Faculty Spotlight

  • How would you describe your background? (I.E. where you are from? How did you first get interested in your area of research? Etc.) At the end of high school, I was trying to choose between psychology and chemistry. What convinced me to go to psychology was my aunt, who was a neurologist. I was having conversations with her and realized I really liked it. I started psychology as an undergraduate with an interest in physiology. From the get-go I started doing what was then called biopsychology, now it’s called cognitive neuroscience. At the end of my undergraduate studies, I applied for grad school at UIUC and came here as a graduate student. My graduate education is from Illinois. Then I left for 10 years. I had a position as a research scientist at New York State Psychiatric Institute for four years, then I got a tenure track position at the University of Missouri, in Columbia. Illinois out of the blue called me asking whether I would be interested in coming back as faculty, so I came back here in 2001.
  • How would you describe your background? (I.E. where you are from? How did you first get interested in your area of research? Etc.) When I was an undergrad, I was a philosophy major and I was taking some psychology courses. I took a neuro-biology of learning and memory course, loved it, the professor then asked me to work in his lab which I decided to do. Two weeks after I started working in the lab, I said “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life” and that’s what I’ve been doing for the rest of my life. I didn’t take another philosophy class, I jumped ship, and took just neuroscience and psychology courses even though I was only two classes shy of completing the philosophy major. Yeah, I’ve been working on that ever since—the research I started doing as an undergrad is what I’m still doing now which is studying the brain basis of spatial memory, how our brains’ code the environments that we traverse, how this information is used to guide our actions of, say, getting from one place to another based on our memory of locations we’ve been to before. All this is done in rodent models using in vido electrophysiology.
  • How would you describe your background? My bachelors and masters training is in psychology. My master’s was specifically in counseling psychology and I practiced as a counselor for a couple of years. I used to be an athlete—I played tennis— and that is how I was always interested in exercise and sport. I decided why not bring exercise, sport, and psychology all together? I started looking for academic programs that examine exercise psychology or exercise science. In India, unfortunately, this area of studying is not quite developed. So I came to the US to pursue my Ph.D. in kinesiology. That is where my masters and Ph.D. in and I’ve been here since.
  • How would you describe your background? I’m an evolutionary biologist who is interested in behavior. I would say that I have always been interested in animals and animal behavior, but I didn’t really know you could study it in a scientific way until I went to college and I took my first animal behavior course as a freshman. I realized that what I was really interested in was thinking from an evolutionary point of view why animals do what they do. I’ve come to appreciate is that knowing something about how they do what they do is important to understanding why.
  • How would you describe your background? (I.E. where you are from? How did you first get interested in your area of research? Etc.) I was born in Hungary, and I always wanted to be an ornithologist. I never wanted to be anything else, so when I got the chance to come to the US to study at university I continued focusing on birds and I’ve been doing that ever since. The neuroscience aspect came during my Ph.D. when I was a neurobiology and behavior Ph.D. student at Cornell, and I started becoming interested in how the brain of the birds that I study differ from the brain of other birds. We study birds that are non-parental. We study parasites that don’t engage in parental care at all and that distinguishes them from 99% of bird species that are parental.
  • How would you describe your background? (I.E. where you are from? How did you first get interested in your area of research? Etc.) I always wanted to do biology. I always found that interesting, I took AP biology in high school and said, “This is what I want to major in.” Even though I went to two different undergrads, I was always a biology major. I guess I would say I say that my Ph.D. and post-docs were all in hormones and biological rhythms. I entered graduate school to do reproduction, but I had a lab that also did biological rhythms, which I knew nothing about. So that’s the area I’ve been in since 97.
  • How would you describe your background? I am a physicist by training as well as a conservatory-trained dancer and teacher, I combined that knowledge to study human movement using dance.
  • Mark E. Nelson served as the Associate Director for Student Affairs and the NSP Liason for the SfN Chapter in Champaign.  Mark was honored at the End of Year Awards and Recognition Reception on April 30th with a small glass trophy in thanks for his time and service as well as in acknowledgment of his upcoming retirement.  After 28 years at the University of Illinois, Mark will be moving on to spend time in another place he loves to be, nature.  He will be hiking the trails out west.   Check out his spotlight to see the latest Beckman article featuring Dr. Nelson!
  • We welcome Brian B. Monson to the Neuroscience faculty.  Dr. Monson is an assistant professor of Speech and Hearing Science.  He received his Ph.D. in Speech, Language, and Hearing Science at the University of Arizona with minors in Neuroscience and Theatre Arts.  His Masters in Physics (Acoustics) is from Brigham Young University with a minor in Vocal Performance and his undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering was received from Utah State University. 
  • The Neuroscience Program is excited to welcome new NSP faculty member Daniel McKim. Dr. McKim is the most recent addition to the Animal Sciences department starting as an assistant professor in November 2018.