Students

There are 24 UC San Diego PhD students currently enrolled in the anthropogeny specialization:

Tanushree Agrawal's picture
Psychology

Tanushree Agrawal is a PhD student in Psychology at UC San Diego. As a member of the Mind and Development Lab, run by Dr. Adena Schachner, she studies social and emotional aspects of music perception. Tanushree is particularly interested in why music is able to evoke incredibly strong emotional responses in listeners, and how such feelings may be prosocial in nature.

Her current research program involves understanding: (1) Moral consequences of music: Why does music motivate prosocial behavior? Does witnessing others’ capacity to experience music lead us to believe that they are higher moral beings with a greater capacity for intelligence or emotion? (2) Cultural evolution of music: How do people detect intentional social transmission, or copying/plagiarism, of melodies? (3)... more

Felix Binder's picture
Cognitive Science

Felix is a second year PhD student in the cognitive science department working on cognitive tools for planning and physical reasoning. Humans use cognitive tools: tools that help think. How do such cognitive tools support humans in making efficient use of their limited cognitive capacities on hard computational problems such as planning? Felix researches the computational nature of such tools using agent-based simulations. This research—best described as computational cognitive science—aims to shed light on how humans achieve so much from so limited cognitive resources.

Patrick Bruck's picture
Biomedical Sciences

I am a PhD student in the UCSD Department of Biomedical Sciences, working with Drs. Alysson Muotri & Keolu Fox to explore brain development from an evolutionary perspective. Just as ancient DNA sequencing technologies have begun to reveal the genetic makeup of our extinct relatives, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, breakthroughs have similarly occurred in the fields of genome engineering (e.g. CRISPR/Cas9) and stem cell modeling of neurodevelopment (e.g. brain organoids). Our research seeks to combine these three technologies in order to explore the genetic and biological features underlying the presumed uniqueness of the human brain.

In addition to the scientific side of anthropogeny, I am also deeply interested in the societal implications and importances of studying... more

Mika Caplan's picture
Biomedical Sciences

Mika is a PhD student in the UCSD Biomedical Sciences Program. She is a first year graduate student in JoAnn Trejo's lab in the Pharmacology Department and is currently working to understand the role of the α-arrestin ARRDC3 in the context of breast carcinoma and to elucidate the networks that control the function and signaling of the G protein-coupled receptor, PAR1. She is using a number of biochemical and imaging techniques to uncover a mechanism by which this α-arrestin is regulated in invasive breast carcinoma and these studies will help to further understand the complexity of this disease and could potentially contribute to the discovery of new targets susceptible to effective therapeutic treatment. She is also interested in understanding the evolutionary history of humans and... more

Emily Davis's picture
Linguistics

Emily Davis is a graduate student in linguistics and advisee of Robert Kluender who also works in the Gentner Lab, and has worked with Kenny Smith at the University of Edinburgh.  She is interested in the cognitive basis of linguistic recursion: the process by which one sentence can be nested within another. Where does recursion in languages come from? How does linguistic recursive structure relate to other cognitive abilities, such as task planning and tool use? Why does center-embedding persist in language despite its processing difficulties? Evidence from animal and human cognitive experiments suggests that recursion may not be specifically linguistic, or specifically human. She investigates these phenomena through two approaches: iterated learning (by humans) of both artificial... more

Julia Gorman's picture
Neurosciences

Julia Gorman is a PhD student in Neurosciences at UC San Diego in both the Miller lab and Cauwenberghs lab, intersecting both neurotechnology design and experimental design. Her research focuses on the visual system and how the dynamics of prey capture in the marmoset model can elicit novel information about visual encoding in primates. Ideally, the novel approach of studying free behavior in monkeys will reveal key insights into the computational efficiency of the primary visual cortex. Her interests in CARTA include differences in visual behavior between primates and how the visual cortex may have evolved in different species to support natural behavior. 

Stefanie Holden's picture
Psychology

Stefanie Holden is a Ph.D. student in Psychology at UC San Diego in Dr. Karen Dobkins’s Human Experience and Awareness Lab (HEALab). She is primarily interested in exploring the impact of conflicting social and cultural influences on how people make sense of their lives and identities via the life stories they tell. By integrating life experiences into an internalized and evolving story, individuals are able to draw connections between their past, present, and future while simultaneously forming an identity and sense of self.  As these stories are both socially and culturally embedded, Stefanie’s work is particularly focused on examining these stories to address two questions: (1) How do bicultural individuals navigate and make sense of competing and/or conflicting life scripts, which... more

