Skip Navigation

NARC banner

Kalivas Lab

People in the Lab

Peter KalivasPeter Kalivas

Peter received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 1980 with Akira Horita, and completed postdoctoral training at the University of North Carolina with Art Prange in 1982.  He moved to Charleston from the West Coast and began his current position as Professor and Chair of Neurosciences in 1998.  O utside the lab, Peter likes to travel to off beat places.

Alex SmithAlexander Smith

Alex received a BS in Psychology from Washington State University in 2010, and enrolled in the MUSC Neuroscience Ph.D. program the same year. His current projects examine extracellular matrix contributions to synaptic plasticity in cocaine relapse.

Robyn BrownRobyn Brown

Robyn has been a postdoctoral fellow in the Kalivas lab since 2012 on a Sir Keith Murdoch Fellowship from Australia. Her graduate training with Andrew Lawrence was at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health in Melbourne. Her postdoctoral training has involved learning whole cell patch clamp electrophysiology and characterizing impairments in synaptic plasticity associated with a model of pathological overeating. Robyn is a passionate environmentalist and in her spare time enjoys the outdoors, live music and seeing as much of America as possible.

Cassandra D. GipsonCassandra D. Gipson

Cassie received her B.S. from the University of California, San Diego, her Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky in 2010 with Mike Bardo, and started her postdoctoral fellowship in the lab in 2010.  Her primary project is to investigate the cellular dynamics and synaptic strength underlying cue-triggered motivation. Her postdoctoral work to date has shown that rapid, transient synaptic potentiation in the nucleus accumbens core may be a biomarker for both cocaine and nicotine seeking neuropathologies. Outside of the lab, Cassie enjoys kayaking and spending time with her dog Dusty.

Michael ScofieldMichael D. Scofield

Mike received his bachelor’s degree in biology and biotechnology from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2005 and his Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 2010. In his graduate work he studied transcription factor assembly at the promoter of the b4 subunit of the neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. He joined the Kalivas lab in 2011 and is currently investigating the role that gliotransmission plays in mediating the changes in neuroplasticity responsible for relapse. Outside the lab, Michael enjoys music, movies and walking his dog.

Rachel SmithRachel J. Smith

Rachel earned a B.S. in Biopsychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara (2002) and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania (2008).  During graduate work with Gary Aston-Jones at Penn and MUSC, she investigated the role of the orexin/hypocretin neurotransmitter system in drug addiction and relapse.  As a postdoctoral fellow in the Kalivas Lab, she is researching the involvement of striatal D1 and D2 neuron populations to drug seeking.  Rachel’s hobbies include ballet dancing and hiking.

StefanikMichael T. Stefanik

Michael received his Bachelors degree in Psychology from Middlebury College (VT) in February 2009.  He is currently using optogenetics to examine the functional and structural consequences of optically inhibiting the neural circuitry involved in relapse.   When not in lab, Michael enjoys cooking regional cuisine, playing bocce on the beach, and running as far as he can.


Sadé Spencer

Sade received her bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Alabama and her Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. During her graduate work with Colleen McClung she studied the role of the circadian clock in the regulation of dopamine transmission and mood-related behavior. She joined the lab in 2012 to study the neuroplasticity underlying relapse behavior and is developing a model to dissociate mechanisms of drug-primed versus cued reinstatement in the rat.

Yoni Kupchik
Yoni Kupchik

Yoni received his PhD in neurobiology from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (Israel) in 2010. In his graduate studies Yoni investigated voltage-dependent mechanisms of modulation of neurotransmitter release in neuromuscular junctions under the guidance of Prof. Itzchak Parnas. Yoni joined the Kalivas lab in 2010 and is currently using electrophysiological methods to investigate the involvement of the ventral pallidum and nucleus accumbens in drug addiction. In his free time Yoni enjoys listening to and playing music, playing basketball and raising the two cutest children in the world (and of course being married to the most awesome wife).


Charles Thomas

Charles received his bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of South Carolina in 2007 with minors in Chemistry and Business. He was born in New York but has lived much of his life in the upstate of South Carolina. In 2008 he moved to Charleston and began managing the Kalivas Lab. In his free time, Charles likes to be out on the water of Charleston Harbor, travelling to new and exciting places, watching and attending sporting events (especially Gamecock Football!) and doing pretty much anything outdoors with friends and family.

Doug Roberts-Wolfe

Doug graduated with a BA in neuroscience and physics from Hampshire College (Amherst, MA) in 2008. He worked at the Britton Lab at Brown University (Providence, RI) studying the effects of mindfulness meditation on cognitive bias, and at a private neurofeedback clinic for three years before enrolling in the MD/PhD program at MUSC. Doug joined the Kalivas lab as a graduate student after completing the first two years of medical school. Doug’s current project in the lab is investigating transient plasticity in the infralimbic cortex à nucleus accumbens shell circuit during extinction training from cocaine. Outside of the lab, Doug enjoys running, weight lifting, mindfulness meditation, boogie boarding, playing piano, learning to speak Spanish, and travel.

Recent Postdoctoral Fellows

Behnam GhasemzadehBehnam Ghasemzadeh
PhD UPenn
Associate Professor,
Marquette U

Roberto MelendezRoberto Melendez
Assistant Professor,
U Puerto Rico

Dave BakerDave Baker
PhD Ariz St U
Associate Professor,
Marquette U

Hao-Wei ShenHao-Wei Shen
Assistant Professor,
Peking U, Beijing

Krista McFarlandKrista McFarland
ACADIA Pharm Inc

Alejandra PacchioniAlejandra Pacchioni
Assistant Professor, U Rosaria
Jiang-Xiang XiJiang-Xiang Xi
Scientist, NIDA IRP

lalumierRyan Lalumiere
Assistant Professor, U Iowa

Karen SzumlinskiKaren Szumlinski
Associate Professor, UCSB

Mary TorregrosaMary Torregrosa
Assistant Professor, U Pittsburg

Xing-Chun TangXing-Chun Tang
Psychiatry Fellow
UT Southwestern

Lori KnasckstedtLori Knackstedt
Assistant Professor, U Florida
Kate Reissner, Ph.D.
UC Irvine, 2008-2013
Assistant Professor,
University of North Carolina

Recent Ph.D. and M.D./Ph.D. Students

Scott BowersScott Bowers
Ph.D. 2003
Assistant Professor, VCU

Megan MoranMegan Moran
Ph.D. 2006
Assistant Professor, MUSC

Mary GregoryMary Lee Gregory
Ph.D. 2006
Neurology Fellow
Johns Hopkins

Jaimie PetersJaimie Peters
Ph.D. 2008
VU Univ, Amsterdam
Armina OmoleArmina Omole
Ph.D. 2010
Med Student, MUSC

Khaled MoussawiKhaled Moussawi
Ph.D. 2010
Neurology Resident, Harvard

Recent Visiting Scientists

Liliana CancelaLiliana Cancela
U Cordoba

Gabriel QuinteroGabriel Quintero
Associate Investigator

Wenua Zhou

Wenua Zhou
2006, 2008
Ningbo U
BardoMike Bardo
U Kentucky

Louis AlguacilLouis Alguacil
San Pablo U

KombianSam Kombian
U Kuwait

Shingenobu TodaShigenobu Toda
Associate Professor
Kananzawa Med School

Recent Lab Manager

Megan HensleyMegan Hensley
Graphic Artist

© 2012  Medical University of South Carolina | Disclaimer | Contact the Webmaster