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Abby R

- Research Program Mentor

PhD candidate at Columbia University


Motor control, Learning, Decision Making, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Data Science


Hi students! My name is Abby and I am a neuroscientist at Princeton University. I received my PhD in 2019 from Columbia University where I studied motor control and am now studying learning and decision making in virtual reality. My research focuses on how large populations of neurons interact with each other within and across brain regions to produce complex behavior. Outside of lab, I love being in nature and love learning about astronomy, plants, and bugs. On the weekends, you can find me on a long hike with my pup, Theo, or coding up a fun machine learning project!

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.

8 legs are better than 2!

The octopus is one of my favorite animals- not just because they're crazy smart but because they're amazing movers! 70% of neurons in the octopus are located in their arms, which control their movement, the texture of their skin, the color of their camouflage, and each individual sucker. On top of that, they can detect color and taste through their skin! In this project, you'll learn about the motor and chromatophore systems of these amazing creatures along with their unique behaviors for camouflage. Along the way, you'll learn the core principles of how neurons communicate and produce behavior.

Why does sugar taste sweet?

Have you ever wondered why sugar tastes good and lemons taste sour? Spoiler alert: neuroscientists aren't entirely sure. In this project, we'll dive into the controversy and dissect the two leading theories. You'll learn the basics of how the taste and smell systems work and get some deeper insight into how the scientific process unfolds.

The whirlpool in your BRAIN!

Systems neuroscience has seen a major transformation in the last decade as scientists are beginning to understand that the relationship between neural activity and behavior is less straightforward than we once thought. In fact, it may be more akin to the relationship between a whirlpool and a piece of paper you drop in. In this project, you'll learn about this 'dynamical systems' theory and analyze real neural data to see it for yourself!

Coding skills

Python, Matlab

Teaching experience

- 2021: Teaching Assistant for Covid-19 Pandemic course at Columbia University (Undergraduate students) - 2020: Instructor for Neuroscience Junior Tutorial, Princeton University (Undergraduate students) - 2020: Instructor for Graduate Student Journal Club, Princeton University (Graduate students) - 2013: Workshop leader, Splash Program, (Middle School) - 2013: Instructor, Brain Bee Program, (High School) - 2013: Teaching Assistant and Lecturer, Introduction to Behavioral Neuroscience, Brandeis University (Undergraduate students) - 2012 & 2013: Teaching Assistant and Lecturer, Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience, Brandeis University (Undergraduate students)


Work experience

Princeton University (2019 - Current)
Postdoctoral Fellow


Brandeis University
BA Bachelor of Arts (2013)
Columbia University
MA Master of Arts candidate
Columbia University
PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate

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