Bimonte-Nelson Lab - Our Team

  Dr. Heather Bimonte-Nelson, Principal Investigator and Laboratory Director  

Heather

My undergraduate degree in Psychology was earned at Richard Stockton College, located near the beach in Pomona, NJ. To follow my interests in brain and behavior, I began my doctoral research under the mentorship of Dr. Victor Denenberg at the University of Connecticut. My doctoral research focused upon sex differences in brain morphology and function, and how ovarian hormones affected the expression of sex differences in an activational and organizational fashion. The idea that gonadal hormones could have such a profound influence on the brain and behavior was intriguing to me, and this area of work became my passion. After earning my Ph.D. in 2000, I started my postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Ann-Charlotte Granholm at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, and several months later I helped move the laboratory to the Medical University of South Carolina. In a series of studies we found that aged male and female rats exhibited poorer working and reference memory relative to young rats, an effect that correlated with cortical neurotrophin levels. Soon after beginning my postdoctoral fellowship I also started investigating gonadal hormone effects on cognition and neurotrophins during aging in the rodent.

Collectively, our initial as well as our current findings demonstrate that estrogen and progesterone have divergent effects on memory and neurobiology in aging females. We also have newer data suggesting that the memory effects of ovarian hormone loss and replacement depend on age. Using the rodent model, we are currently tes ting the cognitive   and neurobiological effects of hormones used by women in the clinic, such as Premarin and MPA. These complex interactive relationships  betwe  en hormones, aging, and memory are a large thrust of our current work here at ASU, which began when the Bimonte-Nelson Memory and Aging Laboratory was   initiated in June of 2005. We are also interested in non-pharmacological approaches to protecting the brain and cognition again  st age-related change. I am thrilled that I received early tenure with exemplar status, and promotion to Associate Professor, here at ASU. When I am not in the laboratory or teaching, I enjoy the beautiful Arizona atmosphere by spending time outdoors with my husband, Matt, and our two young daughters, Hailey and Brooke. I also enjoy painting, music, concerts and writing short stories.


family pic

Dr. Bimonte-Nelson with her husband Matt, and daughters Hailey (10 years old) and Brooke (8 years old), 2013.
 

Dr. Bimonte-Nelson with her graduate students and post-doc, 2013


Bimonte-Nelson Undergraduate Research Assistants, 2013

 

Alicia Quihuis (BS), Laboratory Manager

Born and raised in Chandler, Arizona, I attended ASU and obtained a BS in Biochemistry with Medicinal Concentration. During my time at ASU, I was involved in Analytical Chemistry undergraduate research with Dr. Mark Hayes focusing on capillary electrophoresis and the ability to separate small molecules. After graduating, I worked at a non-profit blood testing facility in the Virology Department. From there I worked as a Research Technician in Dr. Robert Handa's Neuroendocrinology lab at the University of Arizona School of Medicine in Phoenix. During my time at U of A, I assisted on several studies and small projects focusing on age and sex-differences related to stress and hormones, most specifically mediated by androgen and estrogen receptors. I took a short 2 year hiatis from science to open up a coffee and ice cream small business before deciding to come back. It was a fun experience, but now I'm excited to be part of the Bimonte-Nelson lab and working the neuroscience field again. 

Contact: aquihuis@asu.edu

 

 

Ryoko (Sheri) Hiroi (PhD), Assistant Research Professor

I was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan until I was 10 years old when my family moved to the U.S. I lived in Miami and Hawaii, which prepared me well for the intense heat here in Phoenix, where I enjoy hiking (when it's under 100 degrees), practicing judo, playing the flute in a community band, and spending time with my husband (and his collection of wild scorpions), our two daughters and obese cat.  My long-term research goal is to understand why women are more vulnerable to some psychiatric illnesses than men. To this end, a major line of research I pursued over the years is to elucidate the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of ovarian hormones regulating affective behaviors. As a predoctoral fellow in Dr. John Neumaier's lab at the University of Washington, I investigated the role of the brain serotonin system in mediating the anxiolytic effects of ovarian hormones. As a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Kevin Grove's lab at the Oregon Regional Primate Center, I became interested in how early developmental insults may have a long-term, sex-specific impact on the serotonin system and anxiety. I continued this line of research in Dr. Robert Handa's laboratory at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, by examining the long-term programming effects of prenatal glucocorticoid exposure. I also investigated the roles of estrogen receptors in mediating hormone effects. Under Dr. Heather Bimonte-Nelson's mentorship, I am thrilled to gain expertise in the field of cognition and aging. By utilizing a multi-disciplinary approach, I hope to understand the neurobehavioral effects of steroid hormones on behavior throughout the entire lifespan of an organism. 

