Graduate Training Opportunities

Women's Mental Health Research Program

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WMHRP Graduate Training Opportunities

Dr. Pauline Maki accepts Doctoral students through the Behavioral Neuroscience Program in the Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the multi-disciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience. For more information on applying to the Graduate Studies program in the Department of Psychology click here. Information on applying to the Graduate Program in Neuroscience is available here.

Cat Conway BS

  • Graduate Research Assistant
Cat Conway is currently a master's student in the Graduate Program for Neuroscience at UIC, a graduate research assistant for the Women’s Mental Health Research Program, and the clinical research coordinator for the MoMent: Moms & Mental Health research study. Cat graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a dual BS in Biology and Molecular/Cellular Neuroscience with a minor in Psychology. She has strong interests in women's mental and physical health during pregnancy and the postpartum.

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Jacob van Doorn MS

  • Graduate Research Assistant
  • Department of Psychiatry, UIC
Jay went to the University of Kentucky for his B.S. in Biology in 2016, and received his M.S. in Bioengineering from the University of Illinois Chicago in 2019, studying the use of EEG to analyze temporal dynamics of meditators. He now studies the brain on a macro-scale, in particular how the brain ages utilizing the tools at the cutting edge of neuroimaging. He has three major research interests: 1) development of new analytical tools for studying the brain on a macro-scale, especially the dynamics of brain function through time, 2) how hormonal cycles and changes to hormones affect the brain's network dynamics through a lifetime, and 3) sex-specific risk factors for dementias, such as Alzheimer's disease, as determined by brain network degradation.

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Kendall Lownds BS

  • Graduate Research Assistant, Women's Mental Health Research Program

Kendall is a master's student in the Coordinated Program for Nutrition and Dietetics and a research assistant for the MoMent: Moms & Mental Health Research Study. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelors of Science in Biology and a minor in Business.

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Alexandra Paget-Blanc BS

  • Ph.D. Candidate
  • Graduate Research Assistant
Alex graduated from Penn State University in 2016 with a BS in Biology and minor in Psychology. She worked at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, NY for two years, studying motor neurorehabilitation in chronic stroke patients. Alex stared her doctoral studies in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience in 2019. She is a member of Dr. Maki's lab in the Women's Mental Health Research Program. She is interested in cognitive and brain health during the menopausal transition and factors contributing to cognitive decline in midlife women. She is also interested in sleep health during the menopausal transition.

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Caitlin Murray BA

  • Research Volunteer, Women’s Mental Healrh Research Program

Caitlin graduated from Marquette University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

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Katja Maria Schmalenberger PhD

  • Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Clarify the Endocrinology of Acute Risk (CLEAR) – Eisenlohr-Moul Lab
  • Department of Psychiatry
Katja is a postdoctoral fellow within the UIC CLEAR Lab under the mentorship of Dr. Tory Eisenlohr-Moul. She is a recipient of the Walter Benjamin Research Fellowship from the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG). Her research centers on 1) the role of the menstrual cycle (and ovarian hormone fluctuations) in psychiatric symptoms and suicidality, 2) executive functioning and cardiac vagal activity as underlying mechanisms of cyclical symptoms, and 3) the reliable and valid assessment of PMS and PMDD.

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Rachel Schroeder MA

  • Graduate Student
  • Behavioral Neuroscience Program
Rachel begins her doctoral studies in the Behavioral Neuroscience Program in the Department of Psychology in the fall of 2018. In 2016, Rachel received her B.S. from Iowa State University in Psychology with minors in Biology and Women’s Studies. After graduating, she worked as a research assistant in the Department of Neurology at Georgetown University and science intern for the Society for Women’s Health Research where she studied the use of MR techniques and role of sex differences in the brain. Rachel is interested in understanding the neurological, cognitive, and genetic changes occurring throughout the menopausal transition. In pursuit of this research she was awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

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Hafsah Tauseef MS

  • Graduate Research Assistant
Hafsah Tauseef is a clinical psychology doctoral student with an interest in incorporating the menstrual cycle as a salient time-varying factor for psychopathology. Specifically, she is interested in building idiographic models that can be used for just-in-time-adaptive intervention models. Hafsah has a particular interest in suicide, risky behaviors (i.e., substance use), and internalizing disorders (i.e., depression and anxiety). Her independent line of research expands to three broad themes (1) the development of research methods and applied statistics for studying menses, suicide, and associated psychopathology, (2) The impact of reproductive transitions and ovarian hormones on depression and suicide, and (3) understanding the exacerbates and treatments unique to female psychopathology. Finally, Hafsah is excited to collaborate with individuals who are studying affective disorders during the peripubertal transition, pregnancy, and perimenopause. 

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Elizabeth Wenzel MA

  • PhD Student, Behavioral Neuroscience Program
  • Graduate Student Affiliate, CLEAR Lab and Women's Mental Health Research Program
Elizabeth began her doctoral studies in the Behavioral Neuroscience Program in the Department of Psychology in the fall of 2018. She is a member of Dr. Pauline Maki's laboratory within the Women's Mental Health Research Program at UIC and thus collaborates with the CLEAR Lab and Dr. Eisenlohr-Moul. She is interested in studying phenotypes of mood and anxiety disorders in women in the context of behavior and biomarkers such as neuroactive steroids, inflammatory markers, etc. Her interests particularly include periods of hormonal fluctuation (i.e. pregnancy). Elizabeth received her B.A. in Psychology and Neuroscience from Carthage College in 2018.

