Photo of Helen Kamens, Ph.D.

Helen Kames, Ph.D.

Lab Director

Helen M. Kamens earned her Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience from Oregon Health & Science University in 2007 where she focused on the genetics of initial drug sensitivity. She completed two postdoctoral fellowships at Yale University and the Institute for Behavioral Genetics before joining the Department of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State as assistant professor in the fall of 2013. Dr. Kamens has received numerous awards including the International Behavioral and Neural Genetics Society Outstanding Young Investigator Award, the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco Young Investigator Award, and the Research Society on Alcoholism Enoch Gordis Research Recognition Award.

Constanza Paulina Silva Gallardo

Graduate Student

Constanza is a graduate student in Biobehavioral Health. She has a BS degree in Biological Anthropology from the University of Chile, with background in genetics, human evolution, laboratory work and bioinformatics tools. Constanza is interested in behavioral genetics and substance use. Her previous work examined ADH genotypes and alcohol intake patterns among college students in Santiago, Chile. In Dr. Kamens’ laboratory she is currently working on how nicotine exposure during adolescence alters ethanol consumption and gene expression using the Weighted Gene Co-expression Network Analysis (WGCNA). Constanza was awarded with the Fund for Excellence in Graduate Recruitment from the Department of Biobehavioral Health, the Becas Chile, Chilean scholarship for international PH.D degrees (N° 72160326) funded by CONICYT, Ministry of Education and the Penn State Biomedical Big Data to Knowledge (B2D2K) training grant in 2017.





 Lan-Nhi Phung

Graduate Student

Lan-Nhi is a graduate student in Biobehavioral Health. She has a B.S degree in Biology with minors in Psychology and Public Health from Mercyhurst University (Erie, PA), with a background in genetics and cellular & molecular biology, and wet-lab experience in DNA extraction and processing. Lan-Nhi is interested in the underlying genetics of health-related behaviors, specifically in substance use. During undergraduate education, she studied non-harmful DNA amplification in the genome of Sciara coprophila (fungus fly) that affect their gene expression. In Dr. Kamens’s lab, she is participating in the experiment of chronic variable social stress effect on substance use behavior (morphine) in mice.

Carley Miller

Research Technologist

Photo of Carly Miller

Carley is a research technologist for the behavioral neurogenetics laboratory. She has a BS degree in Science and a minor in Neuroscience from The Pennsylvania State University and has been a researcher in this lab since January 2015. In Dr. Kamen’s lab she has lead the behavioral studies as well as completed bench work with RNA, DNA, and protein extractions of brain tissues. She completed an independent project exploring how genetics and age affect nicotine behaviors as a senior in the lab.






Kylie Stuhltrager

Undergraduate Research Assistant

I am junior majoring in Biobehavoral Health. I have been a part of Dr. Kamens lab since the spring of 2016 as a participant of NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Undergraduate Research Program. My hobbies include reading, volunteering, swimming, and cheering on Penn State football. After Penn State, I plan to further my education through medical school.



Colton Ruggery

Undergraduate Research Assistant

I am an undergraduate senior majoring in Pre-Medicine, and I am pursuing honors in Biobehavioral Health. I got involved with Dr. Kamens’ Lab in Fall 2017.  During my time in the lab, I have learned much about behavioral studies as well as the research process as a whole.  Over the next two years, I plan to take on my own project and write an honors thesis in Dr. Kamens’ Lab. In my spare time I enjoy weightlifting, playing both organized and unorganized sports and spending time with friends and family. After graduation, I plan to attend medical school and pursue my goal of becoming a doctor.

Aidan Peat

Undergraduate Research Assistant

I am a sophomore majoring in Biology, specifically the Vertebrate Physiology option. I joined Dr. Kamen’s lab in the fall of 2018, in order to learn more about behavior and addiction. Within the lab, I am excited to gain invaluable research experience, all while helping to further my knowledge of behavioral neurogenetics. Outside of lab, I am a firefighter/EMT and a runner for PSU Club Cross Country. After undergrad, I plan on attending medical school and pursuing a career in emergency medicine.

Rachel Bartlett

Undergraduate Research Assistant

I am a Junior majoring in Biology with a Genetic Emphasis. I have been a part of Dr. Kamen’s lab since the Fall of 2018 as an Undergraduate Research Assistant. Over my next few years working in the lab, I am excited to learn more about behavioral studies and the genetics behind the research. I plan to apply this knowledge to my own independent research in the future. This undergraduate experience will help me pinpoint exactly which area in genetics I want to study as I plan to pursue a career in the Genetic research field. My passions include being a nerd, cooking, and touring here at Penn State.


Grant Swisher

Undergraduate Research Assistant

I am an undergraduate senior majoring in Biology (Vertebrate Physiology Option) with the hope of entering into the medical field following graduation. I decided to pursue behavioral neuroscience research based on my interests in Dr. Kamens’ addiction-related studies. In the next year or so, I plan to extend my knowledge and build my research experience with Dr. Kamens as well as hopefully collaborating with more in-depth with future projects. In my spare time, I enjoy playing club lacrosse, going to the gym, shadowing medical professionals, golfing, working as an RA, and being surrounded by friends and family.






Anna Wickenheisser

Undergraduate Research Assistant

I am a freshman majoring in Biobehavioral Health who joined Dr. Kamens’ lab in the spring of 2019 as a participant of the NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Undergraduate Research Program. This research experience further supplements my interest in addiction while providing me with the knowledge needed to possibly start my own independent research later on. After graduation, I plan on attending graduate school. In my free time, I enjoy playing volleyball, reading, and spending time with friends and family.

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