Meet the Lab

Victoria P. Connaughton, Ph.D. – PI

Dr. Connaughton’s research seeks to identify the neurobiological bases of visual processing in the vertebrate retina and factors that may affect or alter retinal circuits resulting in vision loss, such as disease conditions or exposure to pharmaceutical or environmental agents.  The research approach used in my lab is interdisciplinary, combining physiological, anatomical, and behavioral techniques to identify visual system deficits in both developing and adult animals. In addition to being an active research scientist and faculty member, she is a strong, consistent supporter and advocate of student research.  All experiments in her lab are performed in collaboration with graduate and undergraduate student research assistants, and many of my publications include student co-authors.  To date, Dr. Connaughton supervised > 50 undergraduate student research projects and > 40 graduate theses.  Her students have presented their work at a variety of venues, such as high school science fair competitions, professional meetings, and student research conferences, and also obtained research funding. Dr. Connaughton includes student co-authors on my publications and, after graduating, most of my students continued their training as graduate and/or medical school students.

Wade Kothmann, Ph.D.

Dr. Kothmann received his PhD from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston where he studied signal transduction pathways that mediate adaptive reorganization of retinal circuits in response to changes in the visual environment (e.g. a room getting brighter or darker). He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke before joining the Biology Department at American University, where he currently teaches various biology courses as well as upper-level and graduate neuroscience courses. When not teaching he continues to investigate how plasticity in retinal circuit organization mediates visual adaptation. Undergraduates interested in learning about visual neuroscience at the molecular and cellular level should inquire about summer research opportunities and/or the 5-year combined BS/MS degree program in Biology.

Ellie McCarthy, Behavior, Cognition and Neuroscience (BCaN) Ph.D Student, 2019 –
Ellie is currently a Ph.D. student in the Behavior Cognition and Neuroscience program at American University. She received her MS degree in Neuroscience in the winter of 2021 and is currently working towards her dissertation requirements. Her main focus of study is the long-term effects of hyperglycemia in a zebrafish model and is currently looking at neuropharmacological treatments. Ellie has enjoyed teaching multiple labs during her time at American including Behavioral Neuroscience, Intro Biology, and Intro Psychology. In her free time, Ellie enjoys cross-stitch, cross-fit, running Ragnar relays and reading.

Claire Selby,  BS Student, 2022-present

Claire is a sophomore with a major in psychology and a minor in neuroscience. After graduating, she hopes to obtain her PhD in pediatric neuropsychology. As a part of the EDC group, she is currently studying how endocrine disruptors BPA and TBT affect estrogen signaling and visual behavior in zebrafish. Through looking at changes in optomotor responses and subsequent molecular analysis, Claire aims to understand the short and long-term functional consequences of these disruptors. Outside of the lab, she enjoys hiking, raising houseplants, and exploring D.C. with friends.

Becky Harris, B.S. Student, 2020 – Present

Becky is a junior from New Jersey who is majoring in Biology with a minor in Spanish. She is passionate about medicine and hopes to attend medical school to be a surgeon. She also hopes to one day combine her love of Spanish and medicine by opening a clinic in a Spanish speaking country. She is a part of the EDC project, using zebrafish to study how estrogen pathways affect adult visual function. In her free time, she enjoys singing, working out, and watching her favorite show of all time: Criminal Minds.

Madeline Caballero, Pre-Medical Post-Baccalaureate Student, 2021 – Present

Maddie is a post-baccalaureate student who graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a  B.A. in Neuroscience & Behavior in 2016. She plans to attend medical school to obtain an MD/MPH, ideally matching into OB/GYN with an MPH concentration in Maternal and Child Health. As a physician, Maddie wants to address systemic bias in medicine and promote health equity and reproductive justice. Maddie works on the Anacostia project, which measures the behavior of larvae raised in Anacostia water. Outside of the lab, Maddie volunteers with her dog to provide therapy through People. Animals. Love., tends to a constantly growing collection of plants, enjoys reading, and watching British television.

Peyman Owrang, B.S. Student, 2022 – Present
Peyman Owrang is a senior honors student from Vienna, VA, majoring in Biology on the Pre-Med track. He is part of the EDC project and is studying how estrogen pathways affect adult visual function by researching the long-term anatomical effects of Tributyltin (TBT) exposure on zebrafish retina morphology. Outside of school, he enjoys practicing the violin and setar, as well as playing soccer and basketball. He is also a Volunteer EMT with the Glen Echo Fire Department.