Alexa Zimbelman

Alexa Zimbelman, PhD student, psychological and brain sciences

Traces origins of addiction

“Alexa embodies precisely what it takes to be successful as a graduate student and, moreover, embodies the values we always hope to see in our graduate students.” -Ryan LaLumiere, professor

Peru, Illinois

Faculty mentor/advisor:
Ryan LaLumiere, PhD, professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

What is your degree program and anticipated graduation date?
PhD in psychology – behavioral neuroscience, Spring 2025

Please describe your research:
My research focuses on the neurobiology of addiction. Specifically, I am interested in identifying the mechanisms that regulate cocaine seeking and how cocaine seeking behavior changes when different structures and pathways in the brain experience varying amounts of activity.

In simple terms, why does this research matter?
Relapse to cocaine use remains a pervasive and difficult-to-treat problem for addressing cocaine use disorder. In particular, the specific brain regions and neural pathways underlying the promotion vs. inhibition of cocaine seeking remain unclear. By determining the role of specific pathways in regulating cocaine seeking, my research will inform our understanding of the neural circuits that mediate motivated behaviors like cocaine seeking.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research?
I began conducting research in the LaLumiere laboratory as soon as I started my program in August 2020.

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa?
My research endeavors have driven my success at the University of Iowa. During my time here, I have not only gained valuable technical skills necessary for conducting my research but also started to develop my science communication and outreach skills. As a more senior student in the laboratory, I have gotten to train and mentor undergraduates and new students in the lab. I have found these experiences with mentoring and teaching to extremely rewarding and beneficial to my experience at the University.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation?
After graduation, I am currently considering careers in science policy or continuing neuroscience research as a preclinical scientist in industry.

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