Meet the Iordanova Lab members.
The Iordanova lab team is composed of postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate students with educational and training backgrounds in behavioral neuroscience, molecular biology, genetics, biology, and psychology.
Belinda Lay, Ph.D
I was awarded a PhD in behavioural neuroscience in 2017 at the University of New South Wales examining the molecular processes mediating the consolidation of aversive memories under the supervision of Dr. Frederick Westbrook. I was awarded Concordia University’s Horizon Postdoctoral Fellowship to conduct my work in Dr. Mihaela Iordanova’s lab . I am currently working on projects that investigate the behavioural and neural mechanisms involved in regulating how reward and fear-based memories are formed and updated in simple and complex environments. In particular, how different neuronal populations and pathways within the amygdala and prefrontal cortex play a functional role in updating behavioural responses when faced with changing contingencies using casual (optogenetics and the Daun02 cell deletion procedure in Fos-LacZ transgenic rats) and correlational (pharmacology, in vivo neuronal recordings) techniques. I am also an Editor and Treasurer of Episteme Heath Inc. In my spare time, I enjoy knitting and eating with friends and relaxing at home watching movies.
Czarina Evangelista, Ph.D
Czarina is a small-town California girl that learned to enjoy Canadian winters. In 2014, she obtained her BA in Honors Psychology with a concentration in neuroscience at Colby College in Maine, USA. In 2019, she earned her PhD in Psychology at the Center for Studies of Behavioral Neurobiology at Concordia University, Montreal under the supervision of Drs. Peter Shizgal and Wayne Brake. Her thesis investigated the role of dopamine transmission in the motivational after-effect of rewards. She was awarded Concordia University’s Horizon Postdoctoral Fellowship to conduct her work in the Iordanova Lab. Currently, she is investigating the neural circuits involved in higher-order conditioning using pharmacological, chemogenetic, and in vivo electrophysiological techniques. In her free time, she enjoys practicing pottery, watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, and being ignored by her three cats.
Born and raised in Germany, I completed my B.Sc. in Biology at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich. Deciding I wanted to see more of the world, I spent the next 4 years at UC San Diego learning single unit in-vivo electrophysiology under Jill Leutgeb and Stefan Leutgeb. In Dr. Iordanova’s laboratory, I am now utilizing this knowledge and gaining new as a graduate student, investigating the neural correlates of associative learning. To balance out the science in my life, I enjoy being outside no matter the weather, or getting cozy with a cup of tea, my latest knitting project or a good book.
I received my Honours B.A. in Psychology from Concordia University in 2016. I joined the Iordanova Lab as a graduate student in 2017 after completing my honours research in the lab. For my thesis, I studied a combination of behavioural paradigms aimed at reducing the associative strength of a target stimuli, namely overexpectation and extinction in appetitive classical conditioning. My current research is focused on understanding the role of dopamine in aversive learning. To do this I use optogenetics in conjunction with behavioural designs such as blocking and temporal primacy. Outside the lab, I enjoy reading, cycling and baking.
I have received my BSc in Molecular Biology and Genetics and BA in Philosophy (minor in Psychology) from Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey. As a PhD student in the lab, I am focusing on uncovering the behavioral and neural bases of higher-order fear learning. I do this using a combination of pharmacogenetic methods including Daun02 inactivation in fos-LacZ transgenic animals, and circuit-based analysis using DREADDs. When I am not in the lab, I mostly drink wine and play with my data. I love knitting and sewing, reading fiction (favorite authors Oğuz Atay, Dostoyevsky and Nabokov) and I am very interested in auteur cinema.
My name is Alex and I’m currently pursuing my Master’s degree after completing a Bsc in Behavioral Neuroscience at Concordia. I study reward prediction error in VTA dopamine neurons using optogenetics. The traditional belief that VTA dopamine only encodes changes in value has come under scrutiny in the learning field. Our research will contribute to the debate. In my spare time, you can find me at Tim Hortons fueling my high levels of energy while watching bird videos (I have a particularly soft spot for chickens).
Vanessa Rosales Fernandez
Vanessa is a Masters student in the Iordanova lab. She studies the reinstatement after overexpectation in males and females.
Hajar El Mouddene
I received my first bachelor in finance from the John Molson School of Business. Currently, I am progressing towards a BSc in behavioural neuroscience. In 2019, I completed my honours thesis in the lab of Dr. Andreas Arvanitogiannis. Using electrical stimulation of the lateral hypothalamus and the reward mountain model, my thesis involved determining the stage of the neural computation of utility at which reward delay acts to influence reward-seeking behavior. Since joining the Iordanova lab in June 2019, I have been using optogenetics to identify a causal role for VTA dopaminergic activity in aversive prediction error. In the near future, I am interested in mapping the genetic profiles of midbrain dopaminergic subpopulations and coupling genetic differences to well-defined behavioral functions, developmental lineages, and electrophysiological properties. Party host extraordinaire by popular acclaim. On Sundays, I enjoy yoga, brunch, and watching PBS’s Space Time. In a parallel universe, I am definitely an astronomer.
I am a member of the Science College and currently I am doing an honours thesis as a 4th year BSc. Behavioural Neuroscience student at Concordia University, with a minor in Multidisciplinary Studies in Science. I study the role of midbrain dopamine signalling in reward prediction error using higher-order learning designs in conjunction with optogenetics. I am interested in neuronal computation and how it produces overt behaviour, as well as its integration into brain-machine interfaces. During my free time I am either out dancing or napping, no in between. I like wine, baby goats, and wine.
I’m in my second year of my BA in Honours Psychology at Concordia University. In the lab, I have been involved in projects looking at reinstatement following overexpectation training as well as the role of dopamine transients in reward prediction error. Outside of the lab, I like spending time with my cat, snake, and rat, watching scary movies, and skateboarding.
I am a Behavioral Neuroscience Specialization undergraduate studying at Concordia University. While volunteering at the Iordanova Lab, I have developed an interest in studying how animals learn about upcoming aversive and appetitive events. Outside of the lab, I enjoy reading, rock climbing and spending time with my cat.
I am currently pursuing my third year in a B.Sc. Honours in Behavioral Neuroscience. I volunteer at the Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology so as to gain more hands-on experience. I also take part in Concordia’s student life via clubs and associations; I am Co-President at MedSpecs Concordia, as well as the Vice-President of Internal Affairs at the Syrian Student Association.