Deena Walker

Personal Pronouns: she/her

Outside the lab

Dr. Walker enjoys cooking, practicing yoga, playing with her son and her dog (who is honestly too old to play). She is always perfecting her enchiladas recipes.

Dr. Walker received her Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin under the mentorship of Dr. Andrea Gore. Her graduate work focused on how gestational exposure to environmental contaminants affects sex-specific hypothalamic gene expression throughout development and alters the timing of reproductive transitions – both puberty and reproductive senescence. As a postdoc, Dr. Walker built on her expertise on adolescent development to study how adolescent experience reprogrammed the transcriptome and sex-specific anxiety and reward-associated behaviors in adulthood. As an assistant professor, Dr. Walker has combined her interests in neuroendocrinology, molecular biology, adolescent development and sex-specific behavioral reprogramming to develop a research program that is focused on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying sex-specific programing of the adolescent brain and the functional consequences on behavior.

Mason Andrus

Personal Pronouns: he/him
Ph.D. Candidate

Outside the lab

Mason loves music, his cat, reading, & spending time in nature.

Mason earned his B.A. in psychology at UCLA, and is a graduate student under the co-mentorship of Drs. Deena Walker and Matthew Lattal. He is interested in the cellular, molecular, circuit, and behavioral changes that result from experience, with an emphasis on the contexts of drug exposure & stress. Further, Mason is particularly interested in the ways these changes relate to vulnerability to the development and persistence of addiction. 







Kelly Abshire

Personal Pronouns: she/her
M.D./Ph.D. Student

Outside the lab

Kelly likes live music, traveling, formula 1, and an odd find at the thrift store.

Kelly earned a BS in Psychology and a BSA in Biology from the University of Texas at Austin. Her previous research spanned both preclinical and clinical studies in the fields of behavioral neuroendocrinology, molecular biology, and genetics. Kelly is co-mentored by Deena Walker and Andrey Ryabinin. She is currently interested in exploring the epigenetic landscape underlying substance use disorders and their behavioral sequelae.







Michael Johnson

Personal Pronouns: he/him
Ph.D. Student

Outside the lab

Michael enjoys film photography, nature, food, and road trips.

Michael earned his MS in Biology, and BS in Biology (Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior) at Arizona State University. His previous worked looked at how circular-RNA play a role in the incubation of drug craving. Michael is co-mentored by Deena Walker and Andrey Ryabinin. He is currently focused on understanding the epigenetic mechanisms regulating oxytocin and vasopressin expression through thyroid hormone receptors in the meA and PVN, particularly during adolescent social isolation and alcohol drinking.







Past Team Members


Natasha Fowler Ph.D.


Cari Berdensky


Allison Milian

Are you in our field of study? Looking to join our team?