vasopressin and oxytocin, social recognition, behavioral ecology, neuroethology

Specific Interests:

My research in the Ophir lab focuses on pouched rat olfaction. Specifically, I am looking into how these rodents search out particular scents in a ‘noisy’ environment, how they discriminate between odors, and how they might ‘hone in’ on particularly salient odors. This work expands on my previous experience investigating signaler-receiver interactions, as I have examined acoustic signals in Indian peafowl and the influence of vasopressin on vocalizations and behavior in Richardson’s ground squirrels. As I was originally trained as an ecologist, I tend to ask questions related to how different behaviors (and the neural mechanisms underlying these behaviors) influence interactions between individuals and groups in the wild.

Dr. Aubrey M. Kelly – Postdoctoral Fellow:

2014 – 2018
NIH National Research Service Award (NRSA) Fellow
Aubrey Kelly 3
PhD (2014), Indiana University

BA (2007) University of California, San Diego

Research Interests: Sociality, vasopressin, oxytocin, social behavior network, development, epigenetics, endocrinology

Specific Interests: My research focuses on understanding the neural mechanisms that modulate social behavior, with a particular emphasis on variation in neural structure and function that produce individual, sex, and species differences in behavior. My dissertation work investigated the role of specific nonapeptide (i.e., oxytocin, OT, and vasopressin, VP) cell groups in social behavior, aggression, and anxiety in estrildid finches ranging in social structure. My postdoctoral research builds upon this body of work and asks similar questions in a social rodent species, the prairie vole. Additionally, I am investigating how the various VP-OT cell groups and receptor areas function as a network to modulate social behavior, and am also examining the development and plasticity of nonapeptide systems. I utilize an integrative approach and combine conceptual and analytical tools from animal behavior, neuroendocrinology, comparative neuroanatomy, evolutionary ecology, and epigenetics.

Dr. Wen-Yi Wu – Postdoctoral Associate:

2016 – Present
Wen-YiPhD (2016), National Taiwan University

MMS (2008) Tzu Chi University

BN (2005) National Taipei College of Nursing

Research Interests: neural basis of prosocial behavior, oxytocin and vasopressin

Specific Interests: I investigate the neural mechanism of empathy-like prosocial behaviors of the rats. I am also interested in investigating the neurophysiological substrates of social and spatial representation in the rodent brain.

Caitlyn Finton – PhD Student:

2016 – Present
Caitlyn FintonBS (2016), Indiana University

Research Interests: Interactions between environment, neurobiology, and behavior; prosocial and affiliative behaviors; behavioral ecology; differences in male and female behavior.

Specific Interests: I am interested in how environmental factors influence neurobiology and behavior, particularly prosocial and affiliative behaviors. These environmental factors could be specifically related to the physical environment, such as the density of food resources, or they could be the social environment of the individual. In addition, I am interested in investigating female behavior as it relates to affiliative behaviors, socio-spatial memory, and reproductive decisions. My lab approach is a mixture of field and laboratory studies.

Lisa Hiura – PhD Student:

2015 – Present
NSF Graduate Research Fellow
2015-7 Lisa HiuraBA (2014), Reed College
Research Interests: Social reinforcement, neurobiology of selective affiliation and prosocial behaviors

Specific Interests: I am interested in investigating how environmental variables and neurochemical mechanisms interact to give rise to prosocial behavior. In particular, I am interested in seeing how variation in social experiences during development may impact adult phenotypes of mate choice and bonding behaviors, and how these experiences may be influenced by or impart changes upon oxytocin and vasopressin expression. I aim to accomplish this task by developing behavioral paradigms that better assess the ecologically relevant variables that may contribute to differences in observed social behaviors among prairie voles.

George Prounis – PhD Student:

2011 – 2018
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship – two time Honorable Mention
George ScienceBS (2011), SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry
Research Interests: Developmental neuroethology, oxytocin and vasopressin, cognitive ecology
Specific Interests: I explore the influences of early life socio-spatial environments on behavioral and neural development in the prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster). Specifically, I investigate the relationships between early experience, development and plasticity of nonapeptide (oxytocin and vasopressin) receptor systems, and socio-behavioral outcomes.

Marissa Rice – PhD Student:

2011 – Present
NSF Graduate Research Fellow
NSF Oklahoma Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (OK-LSAMP) Bridge to the Doctorate Fellow
marissaBS (2011), Virginia Tech
Email: mr868@cornell.eduResearch Interests: Cognitive ecology, mating tactics, spatial memory, behavioral ecology, neural basis of learning & memory.

Specific Interests: I investigate the ecological impacts and neural mechanisms of spatial ability. I’m interested in how spatial ability (i.e., navigation, learning, and memory) affects individual mating tactics, and how neural mechanisms shape spatial ability and inform socio-spatial decision making.

My approach integrates lab and field techniques to answer proximate and ultimate questions concerning the relationship between spatial memory, neuromodulators, mating behavior, and reproductive success. In the lab I can manipulate and assess parameters such as social recognition, spatial memory, affiliation, etc. And in the field I’m able to observe mating tactics and decisions under semi-natural conditions and quantify reproductive success.

 Other Undergrads:

Undergrads Date Joined
Ebony Cadet 2015-2017 (Graduated)
Sarah Wright 2016-2017


Lab Alumni:

David Zheng
PhD Student: 2009 – 2013
NSF Graduate Research Fellow
Current Position: PhD Student, University of Texas
PhD Student: 2009 – 2015
NSF Graduate Research Fellow
NSF Oklahoma Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (OK-LSAMP) Bridge to the Doctorate Fellow
Current Position: MD (University of Kansas), Pediatrics
Postdoc Associate: 2012-2016
TED Fellow
Current Position: Assistant Professor, Southern Illinois University