The Team

Dan J. Christoffel, PhD

Assistant Professor

Behavioral and Integrative Neuroscience Program

Psychology and Neuroscience

University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

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Kayla Richardson

Graduate student

Kayla hails from Northern California, where she developed a love for anatomy and physiology. She earned her B.S. in Chemistry at Pacific University of Oregon. Kayla's senior thesis encapsulated a research proposal investigating biased signaling at the mu-opioid receptor via molecular dynamic simulations. She then went on to complete a Post-bachelor Research Experience Program at Boston University, working with Dr. Camron Bryant to investigate the neurogenetic basis of various substance use disorders.

She is currently working on a new project in the lab, exploring the endogenous opioid system's involvement in hedonic feeding behaviors. She draws inspiration from the substance use disorder field, utilizing the human condition to inform current research strategies to ultimately improve human health in the context of reward processing.

Gaby Soden

Graduate student

Gaby earned her B.S. in Neuroscience from Davidson College where she investigated differences in synaptic plasticity between male and female rats in an Alzheimer’s model. She then did a postbac at the NIH where she studied gene therapy as a treatment for a rare neurological disorder, Niemann-Pick Disease Type C. 

She plans to continue her work on rare diseases by investigating rare neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by mutations in G alpha subunits. Gaby wants to characterize these disorders using cellular and electrophysiological techniques in the hope of finding a treatment for these patients. In her free time, she can be found outside rock climbing or paddling.

Chase Carter

Lab Technician

Chase obtained his BA in Psychology from UNC in 2023 and is interested in neuroscience's ability to explain the mysteries of the human mind.  Through the billions of neurons in the nervous system, thoughts and consciousness are created.  Neuroscience has the ability to explain the underpinnings of these processes.  As we map and learn more about the mind, neuroscience is the path to novel solutions to the many illnesses of the brain.


He joined the lab because our research has the potential to determine the neural processes behind addiction.  This could aid the millions that face addiction in their daily lives. Experiencing the consequences of addiction firsthand, motivates him to seek solutions to help people in their battles. 

Samhi Pudipeddi


Samhi is interested in understanding the complex interplay between nature and nurture in brain development, with a specific focus on investigating how these factors contribute to the development of both psychiatric and neurological illnesses. She hopes to explore and develop effective treatments for conditions such as addiction, with the goal of improving the lives of those affected by them.

Malika Gevariya


Malika is a Neuroscience major who finds the brain's complex neural circuits fascinating. Her passion lies in exploring the neural circuitry, neurotransmitter imbalances, and genetic factors associated with bipolar disorder, with the aim of shedding light on its etiology and paving the way for more targeted and effective therapeutic interventions.

She volunteers in this lab because she has seen the effects of food addiction through her work as a nursing assistant and hopes to unearth treatment for hedonic feeding. Outside of research, she enjoys painting and spending time with her family.

Lab Alumni

Brianna Cullins, B.S., B.A.

Research Collaborator 

Brianna graduated from UNC Charlotte in May 2019 with a B.S in Psychology and a B.A. in Spanish. Prior to joining the lab in fall 2021, she worked at a behavioral health inpatient hospital where she became broadly interested in how external factors can cause changes in the brain that may lead to psychiatric disorders. She plans to earn a Ph.D. in Psychology and pursue a career in academia and research.

Abrianna Mihalkovic, M.A.

Research Associate 

Abby was the 1st  lab member! She earned her MA in Psychology (Beh. Neuro.) from the University at Buffalo. Her prior research involved preclinical and clinical investigations of addiction, examining genetic and psychosocial risk factors of substance abuse. In the lab, she worked on projects related to mesolimbic circuit regulation of hedonic feeding.