Lab Members

Charlotte Freeland PhD’21: I am pursuing my PhD in Biology with a concentration in Neurobiology & Behavior, starting in the fall of 2016.  My primary research focus examines the underlying mechanisms of risky decision-making, particularly what happens when these mechanisms go awry to cause excessive desire and motivation to pursue risky choices, as seen in drug and gambling addiction. I graduated from the University of Connecticut Honors Program with a B.S. in Physiology and Neurobiology and then came to Wesleyan University as the Lab Manger in the Robinson Lab.  As the first graduate student in the Robinson Lab, I grateful and thrilled for the opportunity to shape the direction of our research projects, cultivate scientific curiosity in our undergraduate researchers, and (hopefully) inspire future generations of female scientists.


Anna Knes

Anna Knes ’19: I’m currently a junior double majoring in Neuroscience & Behavior and Psychology. In high school, I worked in a neurobiology lab researching the effect of subunit Nicastrin in Alzheimer’s Disease. At the Robinson Lab, I look forward to learning more about motivation, reward, and its relationship to addiction. I also play on the Women’s Varsity Squash Team, and, in my free time, I enjoy making visual art, teaching myself photography, and volunteering as a math tutor for second graders.


John Cote

John Cote ’19: I’m a senior here at Wesleyan and grew up in Syracuse, NY. I’m majoring in Neuroscience and Behavior and minoring in Data Analysis. My current research focuses on the link between uncertainty and incentive value in rats, and I am excited to keep learning more about motivation and reward, and how it can effect behavior. I’m also on the Varsity Men’s Lacrosse Team, and for fun I love to read and learn about literature and poetry.




Callie Clibanoff

Callie Clibanoff ’19: I am currently a senior from Lower Merion (home to Kobe Bryant), Pennsylvania, and I am majoring in Neuroscience and Behavior. My research is looking at how uncertainty effects incentive versus predictive value of cues in relation to gambling. Outside of lab, I am very involved with dance on campus, as well as tutoring local Middletown children. I am also a kickboxing instructor at a studio in Middletown and love to exercise in my free time! After graduation I hope to do more research and go to medical school to become a neonatologist!



Hely Octavio Rodriguez Cruz ’19:I’m a fourth year undergraduate student born and raised in the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix, AZ) double-majoring in Neuroscience & Behavior and the Science in Society Program here at Wesleyan. I am currently working with John to characterize the effects of an optogenetically induced addiction-like preference (induced by optogenetically stimulating the central amygdala during reward consumption) on an internal homeostatic drive for sodium. My research endeavors throughout the next year will be geared towards finding a way to control and diminish addiction-like preferences. Outside the lab, I spend my time working at Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farm, tutoring local Middletown children, and giving guitar lessons. I’m also an avid music lover, guitarist, and singer with a keen interest in soul, blues, and funk. After Wesleyan I hope to pursue a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience.


Maryyam Mian ’20:  I am a rising junior from Long Island, NY and I am planning to major in Neuroscience and Behavior while completing the pre-med track. On campus, I tutor young children and volunteer in local Middletown elementary schools to teach an after school science club. I am also a member of Wesleyan’s South Asian student group. In my free time I enjoy traveling with my family and reading. This summer I spent an amazing two months being introduced to the Robinson lab, and I look forward to learning more about how motivation and reward underlie risky decision making!


Danielle Vaamonde ’20: I am currently a junior from New York City planning to double major in Neuroscience and Behavior and Science in Society. As I am a new member, I look forward to learning more about motivation and reward in risky decision making. Outside of the lab, I like to figure skate, as I’ve been a competitive figure skater since the age of 8. I also enjoy dancing, cooking, and traveling around the world with my family.



Nita Rome ’20: I’m currently a junior from Lower Merion (same place as Callie ^) and I am ALSO planning on majoring in Neuroscience and Behavior. On campus, I am a biology tutor, member of Science Hall, and a staff photographer for the school newspaper. Running, film photography, and drinking coffee are my primary hobbies. I am so excited to be joining the Robinson lab this year, and look forward to staying for the summer!




Jules Chabot ’20: I am a Junior from Frederick, Maryland majoring in Neuroscience and Behavior and Science in Society. My current research in the lab focuses on the role of the central amygdala in risky decision making as well as creating compulsive preferences. In addition to the Robinson Lab, I work with the Morawski Lab studying the historical conceptualization of psychological insight. Outside of research, I enjoy watching classy reality television programs and kicking back with friends. In the future, I hope to pursue a PhD in neuroscience.


Hannah Xu ’20: I am a Junior from Northville, MI with a double major in Neuroscience & Behavior and Psychology. My current research in the lab focuses on the role of the central amygdala in creating compulsive preferences. On campus, I am also a member of the Women’s Varsity Crew Team, Wes Women in Science, and on the board of the Asian American Student Collective. I also enjoy oil painting, singing, and hiking in my free time. In the future, I hope to continue research in addiction and attend medical school to pursue neuroradiology or neurology.


T-Peng ’20: I am a junior from Marlborough, CT and am a Biology and Neuroscience and behavior (NS&B) double major. This past summer I spent my time in the Robinson lab, where I shadowed and conducted research concerning risky decision making, as well as Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, where I conducted clinical research as an undergraduate research assistant in the emergency department. The current research project that I am working on uses optogenetics and taste aversion to investigate compulsive behaviors.  Outside of lab, I work at the front desk of the office of admission and as a peer tutor for organic chemistry. I am also involved on campus as a pole vaulter for the Wesleyan Track and field team, a member of Wes Women in Science, a member of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, and a member of the Student Athlete of Color Leadership Committee. In my free time I enjoy reading, eating ice cream, and spending time with family, friends and my dog Nala.



Charity Russell ‘21: I am a sophomore from Long Island, NY and a prospective Neuroscience major.  I spent this past summer researching in the Robinson Lab and conducting histology work on an experiment which uses conditioned taste aversion to investigate compulsive behavior. During the semester I work as a receptionist at the Gordon Career Center and I teach American Sign Language to local elementary school students in Middletown. I am also a Wesleyan Math and Science Scholar (WesMaSS) member. In my free time I love to read, exercise, and spend time with my family. I am excited to be a member of the Robinson Lab and I look forward to continue this pursuit during the remainder of my time at Wesleyan.


Kian Caplan ’21: I am a sophomore from Austin, TX and plan to double major in Neuroscience & Behavior and Science in Society. Currently, I am collaborating with Hely and Callie on the effects of amphetamine sensitization and uncertainty on the attraction to predictive versus incentive cues (i.e., gambling), in addition to studying the roles of the orbitofrontal cortex and anterior insular cortex in risky decision-making (via optogenetic inhibition) with Anna. Outside of lab, I am the co-chapter leader of Wesleyan’s Eye to Eye mentoring program at Keigwin Middle School, a member of WesBuds, and involved in advocacy for Tourette syndrome. After Wesleyan, I intend on pursuing an MD or MD-PhD and potentially specialize in neurology with a focus on movement disorders. In my free time, I enjoy reading, listening to music, and watching horror movies.


Students conducting research in the laboratory will be investigating questions related to:

  1. The role of uncertainty in reward and motivation and its relation to gambling
  2. The impact of high-fat diets on generating excessive motivation for food related cues
  3. The role of motivation circuits in generating intense attraction and craving for natural and drug rewards.