Current Lab Members

Clockwise from top left: Rand, Liisa, Agnete, and Jess in 2016; The MicroGaleas in November 2018; Celebrating in 2016; Aarthi Gobinath’s defense in 2017; Liisa getting the #GreatSupervisor Award 2018 (Rand nominated her); Lab day out 2016.

Samantha Blankers (Graduate Student)

Hey, I’m Sam, a new Master’s student in the Galea lab starting in May 2021. I completed my undergraduate degree in neuroscience at the University of Guelph and became interested in the influence of sex hormones on brain health through my undergraduate thesis work. While I am interested in a diverse range of brain pathologies including stress-related and neurodegenerative disorders, my current research focus is Alzheimer’s disease. I will be exploring the influence of sex and genetics, specifically the APOE4 allele, on cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s. My thesis project will focus on hippocampal neurogenesis and neuroinflammation, as these processes are dysregulated in Alzheimer’s and it has been identified that sex and APOE4 allele(s) influence these processes. Hopefully, this work plays a small part in allowing us to better understand and treat the pathology of Alzheimer’s, a disease that has affected my life and is near to my heart. Aside from the lab, I like to spend my free time outside with friends and dogs :).

Romina Garcia de Leon (Graduate Student)

I’m a new MSc student in the Galea lab and am interested in understanding how hormones, and immune cells impact resiliency to stress, and play a role in pathologies such as depression. Depression affects twice as many females as males, especially in periods marked by high levels of hormone fluctuations such as in the postpartum period. I wish to focus on Postpartum depression (PPD) and whether immune changes impact antidepressant efficacy and neurogenesis/plasticity. Additionally, I want to observe whether these changes impact offspring and their resiliency to stress. My overall goal within my research is to bridge the gap in women’s health research, as it is widely understudied. I received my B.A. in Cognitive science and Neuroscience at Carleton University in 2020 where I examined sex differences in the effects of chronic stress on neuroplasticity. In my free time, you can find me reading character-driven novels (currently hooked on anything by Sally Rooney, Lisa Taddeo, and Elena Ferrante), or sketching on my iPad. I like to stay active with yoga classes and rock climbing.

Travis Hodges (PDF)

My main interests are in the effects that different types of stressors during critical periods of development (e.g. early life, adolescence) have on the brain and on behaviour. The main focus of my research has always been on the development of the brain and behaviour from early life to adulthood. In 2012, I finished my undergraduate degree with honours in Psychology at the University of Manitoba (Winnipeg, MB) with a thesis focused on newborn mallard behaviour, supervised by Dr. L. James Shapiro. Then, I traveled to Brock University (St. Catharines, ON) to complete my Master’s and Ph.D. in Psychology (Behavioural Neuroscience stream) in August 2018, supervised by Dr. Cheryl McCormick. Using a rodent model, my graduate projects focused on the susceptibility of the adolescent brain to stressors and non-typical social experiences. Presently, and still using a rodent model, my focus is on cognitive dysfunctions and neural mechanisms underlying cognitive dysfunctions in stressed male and female adolescents and adults, as well as in the offspring of mothers exposed to high stress during pregnancy and in the postpartum. Specifically, I am interested in the sex-specific neural underpinnings of negative cognitive bias/pessimism in rodent models of depression. Outside the lab, I am a huge fan of overanalyzing poorly made movies, going to see musicals, and dancing away all of life’s stressors.

Muna Ibrahim (Research Assistant)

Bonnie Lee (Graduate Student)

My research is focused on understanding the impacts of motherhood on cognition, neurogenesis, and neuroinflammation in middle age. I am particularly interested in how motherhood and the APOE4 allele, the major genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease, may interact to affect these factors. This research has implications for the importance of tailored treatments based on the reproductive history and genotype of women with Alzheimer’s Disease. In 2018, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Behavioural Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia. During my undergraduate years, I worked on research projects examining the sex differences in the effects of stress on neurogenesis. Outside of research, I am a mental health advocate, pianist, and food blogger!

Stephanie Lieblich (Lab Manager)

Amanda Namchuk (Graduate Student)

As an incoming graduate student in the Galea lab, I am excited to investigate the neurobiological mechanisms by which early life stress leaves one predisposed to developing depression. I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2019 where I worked in two developmental neuroscience labs, first exploring the correlation between cognitive development and white matter integrity in children with Sickle Cell Disease, and then piloting an attention-based computer task for the treatment of anxiety in children and adolescents. Since graduating, I have worked as a research assistant in the Behavioral Psychopharmacology Lab at Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, MD researching novel mechanisms for antidepressant drugs. Outside of the lab, I enjoy any activity that will get me outside, weightlifting, reading, dancing (especially at concerts!), and listening to podcasts.

Tanvi Puri (Graduate Student)

I’m a new Ph.D. student in the Galea Lab, and I’m interested in figuring out how pregnancy, and the hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy, can affect cognition, stress resilience, and neurogenesis in middle and old age. Investigating the changes in molecular mechanisms underlying these behaviors will allow us to identify possible future targets for precision medicine. I got my B.A. in Neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis in 2018, where I worked on quantifying the role of astrocytes in regulating daily rhythms in the SCN and in behavior. I also investigated the potential role of advancing light cycles and thus circadian rhythms on preterm birth. In my free time you can probably find me with a novel (my latest favorite is City of Thieves by David Benioff), watching good TV (VEEP/Fleabag/Killing Eve anyone?), baking, or playing Catan a little too competitively.

Jennifer Richard (PDF)

My research focuses on the effects of diet and metabolic status on learning and memory and sex differences in these effects. I finished my BSc and MSc in Pharmacology at the University of Gothenburg (Gothenburg, Sweden) and completed my PhD at the Institution for Neuroscience and Physiology and the University of Gothenburg in January 2020 under the supervision of Dr. Karolina Skibicka. During my graduate work, I explored the central effects of the endogenous hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), and synthetic analogs, on food intake and food-reward behavior, including sex-specific effects. As part of the Galea lab, I aim to widen my area of expertise to explorepotential effects of diet, body weight state and sex on learning and memory, including effects of GLP-1. Outside of the lab, I enjoy spending time with my husband and two sons, preferably in nature. Together, we enjoy travelling and trying new foods. I also have a passion of knowledge translation, especially pertaining to topics related to women and motherhood.

Wansu Qiu (Graduate Student)

Hi there, I am a PhD candidate in the Galea lab. My thesis investigates the effects of maternal postpartum antidepressant exposure, and how this pharmacological treatment affects both the mother and offspring in a rat model of postpartum depression. And whether there are dietary interventions (such as folate/folic acid) can be an effective treatment for PPD. My expertise includes knowing a lot about the impressionism period of art although I am really bad at painting impressionism and a lot better at painting post-impressionism, Greek mythology, and comics particularly the Batman universe. While I am still in training as a graduate student, I hope to become somewhat of an expert in immunology, metabolism, and the microbiome and how they affect the brain/neuronal development. In my downtime, I enjoy going to the gym and pretending I’m stronger than all the people there. I enjoy collecting quotes from classical/famous novels in my journal, including some of my favourites from Call of the Wild and Anna Karenina.

Shunya Yagi (Graduate Student)

I am a PhD candidate in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience. I am interested in sex differences in brain diseases that involve hippocampal dysfunction such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), depression, and anxiety disorders. The overall research objectives of my PhD project focus on sex differences and influence of gonadal hormones in basal characteristics of neurogenesis and in functional connectivity of newborn neurons after spatial memory and fear-associated contextual memory. Outside of my academic work, I love to play soccer and go hiking.