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Lab Members

Dr. Tiffany Wills

Throughout my career I have been deeply invested in understanding the neurological underpinnings of alcohol dependence. I have used each stage of my training (from undergraduate to postdoc) to build complementary sets of technical skills and areas of study within the alcohol field. Some of the major themes of this work have focused on the developmental impacts of alcohol use.  As an undergraduate at IUPUI, I began by evaluating the consequences of fetal alcohol exposure on addictive behaviors in adults. During my graduate training in the laboratory of Dr. Breese at UNC, I used behavioral pharmacology to determine the circuitry and mechanisms involved in the negative affect associated during alcohol withdrawal. It was also during this time that I began to evaluate the consequences of adolescent alcohol exposure on these withdrawal related behaviors. As a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Winder at Vanderbilt University, I continued this investigation into the neurocircuitry and molecular contributors of withdrawal induced negative affect.  I found that alcohol regulation of NMDA receptor signaling was a critical for these effects. My current K99/R00 Career Development Award evaluates GluN2B-NMDA receptor signaling mechanisms and how they are impacted by adolescent alcohol exposure. 

Dr. Wills' CV


chelsea kasten - postdoctoral fellow

Chelsea was born and raised outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She started alcohol research in her junior year at Gettysburg College under the guidance of Dr. Steve Siviy. Following graduation, she moved to Indianapolis, IN to join the Boehm Lab at IUPUI. She graduated from the Addiction Neuroscience program with her PhD in August, 2017 with a strong background in behavioral neuroscience. Chelsea joined the Wills Lab as a postdoctoral fellow to pursue how adolescent alcohol exposure affects neural signaling and correlated behaviors, whether these effects are sex-dependent, and potential pharmacology interventions. In her spare time, Chelsea enjoys reading, biking, and spending time with her guinea pigs.  


Eleanor holmgren - graduate student

Eleanor is a native of Nashville, Tennessee home of the coveted hot chicken.  She attended Centre College in Danville, Kentucky and majored in Behavioral Neuroscience. Her love of neuroscience comes from her fascination in the crossover between psychology and biology. After graduation, Eleanor moved to Louisville, Kentucky to work as a patient care coordinator for a home based primary care practice.  Interested in pursuing a life of research, Eleanor moved to New Orleans to obtain her PhD from LSUHSC. She is excited to assist Dr. Wills' efforts in understanding the effect alcohol has on neural plasticity. In her spare time, she enjoys water skiing, vocal performance in NOVA Chorale, and watching Brooklyn 99.


katie carzoli - postdoctoral fellow

Katie’s background in Neuroscience began as an undergraduate at FSU, where she completed an honors thesis aimed at investigating the neurobiological basis of individual differences in stress responsiveness. Katie then pursued her PhD under the guidance of Dr. Richard Hyson, switching gears to explore the important role of metabotropic glutamate receptors in maintaining the health of auditory brainstem neurons in the developing chick. Katie’s background in behavioral and molecular neuroscience has allowed her to take a multidisciplinary approach in her postdoctoral research at LSUHSC, where she first joined Dr. June Liu’s lab to learn electrophysiology. In 2014, Katie was awarded an F32 to investigate learning-induced changes in the intrinsic membrane properties of cerebellar interneurons using an animal model of post-traumatic stress disorder. On completion of her funding, Katie joined the Wills lab to further strengthen her knowledge in electrophysiological techniques. Katie’s current work investigates the short- and long-term neural consequences of adolescent alcohol exposure in the BNST. In her free time, Katie enjoys crafting, traveling, and listening to live music.


Heather Cancienne - Research Associate

Heather grew up in St. John the Baptist parish and has been a southern Louisianian her whole life. She completed her B.S. in Biology down the bayou at Nicholls State University where she was first exposed to research as an honors student. Her thesis, which investigated the neuroendocrine involvement of the anterior pituitary in hypothyroidism, sparked her interest in neurobiology. Heather’s first research experience was in the Department of Biochemistry at LSUHSC where she investigated the regulatory role of Protein S in blood coagulation. She desired a stronger foundation in neuroscience, so she joined the Middleton and Wills labs in May 2018 in hopes of boasting her research background for a future as an MD/PhD student. When she isn’t in the lab, Heather enjoys helping out at her family’s grocery store, Don’s Country Store, perfecting her Bloody Mary and guacamole recipes, and binge-watching major league baseball. Go Sox!!!


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