Kat Presents at ICN 2018

On July 15, I had the pleasure of presenting my research at the 2018 International Congress of Neuroendocrinology in Toronto, Canada! Here, I discussed findings from the first study of my graduate career at IU, in which I investigated the effects of photoperiod and melatonin administration on circulating and neural androgen levels in male Siberian hamsters.

I would like to thank the International Neuroendocrine Federation for awarding me a Trainee Travel Award for the conference and the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior and the Indiana University Department of Biology for their generous support that allowed me to attend this meeting. I had a great time in Toronto with a wonderful group of scientists, and I look forward to continuing to share my findings with researchers from across the globe!

Kat Mentors Undergraduate Students for CISAB REU Program

This summer, I am co-mentoring two undergraduate students with my labmate Beth through the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program: Desirée Nieves and Ayley Shortridge!  Desirée is a senior at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez majoring in Animal Science, and Ayley is a rising junior at Michigan State University majoring in Environmental Biology and Zoology.

Desirée and Ayley are conducting a collaborative study on the neuroendocrine modulation of social behavior following fecal transplantation in Siberian hamsters. More specifically, Desirée’s project examines the potential roles of testosterone and estradiol in facilitating changes in aggressive behavior in animals receiving fecal transplants, while Ayley’s project investigates whether fecal transplantation alters anxiety-like behavior and glucocorticoid levels, both peripherally and centrally.  I am looking forward to working with these wonderful ladies for the rest of the summer and seeing the results of their innovative projects!

Featured image: me, my labmate Beth, and our REU students Desirée and Ayley take a short break from scoring behavior videos for a picture with the celebratory hamster that Ayley drew on our whiteboard! Left to right: me, Desirée, Ayley, and Beth.

2018 Foundations in Science and Mathematics Program

This June, I taught a two-week summer zoology course through Indiana University’s Foundations in Science and Mathematics (FSM) program for the second year in a row! The FSM program is organized and run entirely by current IU graduate students and offers summer classes to help local high school students prepare for upcoming science and mathematics courses.

As always, I had a wonderful time sharing my passion for science with my students! During this year’s class, my students had the opportunity to observe and interact with a variety of live animals, including upside-down jellyfish, freshwater mussels, sea anemones, brittle stars, weakly electric fish, and dark-eyed juncos.

For more information this remarkable program, visit the FSM Program website or the FSM Facebook page.

Featured Image: my zoology students Tommy Everett (left) and Abdu Khodikhojaev (right) handle a brittle star during our class laboratory on molluscs and echinoderms.

Kat Publishes First Post as ScIU Writer

This past spring, I started writing for ScIU, a graduate student-run blog that discusses current events and cutting-edge science taking place at Indiana University​. My first post, which discusses my labmate Kristyn’s recent findings on the sex-specific effects of gut dysbiosis on the gut microbiome and behavior, was recently published on the blog! Click here to read the post and find out more about Kristyn’s fascinating research.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for two of my upcoming posts that will be published within the next few weeks! One of the posts is a special for Father’s Day and discusses the trade-off between fatherhood and aggression in animals, and the other post describes my wonderful experiences with the Foundations in Science and Mathematics (FSM) program. These posts can be viewed on my writer profile on the ScIU website.

Image credit: http://whitedragontails.com. 


Kat Presents at ABC 2018

On April 13, I had the pleasure of presenting a poster at the 2018 Animal Behavior Conference! My poster featured some of the findings of my current study, in which I examined the effects of photoperiod and melatonin administration on circulating and neural androgen levels in male Siberian hamsters. This project was part of a wonderful collaboration with Kiran Soma’s lab at the University of British Columbia.

Mini-Review Published in Frontiers in Endocrinology

A mini-review that I wrote with my advisor Greg and former Demas lab graduate student Nikki Rendon has been accepted for publication in Frontiers in Endocrinology! This paper discusses evidence for a novel neuroendocrine pathway for territorial aggression in seasonally breeding animals, in which adrenal dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) serves as an important precursor for neural androgen synthesis during the non-breeding season. Our lab’s charismatic animal model, the Siberian hamster, is featured prominently in this review, along with the findings of numerous Demas lab publications over the years.

A link for the manuscript can be found under the “Publications” page and can also be accessed here.

Featured image: two Siberian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus) display aggressive behavior. Image credit: Frank Scherbarth.


Kat Awarded Common Themes in Reproductive Diversity (CTRD) NIH Predoctoral Fellowship

This week, I was notified that I will be receiving a Common Themes in Reproductive Diversity (CTRD) NIH Predoctoral Fellowship for the 2018-2019 academic year! This prestigious fellowship is awarded annually by the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior (CISAB) at Indiana University to outstanding graduate students whose research focuses on behavior and physiology in animal systems or humans.

For more information on the CTRD research training group at IU, visit their website here.

Kat Passes Part I of Preliminary Exam

I am excited to announce that after seven weeks of hard work and dedication, I passed part I of my preliminary exam, the first major milestone of my Ph.D. program! While the past two months have certainly been stressful, they have also been extremely rewarding and fulfilling. I look forward to applying the knowledge I’ve gained through this process in my scientific work. For now, it’s back to brain micropunching and serum hormone analysis!

Guest Speaker for Research STEM Boot Camp

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of being a guest speaker for the Fall 2017 Research STEM Boot Camp at Indiana University. This program is sponsored by the Groups Scholars Program and the Hudson & Holland Scholars Program and is designed to aid current undergraduate students in publishing and presenting their research at conferences. I had a great time leading a session on writing abstracts and poster presentations, and I hope to interact more with these great programs in the future!

Book Chapter Published in Encyclopedia of Reproduction

In collaboration with Kiran Soma and Cecilia Jalabert at the University of British Columbia, Greg and I wrote a book chapter on aggressive behavior for the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Reproduction. This book chapter is my first publication as a Ph.D. student in Greg’s lab! A link for the chapter can be found under the “Publications” page and can also be accessed here.

Featured image: two song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) display aggressive behavior. Image credit: Roger Dan.