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Courtney R

- Research Program Mentor

PhD at University of Virginia


Neuroscience, Microbiome, Gut-Brain Axis, Neurodegeneration, Neuroimmunology, Autism, Parkinson's Disease, Neurotransmitters, Probiotics, Prebiotics, Addiction, Multiple Sclerosis


I earned my PhD from the University of Virginia in neuroimmunology. My current work focuses on stress-induced depression. In particular, how stress changes your gut microbiome to influence mood and depressive behaviors. My project encompasses many areas of biology including gut physiology, the microbiome, pro and prebioptics, neuroscience, immunology, and the gut-brain axis. As a lab manager and undergraduate at the University of Michigan, I also worked in labs that focused on virology and the biopsychology of attentional control and addiction. I am able to work with students interested in a wide variety of areas from Autism or Parkinson's Disease to irritable bowel syndrome and probiotics. Outside of the lab I love to bake, knit, and play switch. I enjoy trying new recipes that challenge my abilities and learning new techniques. I find it to be a lot like doing science- just tastier! I love to travel when it isn't a pandemic and spending time with my siblings and 3yo nephew. I look forward to meeting aspiring scientists and sharing my love and passion for the field.

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.

How does your microbiome impact your mood?

Does what we eat influence our brain? What types of food have positive or negative impacts on our brain health? What small changes can we make to diets to shape our gut microbiome?

Can stress change how your microbiome works?

Stress is known to cause depression and other mood disorders, but can it also change how your gut responds to its environment! Can mindfulness help shape your gut microbes? Will diet changes reduce the impact of stress? How can your external environment shape your internal chemistry?

How can we cure depression and anxiety?

What are the current depression treatments and why don't they cure everyone? What other factors influence your brain besides neurons? How can we change our body chemistry in ways that have less side effects and work for more people?

What causes Autism?

Autism is a neurological disorder that impacts millions of people worldwide. There are many behavioral therapy options, but few biological options to treat autism. Is there a way to prevent the changes in the brain that lead to autism? What mechanisms are at play? Does your immune system or microbiome play a role? (spoiler alert: YES!)

Coding skills

Basic R skills

Teaching experience

In addition to mentoring 5+ polygence students, I have experience teaching students at various levels. As an undergraduate, I mentored athletic students in the physical sciences at the University of Michigan. In my time as a biopsychology lab manager and neuroscience PhD student, I have mentored undergraduates and helped guide their thesis work. Additionally, I participate in a local neuroscience education program where we attend local schools to give lectures about age appropriate neuroscience topics (K-12).


Work experience

University of Michigan (2015 - 2017)
Lab Manager
Duke (2023 - Current)
Post-Doctoral Fellow


University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
BS Bachelor of Science (2015)
University of Virginia
PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Neuroscience with a focus on Neuroimmunology

Completed Projects

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