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Jessica Connelly

Associate Professor of Psychology

PhD, Stony Brook University


Jess completed a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry at Richard Stockton College in 1997. As a graduate student, she had the unique experience of training with two professors, both well–established in the field of epigenetics. In 1997, she began her training in Dr. John Lucchesi’s lab, where she studied the epigenetic aspects of dosage compensation in Drosophila melanogaster. She moved to Stony Brook University in the summer of 1999 and completed her PhD in 2004 under the mentorship of a yeast epigeneticist, Dr. Rolf Sternglanz. Jess’s PhD thesis pursued her interest in the histone code by characterizing a domain (BAH domain) that resides within proteins involved in regulating transcription through chromatin compaction. Jess was a postdoc at the Duke Center for Human Genetics from 2004-2008. Her postdoctoral work allowed her to explore the fields of human genetics and genomics. She trained under Dr. Elizabeth Hauser, a human statistical geneticist, and Dr. Simon G. Gregory, a human genomicist. It was while working under the direction of Dr. Gregory that she began projects that focus on the methylation state of the oxytocin receptor.


Travis Lilliard

Lab Manager

BS, Virginia Tech


My experience as a research
technician is extensive. I’ve had the pleasure of working in multiple labs over the years and have been exposed to many types of techniques and procedures. However, my expertise currently lies in the realm of molecular biology and more specifically in the techniques required to generate DNA methylation and gene expression data. I look forward to each “day of discovery” and enjoy my role as lab manager for the Connelly Lab. I have many interests outside of the lab as well. Most notable is my passion for music and performing on stage as a singer/guitarist.

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Kathleen Krol

Research Scientist

PhD, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences


My main research interests lie in the hormonal and genetic modulation of social behavior. I am particularly fascinated with uncovering how early life experience, through interaction with genetic and hormonal physiology, can impact the processing of social cues in infants and their mothers. I am currently investigating how epigenetic modification of the oxytocin receptor gene impacts infant neural response to emotional expressions.

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Amalia McDonald

Graduate Student

BS, Wake Forest University


I earned my BS in Biology from Wake Forest University in 2013.  The focus of my research interest is to understand the brain systems and underlying biological mechanisms involved in human socio-emotional behavior, especially in primary school aged children. Prior to my graduate studies at UVA, I worked as part of the research team on the Enhanced NKI Rockland Sample at the Nathan Kline Institute, which aims to create a large phenotypically rich neuroimaging cross-sectional lifespan community sample that is openly shared with the scientific community. 

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Joshua Danoff

Graduate Student

BA, University of Virginia


My research interest is in how molecular events in the cell can affect complex phenotypes such as behaviors.  My research focuses on how eaarly life experience affects epigenetic modifications and transcription in the prairie vole brain.  In collaboration with Alev Erisir's lab, I am also working on characterizing the effects of early life experience on synaptic pruning in the prairie vole.


Andrew Graves

Graduate Student

MA, Appalachian State University

BS, BA Appalachian State University


My research examines the psychological constructs of perception, attention, learning, and affective processing, utilizing quantitative methods to extract information from human physiological systems using non-invasive technologies (fMRI, EEG/ ERP, ANS). I am researching the contribution of epigenetics to inter-individual variability for these psychological constructs within physiological systems.

UVA Psychology Department Fall 2019 (Pho

Sam Brindley

Graduate Student

BS, University of Miami


My research involves applying a multimodal approach to better understand the neural mechanisms of social cognition and behavior. Within the field of human social neuroscience, I am particularly interested in studying individual differences and early development of social brain function. Prior to my graduate studies, I earned a B.S. in Neuroscience from the University of Miami.

UVA Psychology Department Fall 2019 (Pho

Erin Kastar

Graduate Student

BA, University of Wisconsin, Madison


My main research interest is how epigenetics and the brain work together to affect complex social behaviors. My research is specifically focused on uncovering the molecular mechanisms that impact the maternal brain and behavior in the prairie vole. I received my B.A. in psychology at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, where I researched the role of vasopressin in courtship
behavior in California mice.

UVA Psychology Department Fall 2019 (Pho

Minah Kim

Graduate Student

BA, Macalaster College


My research interest is utilizing multimodal markers of individual differences to understand variability in social flexibility (i.e. the ability to flexibly adjust one's behavior to match the social context). Prior to UVa, I earned my B.A. in Psychology at Macalester College and worked at the Yale Child Study Center and Seattle Children's Research Institute researching indexes of social functioning in autism spectrum disorder (ASD).


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Gilmer Hall, Room 175
485 McCormick Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903