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Shelby Wood BA

  • PhD Student, Brain and Cognitive Sciences Program
  • Graduate Student Affiliate, Women’s Mental Health Research Program
Shelby Wood is a doctoral student in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Program in the Department of Psychology. She began her graduate studies in the fall of 2022 and is a member of Dr. Pauline Maki’s laboratory within the Women’s Mental Health Research Program. Shelby is interested in studying the impact of sleep on women’s mental health (i.e., mood, affect) across the menopause transition and perinatal period using wearable devices and ecological momentary assessment. Shelby received her B.A. in Neuroscience from Colgate University in 2021.

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Katrina Wugalter BS

  • Graduate Student, Behavioral Neuroscience Program
  • Graduate Student Affiliate, Women’s Mental Health Research Program
Katrina Wugalter began her doctoral studies in the Behavioral Neuroscience Program in the Department of Psychology in 2022. In 2021, she received her Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and Psychology with a minor in Women and Gender Studies from the University of Toronto in Canada. Katrina is interested in understanding patterns of brain functioning that support cognition across the menopause transition, as well as genetic and physiological factors that impact cognitive and brain health at midlife.

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Lauren Drogos PhD

Lauren finished her doctorate in Psychology in 2014. She began working as a Graduate Research Assistant in the Women’s Mental Health Research Program in 2005 and completed her Master’s Thesis in 2009 on “Endogenous Oxytocin across the Menstrual Cycle and with Oral Contraceptive Use: Effects on Verbal Memory and Mood (Advisor: Dr. Pauline Maki)” Lauren continued her training at UIC with the WMHRP and did her dissertation on “Autonomic Nervous System Activity and Menopausal Symptoms (Advisor: Dr. Pauline Maki).”

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Jessica Fogel PhD

Jessica finished her doctorate in Behavioral Neuroscience in the spring of 2019. Jessica received her B.S. in Psychology from the University of Michigan in 2008. She joined the lab in Fall of 2015 to continue her research on substance abuse, with a particular focus on sex differences. Her Masters research at the University of Kentucky focused on the effects of repeated cue exposure on drug craving. Working with our collaborators at Rush, Jessica led the implementation of a study looking at the effects of menstrual cycle fluctuations on HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Impairment in cocaine users. The purpose of this study was to better understand the contribution of estradiol and progesterone on cognition. She was also involved in Dr. Pauline Maki’s research examining the relationship between vasomotor symptoms (VMS, or hot flashes) and verbal memory in midlife women with breast cancer and completed her dissertation on this subject: “Vasomotor Symptoms and Cognition Among Women Receiving Estrogen Therapy for Breast Cancer.” Jessica is now working with The Center for Addiction Studies and Research in Stamford, Connecticut.

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Marvi Memon

  • Research Assistant
Marvi graduated from Ross University School of Medicine. She completed her undergraduate education at the University of Missouri – Kansas City with dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Chemistry and Psychology. She is interested in comprehensive and preventative healthcare for underserved populations with a special emphasis on mental health. Her goal is to continue her medical training in residency next year.

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Vanessa Meyer PhD

Vanessa joined the lab in 2008 and received a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award training grant to study the effects of drug use on prefrontal cortex function in HIV+ women. Vanessa finished her doctorate in Neuroscience in 2013 and successfully defended her dissertation: “Effects of Cocaine Use on Verbal Memory and Prefrontal Cortex Function in Women Infected with HIV (Advisor: Dr. Pauline Maki).” Vanessa did postdoctoral research in New Orleans at the University of New Orleans and Tulane University focused on understanding development of autonomic and neuroendocrine stress response systems and how these systems related to subjective stress response in adulthood. Dr. Meyer’s publications.

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Erin Sundermann PhD

  • Research Assistant
Erin came to UIC in 2006 after completing her Master’s in Biopsychology at San Diego State University. She received a Mount Sinai Summer Institute for NeuroAIDS Disparities (MSINAD) Scholar Grant, as well as a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awardtraining grant in 2008 to study genetic predictors of prefrontal function in HIV+ women.

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Leah Rubin PhD, MPH

  • Assistant Professor of Neurology
  • Johns Hopkins University
Dr. Leah Rubin and Dr. Pauline Maki have collaborated on research related to mental and cognitive health of women across the lifespan since Dr. Rubin began her training at UIC in 2003. Now at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Rubin continues to work with the Women’s Mental Health Research Program in moving forward her program of research to elucidate the neuroendocrine mechanisms contributing to mental and cognitive health in women. She focuses on the effect of sex steroid hormones, glucocorticoids, vasopressin, and oxytocin on cognition and mental health in healthy women, women living with HIV, and female psychiatric patients. A central long-term goal is to improve the cognitive health of HIV-infected women and women with psychiatric illnesses through an interdisciplinary research career that incorporates epidemiological, mechanistic, and intervention science.

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