 Contact: rhiroi@asu.edu

 

 


Sarah Mennenga (MA), Graduate Student

I graduated from Gilbert High School in 2006 and went to ASU as an undergraduate, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy. I began working in the Bimonte-Nelson lab as an undergraduate research assistant during my junior year and I joined the Bimonte-Nelson lab as a graduate student five years ago. My research focuses on the cognitive effects of hormones used in oral contraceptives as well as how menopause history may interact with hormone therapies post-menopause in rodents.

 Contact: Sarah.Mennenga@gmail.com

 

 

 

Stephanie Koebele (BA), Graduate Student

I graduated with concurrent Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and Spanish from Arizona State in 2012. I joined the Memory and Aging laboratory my senior year as an undergraduate research assistant, and spent an additional year working here as a full-time lab manager. I am thrilled to continue my work in the lab as a third year graduate student in the Behavioral Neuroscience PhD program! My research focuses on the impact of gonadal hormone loss on behavioral and brain changes during the menopause transition, as well as understanding the cognitive effects of gonadal hormone exposures across the life span, and developing optimal hormone therapy and oral contraceptive options.

Contact: svkoebel@asu.edu

 

Alesia Prakapenka (BS), Graduate Student

Alesia is a graduate student in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Neuroscience Program at Arizona State University and a National Science Foundation Fellow. Alesia is interested in studying the role of hormones in learning and memory, utilizing surface modified nanoparticles as the delivery platform. In particular, her research aims to more closely examine the brain specific effects of estrogens meanwhile reducing undesired peripheral exposure. This research is in collaboration with Dr. Rachael Sirianni at Barrow Neurological Institute, AZ.  

Contact: aprakapenka@gmail.com

  Shruti Patel, Undergraduate Research Assistant

 I graduated from McClintock High School where I attended the Peggy Payne Academy in May 2013. I started working at Dr. Bimonte-Nelson's lab in October 2012 through the Academy. Working in the lab has helped me gain so much knowledge about the anatomy and functions of the brain. This will help me as I pursue a career in the medical world. I am now a junior at Arizona State University and continue to work in the lab to better understand the changes in cognition due to aging. 

 


  Mallori Poisson, Undergraduate Research Assistant

I graduated from McClintock High School in Tempe in May 2013, where I was involved in National Honor Society, Student Council, Secular Club, and badminton. I was accepted into the Bimonte-Nelson lab as an intern through the Peggy Payne Academy in Fall 2012, and I really enjoy working with and learning from everyone here. I am now a junior at ASU pursuing a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry with a minor in Spanish while continuing to work in the lab.

 

 

Steve Granger, Undergraduate Research Assistant

Originally from Pennsylvania, I graduated from State College Area High School in 2012 and now am a senior at Barrett, the Honors College at ASU. I am pursuing a BS degree in Psychology and plan on going to graduate school and eventually obtaining my PhD in neuroscience. I joined the Bimonte-Nelson lab in September 2013 and am very excited to learn as much as I possibly can about the field and its methods.

 


Zach Plumley, Undergraduate Research Assistant

I am currently a senior at ASU pursuing a BS in Psychology with a concentration in Psychological Science. I joined the Bimonte-Nelson lab in the summer of 2014, and am very excited to participate in ongoing and upcoming research projects! My main research interests generally lie in sex hormones and their implications in sexual behavior/development - post-graduation I intend to pursue a Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience to further explore the field of Quantitative Psychology to study research design and statistics. 

 


  Catie Carson, Undergraduate Research Assistant

I graduated from Arizona College Prep in Chandler in May 2014, where I was part of the National Honors Society, Student Council, Newspaper, and Drama, and participated in cross-country and basketball. After taking several Biology and Psychology courses in high school, I became fascinated with this area of science. I started as an intern in the Bimonte-Nelson lab during my senior year of high school to get a taste for what it is like to be involved in research, and am now a sophomore at ASU. I am really excited to experience the lab, and I look forward to what I will learn about neuroscience. 



  Justin Palmer, Undergraduate Research Assistant


I am from Cleveland, Ohio, where I graduated from North Royalton High School in May of 2014. I am currently a freshman at Barrett, the Honors College at ASU pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in Biochemistry. I have the intention to go to graduate school for behavioral neuroscience. I joined the Bimonte-Nelson lab in October of 2014, and I am thrilled to explore my interests in research with such a great team!




