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Megan A

- Research Program Mentor

PhD candidate at University of California, San Diego


Neural circuits, animal behavior, neuroscience of addiction, psychiatry and alternative medicine, sex differences in the brain & behavior


My academic passion lies somewhere between neuroscience and psychology. While both are fascinating fields, neuroscience can get into the nitty-gritty, cellular-molecular aspect of the brain but sometimes loses the view of the bigger picture. Psychology, on the other hand, can give a name to so many phenomena that make up the human experience, but doesn't always offer a clear biological pathway to explain our behavior. After earning bachelor's degrees in Neuroscience and Psychology, I spent two years working in a laboratory at the NIH. Now, I'm a PhD student at UC San Diego studying mouse behavior and neural circuitry. My non-sciencey hobbies include cooking, crafting, and hanging out at the beach in San Diego!

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Lost in translation: research models of the future

The scientific field has faced many challenges over the years to find models (such as monkeys, mice, worms, or computers) for different diseases and research questions about human health. Some questions can be answered with models that don't even require a living organism, while others need live human or non-human primate participation in order to translate findings into medical treatments. This project would explore the pros and cons of different models, as well as an outlook for what the future of scientific research will look like.

The Neurological Basis of "Long COVID"

We know that some people have long-term COVID symptoms (brain fog, lethargy, loss of smell/taste), but we don't know why. This project could focus on finding what researchers already know about the way COVID affects the body and brain, and develop some educated hypotheses about the pathology of long COVID symptoms.

Teaching Relaxation

In this project, a student could prepare a short workshop on the neuroscience behind relaxation techniques. This would be a great opportunity for a high school class presentation, Girl/Boy Scout troop, etc. We would create a workshop that will explore the basics of neuroscience and psychology, stressors that can affect mental health, and techniques that have been studied to effectively decrease stress. We can also incorporate some activities for your audience, such as practicing and comparing each technique.

Photo journal

Photos of everyday objects or activities can be compiled in a virtual journal. We can explore the processes that occur within your brain as it perceives, comprehends, and emotionally connects with the world around you.

Teaching experience

During my undergraduate research career, I mentored several younger students to teach them how the lab works. After graduation, I worked in a lab for two years and mentored incoming trainees, mostly focusing on adjusting to a new lab and applying for graduate programs. Throughout my first year of graduate school, I have mentored two undergrads in one of the labs I rotated in. These students were having their first experiences in a research lab setting as well as preparing for graduation, so we worked through job applications and graduate school searches together.


Work experience

Virginia Tech (2016 - 2019)
Undergraduate Research Assistant
National Institutes of Health (NIH, NIDA) (2019 - 2021)
Postbac Research Trainee
UC San Diego / Salk Institute (2021 - Current)
Graduate Student Researcher
Stories of Women in Neuroscience (Podcast) (2021 - Current)
Website Coordinator


Virginia Tech
BS Bachelor of Science (2019)
Neuroscience, Psychology
University of California, San Diego
MS Master of Science
University of California, San Diego
PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate

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