Juston Jaco's picture
Biomedical Sciences

Juston Jaco is a second-year PhD student in the Biomedical Sciences Program who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. His academic career began at the University of Michigan, where he graduated with Highest Honors in Environmental Science from the College of Literature, Science, & the Arts. Juston then went on to serve three years as an AmeriCorps service member where he built gardens in outdoor urban school environments, transforming vacant concrete patches into fully functioning “living lab” classrooms across Northern California. It was during this time he became passionate about the intersection between the environment and nutrition and its impact on human and planetary health. Believing in the concept of “food as medicine”, Juston obtained both a Master of Science in... more

Stephan Kaufhold's picture
Cognitive Science

I am a graduate student in the Department of Cognitive Science at UCSD working in the Comparative Cognition Laboratory of Dr. Federico Rossano. A psychologist by training, I have spent the last years mainly studying the behavior and cognitive abilities of different ape species (gibbons, orangutans, gorillas, humans, bonobos, chimpanzees). My research aims at gaining insights about the ultimate and proximate origins of social cognition in humans and animals through comparative and developmental approaches. More precisely, I am asking questions such as:

  • To what extent do cultures influence the social behavior in primate societies?
  • How much intraspecific variation can be found in different primate species?
  • What are the ultimate and proximate factors that... more
Kendall Kearns's picture
Biomedical Sciences

Kendall is a Ph.D. student in the Biomedical Sciences program at UCSD. She works in Bjoern Peters's lab at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology and is currently investigating the immune signatures of unconventional T cells in multiple diseases. She is using cell analysis techniques and bioinformatics to analyze the differences between T cell subsets and disease state and will also be using biochemical techniques to identify ligands of selected T cell receptors identified through computational analyses, which have the potential to educate the development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic methods. She is also interested in learning more about the evolution of immunology through comparing prehistoric hominid species and other organisms.

Nicole Theresa King's picture
Visual Arts

Nico King is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher in modern landscape history, and a trained landscape designer. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in Visual Arts at UCSD where her work focuses on speculative natures and utopian moments of the built landscape in a materialist perspective. Her research interests in the CARTA specialization revolve around the origins of human habitation as construction of an “inside” premeditating the idea of an “outside:” a landscape that could become the subject of intervention for our early ancestors. In 2020-21 she is an Annette Merle-Smith Fellow at CARTA. Before arriving in San Diego, she was a pre-doctoral research assistant at the University of... more

Reid Larsen's picture
Biomedical Sciences

Reid is a Ph.D. student in the Biomedical Sciences program at UCSD. His research in Dr. Richard Daneman’s lab focuses on the tight regulation of substances entering and exiting the brain, controlled by the special properties of the brain’s blood vessels. This “blood-brain barrier” is critical to maintaining homeostasis and its dysfunction plays a role in the in the pathology of diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, Reid is studying the role of the sugar coating on the surface of the brain’s blood vessels, termed the glycocalyx, that acts as the first barrier in the blood-brain barrier.

In addition to his research, he also believes that learning more about the Anthropocene and where we came from is a crucial component in examining the why... more

James Michaelov's picture
Cognitive Science

I’m a graduate student in Cognitive Science at UCSD, working in the Language and Cognition Lab with Dr. Ben Bergen. My work combines experimental and computational methods to shed light on the neurocognitive processes underlying human language comprehension and production and how these interact with other systems.

Shubhra Murarka's picture
Anthropology

Shubhra Murarka is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology with specializations in Biology and Science Studies and a member of the Fox lab.  She approaches questions from a biocultural lens and is deeply committed to interdisciplinary scholarship. Her research focuses on genomics, racial and social (in)equity, the impact of colonial encounters on genome diversity, Indigenous health outcomes, and bridging social theory with biological methods. 

Nicholas Nelson's picture
Biological Sciences

Nicholas Nelson is a UCSD Biological Sciences Ph.D. Candidate in Axel Nimmerjahn’s lab at the Salk Institute. Nicholas’s interests lie in the interface of the nervous and immune systems, and his thesis research investigates how glial cells in the spinal cord regulate nervous system homeostasis and inflammation during the development of chronic pain. More broadly, Nicholas is interested in what fueled the evolution of the human mind – what cellular and molecular actions underlie cognition in mammals, and what unique factors permitted the emergence of the mind’s incredible diversity, beauty, and pitfalls that so define human experience.

Meghan Rossi's picture
Neurosciences

Meghan Rossi is a PhD student in the UCSD Neurosciences Graduate Program. As a member of Dr. Richard Daneman's lab, Meghan is focused on examining the effects of peripheral factors, including dietary intake and exercise, on the special properties of the blood vessels in the brain termed the "blood-brain barrier." In addition, she is interested in the role of blood-brain barrier circadian rhythm on Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis, as well as the potential role of the gut microbiome in modulating properties of the blood-brain barrier. 

