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Lab Members


Danny Winder, PhD

Principle Investigator

Dr. Winder thought he was going to be a veterinarian until he spent a summer working in a vet clinic. The summer after his junior year (1989) at North Georgia College, he got to work at the Yerkes Primate Research Center in Jim Wilson’s lab. Watching lateral geniculate neurons fire in real time as a light was shone on the wall sealed the deal for him, and he matriculated in the neuroscience graduate program at Emory University a year later. There he was incredibly fortunate to work in Jeff Conn’s lab right when metabotropic glutamate receptors had been discovered. He worked on their signal transduction mechanisms in rat hippocampus. Jeff was incredibly patient as he mastered the learning-through-mistakes approach. With Jeff’s encouragement to think big, he moved to a postdoc with Eric Kandel in 1996. In Eric’s lab, he learned the value of thinking big and working on team science. He joined Eric’s lab right at the advent of the utilization of genetically modified mice to explore the molecular bases of synaptic plasticity and learning and memory. Working with fantastic colleagues, they characterized roles for the phosphatase calcineurin and MAP kinase in plasticity and memory. In May of 1999, he took an assistant professorship within what was then the Center for Molecular Neuroscience and in the Department of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. In 2016, we launched the Vanderbilt Center for Addiction Research.


Elana Milano

Lab Manager

Elana earned her bachelor’s degree in Biology from Binghamton University in 1999.  She moved to Tennessee in 2000 where she began working in the field of veterinary medicine and graduated with her AAS in Veterinary Technology becoming a licensed veterinary medical technician (LVMT) 2002.  She then joined the Winder Lab in 2008 as a research assistant and has been here ever since. She was promoted to Lab manager in 2016. Outside of lab, you can find Elana spending time with her husband, two children, and dog, going on hikes, doing yoga, and just hanging out with friends.


Anel Jaramillo, PhD

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Anel received her Neuroscience Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the lab of Dr. Joyce Besheer. Her dissertation work used preclinical models of self-administration and drug discrimination, behavioral pharmacology, chemogenetic and molecular techniques to demonstrate the functional role of the cortical-striatal neurocircuitry in the interoceptive/subjective effects of alcohol, alcohol drinking, and relapse. Following her graduation in 2017, Anel joined the Winder lab as a postdoctoral research scholar where she investigates the parabrachial to BNST neurocircuitry in modulating anxiety and abstinence-induced affective disturbances. In the future, Anel aims to establish an academic research lab with a focus on neurocircuits underlying alcohol-related affective states. Outside of the lab Anel enjoys exploring the Nashville music scene, gardening, and doing things to keep her dog happy and active.


Marie Doyle, PhD

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Marie received her Ph.D. in 2020 from Michigan State University, where she was a graduate student in the Neuroscience Program. She completed her predoctoral training in the lab of Dr. Michelle Mazei-Robison, focusing on cocaine- and morphine-induced neuroadaptations in the ventral tegmental area. Specifically, she used a combination of transgenic mouse models and viral-mediated approaches to determine the role of SGK1 catalytic activity and phosphorylation in regulating drug reward and intake. Marie joined the Winder Lab as a postdoc in September of 2020, where her research interests center on characterizing alcohol-induced glutamatergic plasticity in the BNST and how these changes contribute to maladaptive behaviors. Outside of lab, Marie enjoys cooking, exercising, and reading science fiction books.


Kellie Williford

Graduate Student

Kellie received her BA from Washington University in St. Louis, where she majored in Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology and minored in Biomedical Physics. While there, she conducted research on a variety of neuroscience topics each summer and completed a thesis project investigating mechanisms of synaptic specificity in pain processing with Dr. Robert Gereau. She came to Vanderbilt University in 2016 through the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program and joined the lab of Dr. Danny Winder the following year. She is a recipient of the HHMI Gilliam Fellowship and current D-SPAN Scholar, and her research interests center around understanding the cell-type-specific and circuit mechanisms underlying interactions between stress, anxiety, and substance use disorders. Kellie is also passionate about community involvement, and serves as Outreach Chair for the Neuroscience Student Organization. Outside the lab, she is a newly minted plant-mom, and enjoys dancing, keeping up with some of her old gymnastics skills, reading, and spending time outdoors.