  Ryan Melikian, Undergraduate Research Assistant


Ryan Melikian is an English Literature student at Barrett, the Honors College at ASU who also has interests in science and is aiming towards medical school. She is a member of the esteemed Leadership Scholarship Program, as well as the Barrett-Mayo Premedical Scholars Program, which partners with Mayo Clinic to give students the chance to shadow physicians of different specialties at the Arizona campuses. She is interested in hormone and gender research and has worked on projects pertaining to the topic of gender dynamics in the professional workplace as a research assistant at Mayo Clinic. Outside of her academic life, Ryan is a part-time makeup artist, piano aficionada, and exercise enthusiast, inspired by motivating herself and others to lead healthy lifestyles. 


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Bimonte-Nelson Lab students that have graduated, and are off to change the world:

GRADUATE STUDENTS:

Joshua Talboom (2011, PhD) - currently doing a Post-Doc in the Oddo lab at the Banner Sun Health Research Institute

B. Blair Braden (2012, PhD) - currently doing a Post-Doc in the Baxter lab at Barrow Neurological Institute

Jazmin Acosta (2013, PhD & Post-doctoral fellow) - currently doing a Post-Doc in the Geda lab at Mayo Clinic

Elizabeth Engler-Chiurazzi (2013, PhD) - currently doing a Post-Doc in the Simpkins lab at West Virginia University 

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS:

Ian Crain (2007, undergraduate research assistant) - Earned his MD in Neurology, 2013

Britny Sundin (2007, undergraduate research assistant) - currently in culinary school in Maine

Bronson Bowman (2009, undergraduate research assistant) - currently earning his Masters degree at the University of Colorado

Melissa Scheldrup (2009, undergraduate research assistant) - currently in the Janowsky lab at Oregon Health Sciences Center

Stephanie Villa (2010, undergraduate research assistant) - currently earning her PhD at Northwestern

Madeline Andrews (2010, undergraduate research assistant) - currently earning her PhD at University of California Los Angeles

Alexandra Garcia (2010, undergraduate research assistant) - currently earning her PhD at University of Texas-Austin

Sarah Mennenga (2010, undergraduate research assistant) - currently earning her PhD in the Bimonte-Nelson lab

Candy Tsang (2011, undergraduate research assistant) - currently in the Kerrigan lab at Barrow Neurological Institute

Itamar Grunfeld (2011, undergraduate research assistant) - currently in the Baxter lab at Barrow Neurological Institute

Julia Gerson (2012, undergraduate research assistant) - currently earning her PhD at University of Texas Medical Branch

Jason Caselli (2012, undergraduate research assistant) - currently pursuing a career in veterinary science

Stephanie Koebele (2012, undergraduate research assistant) - currently earning her PhD in the Bimonte-Nelson lab

Elizabeth Engler (2007, started as an undergraduate research assistant) - currently in the Simpkins lab at West Virginia University

Elizabeth Whitton (2012, undergraduate research assistant) - currently preparing for missionary work and medical school

Melissa Kingston (2013, undergraduate research assistant) - currently preparing for medical school

Tanya Alderete (2013, undergraduate research assistant) - currently preparing for medical school

Perla Kerem Mendoza (2013, research assistant) - currently earning her MS in Psychology at ASU West campus

Ambra Jordan (2013, undergraduate research assistant) - currently earning her JD at Emory University

Lily Karber (2013, undergraduate research assistant) - currently preparing for graduate school

Lauren Hewitt (2014, undergraduate research assistant) - currently a lab technician in Dr. Newbern's lab at ASU and preparing for graduate school

Laura Torres (2014, undergraduate research assistant) - currently at the Banner Health Summer Research Internship Program and preparing for graduate school

Abeer Mousa (2014, undergraduate research assistant) - currently earning her MS in Science of Health Care Delivery at ASU

Giulia Weyrich (2014, undergraduate research assistant) - currently preparing for medical school

Courtney Lavery (2015, undergraduate research assistant) - currently preparing for medical school

Gail Stonebarger (2015, undergraduate research assistant) - currently preparing for graduate school
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Keley Rose Schaefer is pictured below, working in our laboratory. She was a superstar Bimonte-Nelson Lab undergraduate researcher, and has been an inspiration to our laboratory. Keley passed away of ovarian cancer on Tuesday, June 7th 2011. Keley's intelligence, wit, humor, drive, strength, and innate love of science will continue on as an inspiration to all of us.

We will always remember...


Psychology
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