Arturs Semenuks's picture
Cognitive Science

Language is a cognitive ability that both belongs uniquely to humans and is crucial for being a human. Because of that, if we want to understand the human phenomenon fully, we necessary need to figure out how language came to be, what underlying mechanisms make it possible and how it affects other aspects of cognition. As a graduate student in the Cognitive Science department at UCSD, my goal is to bring us a bit closer to the answers to these questions. My current project is investigating whether cross-linguistic differences in grammars of languages translate into differences between how speakers of these languages think about the world around them. For example, does the necessity to constantly mark a noun as feminine (or masculine) in your language make you think of its referent as... more

Hande Sever's picture
Visual Arts

Hande Sever is a transdisciplinary artist and art historian working at the intersections of ecosophy, vernacular architecture and emerging technologies. Her interest in CARTA stems from her research pertaining to archeological sites in Anatolia, such as Göbekli Tepe and Karahan Tepe, and the impact their discovery and excavation had on artistic production both locally and globally, especially with regards to artists occupied with questions related to human origins. Her writing has been published by the Getty Research Journal, the Art Institute Review, the Stedelijk Studies, the Journal of Arts & Communities, and X-TRA Contemporary Art Quarterly, among others. Sever received her MFA in Art and Technology from the California Institute of... more

Sheila Steiner's picture
Neurosciences

Sheila Steiner is a 3rd year PhD student in the UCSD Neurosciences Graduate Program. She is co-advised by Dr. Rusty Gage and Dr. Carol Marchetto. She uses stem cell-derived neurons to understand how energy metabolism changes across neuronal development and neuronal aging in humans as compared to other primate species. She is broadly interested in whether there is a trade-off between both humans' unique level of cognitive functioning and humans' relative longevity compared to other primates and our susceptibility to certain neurodegenerative conditions.

Katie Van Alstyne's picture
Psychology

Katie is a fifth-year Ph.D student in Experimental Psychology at UC San Diego and a member of Dr. Stephan Anagnostaras’s Molecular Cognition lab. Katie's primary research interests include contextual memory and exploring pharmacological therapies for psychiatric disorders. Additionally, Katie also studies cognitive performance and neuroplasticity in bottlenose dolphins. She works primarily with non-human animals (mice and dolphins), and her work includes the use of behavioral paradigms and comparative techniques. 

Yaohan Wu's picture
Anthropology

Yaohan is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology working with Dr Jade d’Alpoim Guedes. She is a bioarchaeologist interested in employing interdisciplinary research to understand how past people from different cultures in prehistoric times utilized different foodways to adapt to the geoenvironmental stressors around them. In particular, she is interested in studying the changes in dietary intake and temporal trends in plant and animal domestications in prehistoric China. Some of Yaohan’s previous researches include reconstructing migration patterns in Bronze Age Turkey through dental morphology and modeling stone toolmaking among fossil hominins through entheses on hands and forearms. Her current project focuses on the link between agricultural productivity and population... more

Anne Yilmaz's picture
Psychology

Anne Yilmaz is a Ph.D student in experimental psychology at UC San Diego working under Dr. John Wixted in his human memory lab. Broadly, she conducts memory research with potential application to real-world problems—specifically eyewitness memory—that is grounded in basic cognitive science. She primarily uses signal detection theory to guide recognition memory experiments, then uses the findings to direct and interpret lines of eyewitness and police lineup research within other subsects of psychology. Also, she studies the confidence given by participants during these recognition memory tasks. Specifically, she wants to know where and when confidence originates in the brain as well as when that confidence level is accessible to the subject.

James Yu's picture
Biomedical Sciences

James Yu is a PhD student in the Simonson Lab at UCSD. He is interested in identifying and understanding genetic, metabolic, and physiological variation in high-altitude populations that have allowed them to adapt to low oxygen environments. He utilizes tools such as CRISPR and metabolomics to investigate potential mechanisms of adaptation. He is also interested in how archaic introgression from Denisovans may play an adaptive role in high-altitude adaptation in Tibetans. He believes understanding the origins of the human phenomena is not only fascinating, but necessary to provide the full context of how humans have evolved to inhabit such an unforgiving environment as high altitude. 

Matthew Zaslansky's picture
Linguistics

Matthew Zaslansky is a Ph.D student in Linguistics at UC San Diego who investigates the (in)stability of redundant subsystems in languages at the individual and population levels. Language exhibits the complex coexistence of a tendency towards efficiency and economy on one hand, and variable amounts of stable redundancy (e.g. synonymy) on the other hand. Matthew’s earlier research has focused on synonymy and morphological variation in American Sign Language (ASL) and Azerbaijani. The question driving this line of inquiry is this: Given that synonyms are rare or simply unknown in animal communication systems, what unique properties of human language allow redundant variants to be maintained across generations? There is some evidence which suggests that redundant grammatical systems... more