Brett Nabit

Graduate Student

Brett received his BS in Behavioral Neuroscience with a minor in German language from Rider University, where he conducted research on early-life stress models of depression in mouse models in addition to work centered on the circadian control of glucose metabolism with Drs. Jonathan Karp and E. Todd Weber, respectively. Brett officially joined the Winder lab in May 2019 where he studies stress-drug interactions in the extended amygdala, with special interest in the modulatory neurotransmitter systems that are implicated in drug seeking behaviors. Outside of the lab, Brett likes to spend free time with his friends or his cat, Paul.


Nicholas Petersen

Graduate Student

Nick graduated from Cornell University in 2015 with a BA in Neurobiology and Behavior with a minor in Fine Arts. As an undergraduate he worked in the lab of Christiane Linster where he studied noradrenegic modulation of mitral cells in the rat olfactory bulb. He then worked as a lab technician in the lab of Michael Kaplitt at Weill Cornell. There he studied the use of MRI-guided focused ultrasound as a tool for non-invasive gene delivery to the brain for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease in rodent models. Nick entered the Vanderbilt MSTP in 2017 and joined the Winder Lab in 2019. Here he studies neuron-glial interactions in noradrenergic modulation of wake-promoting dopamine neurons in the ventral periaqueductal gray in the context of acute and chronic alcohol exposure. Outside of the lab, Nick enjoys gardening, traveling, cooking and spending time with his partner and dog.


Danielle Adank

Graduate Student

In 2014, Danielle graduated with a B.S./M.S. in pharmacology from the University at Buffalo, where her thesis focused on examining how withdrawal time and negative consequences impact cocaine reinstatement behaviors in rats. After, she moved onto the University of Minnesota as a researcher under Dr. Carrie Haskell-Luevano where she researched how melanocortin receptors influence metabolic diseases and diabetic neuropathic pain. She is currently in the Neuroscience Graduate Program here at Vanderbilt, interested in studying the microcircuitry underlying substance use disorder and related psychiatric diseases. Outside of the lab, she enjoys running, volunteering, and increasing the visibility of diversity in STEM fields on social media. IG: @femme_in_stem Twitter: @femmein_stem

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Anne Taylor

Graduate Student

Anne earned her B.S in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University in 2017. As an undergraduate, she worked in Dr. Christopher Bishop’s lab investigating how muscarinic receptor compounds can be used to treat L-dopa induced dyskinesia. Currently, Anne is a student in the neuroscience graduate program at Vanderbilt. As an electrophysiologist interested in addiction, her thesis work examines synaptic adaptations that occur in insular cortex to BNST circuitry following periods of negative affect including stress and withdrawal.  In her free time, Anne enjoys playing her trumpet and hiking with her aussiedoodle, Frank.


Ritika Raghavan

Graduate Student

Growing up on campus at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, among influential academic figures and research, Ritika always knew she wanted to be a scientist. After moving to the United States, she received her BA in Neuroscience and minors in South Asian Studies and Literature from Rutgers University. Her work on long projection astroglia in cerebral organoid models at the Jiang lab landed her a position in the IGP at Vanderbilt. Prior to starting in IGP, Ritika also helped establish RNAscope protocols on neural adhesion GPCRs at the Sando Lab at Vanderbilt. Ritika is very excited to have joined the Winder lab and the Neuroscience Graduate Program to utilize neurobehavioral and neuro-imaging approaches to study the learning of addiction. She also loves spending time with her mom, and takes care of her 14 plants and 1 dog, Leia.

Team: Our Team
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