Rebecca Spencer (CV)

Post-doctoral fellow, Neuroscience (University of California, Berkeley)
PhD, Neuroscience (Purdue University)
BA, Biology & Kinesiology (Hope College)
Rebecca runs the show – at least when there’s enough coffee to keep her going.   She also teaches Psychology of Sleep (Psych 391), Behavioral Neuroscience (Psych 330) and Neurobiology of Disease (NS&B 891) to name a few.  In her spare time she chases monkeys, runs marathons and likes to exercise her “right brain”.  Too bad she has no spare time.




Bethany Jones

PhD Neuroscience (University of Arizona)
BA  Psychology (Ohio University)
Bethany is interested in the neural processes by which sleep changes memory representations and how factors such as aging and emotional salience affect these processes. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, playing with her dogs, and spending time outdoors.


Bengi Baran

PhD-track Cognitive Psychology
MS  Bogazici University
Bengi is interested in emotional memories, metacognition, aging, movement disorders and the influence of sleep on these.  She likes artichokes, hates raspberries and her accent comes from Istanbul where very few people know what maple syrup tastes like.



Amanda Cremone

PhD-track Neuroscience & Behavior
BA – Psychology (Merrimack College)
Amanda is interested the role of sleep and early experience on development and cognitive functioning and working jointly with Dr. Jen McDermott’s lab. She is particularly interested in sleep efficiency of typically and atypically developing children. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, reading, and taking late afternoon naps – to promote consolidation of the memories she had acquired throughout the day.


Dylan Hillsburg

PhD-track Neuroscience & Behavior
BS – Psychology (Emmanuel College)
Dylan is interested in the benefits of a mid-day nap on learning and emotional regulation in early childhood.  When he’s not traveling to the desert to escape the cold, he enjoys golfing, hiking, and dabbling with guitar.  He also enjoys traveling to other parts of the world when he can and hopes to someday travel to all seven continents.   

Lauri Kurdziel

PhD-track Neuroscience & Behavior
MS Animal Behavior (Bucknell University)
BS Zoology (University of Maryland, College Park)

Lauri’s research interests include aging, cognition, and the neurodegenerative diseases. She is particularly interested in the role of sleep, exercise and the sex hormones on these. In her spare time, she likes to ballroom dance, cook, and plan her back-up career as a party planner – just in case this whole PhD thing doesn’t work out.


Janna Mantua

PhD-track Neuroscience & Behavior
BA Psychology (West Virginia University)
Janna is interested in the effect of sleep on memory consolidation and how this relationship may be affected by aging. If she isn’t in the lab, you might find her in a library, a bookstore, or somewhere else pretending to be a philosopher. If you want to know more about her, you can read the description for a Leo.

Akshata Sonni

MA-track Neuroscience & Behavior
BS Microbiology (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
Akshata is interested in the effect of sleep on learning and memory, and is also exploring the role of sleep in age-related cognitive decline and in movement disorders such as cerebellar ataxia. In addition, she is interested in the role of the cerebellum in motor coordination and time perception.
She loves the outdoors, is an ardent foodie and although her name means “indestructible,” is the most accident-prone person she knows!


Patrice Stering

PhD-track Developmental Psychology
MEd Elementary Education (Lesley University)
BS Psychology (Neuroscience track) and Biology (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
Patrice is interested in the development of cognitive processes and  the role that certain factors, such as sleep and physical activity, may have on these processes.  She loves spending time with her husband, their beautiful daughter, and their crazy dog.  She enjoys the outdoors and dreams about someday having a house on the beach.



Phil Desrochers

BS Psychology  (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

Phil is currently interested in the neural underpinnings behind the development of procedural memory, motor learning, and coordination in children.  He hopes to pursue a graduate degree in developmental or rehabilitative neuroscience.  He enjoys both playing and teaching drums, working towards his private pilot’s license, and playing with his new puppy who is slowly but surely destroying all of his possessions!


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Ryan Bottary

BS Psychology  (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

Ryan joined the lab in January 2014 and one of his first jobs is to update this profile!



The lab is home to 20-40 undergraduate research assistants each semester.  We pride ourselves in preparing students for graduate school and careers in research while also gaining the extra-hands for overnight sleep recordings using polysomnography.  After a minimum of 1 semester in the lab, students affiliated with the Commonwealth Honors College are invited (and encouraged) to do a Capstone Thesis in the lab.  Success of this work can be seen in the publications and presentations that have resulted.

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2013 Cognac Lab Honors Graduates

(from left to right: Ryan Bottary, Rebecca Spencer, Alycia Sullivan, Logan O’Sullivan)


2012 Cognac Lab Honors Graduates

(from left to right: Lauren Szymula, Jessica Kent, Tobias Bennett, Rebecca Spencer, Rebecca Owen, Dasha Daniels, and Sydney Adams)


Research assistants Alycia Sullivan, Kayla Rose, Jarrod Stein, and Kevin Fernandez with graduate student, Bengi Baran, at the Massachusetts Undergraduate Research Conference (April 2012).

Pics from the spring 2012 dinner and datablitz here.

Undergraduates Lauren Szymula and Irina Orlovsky presenting at N.E.U.R.O.N. (Nov 2011)

Undergraduate Mackenzie Zahara with Lauri Kurdziel at the Ataxia Walk-n-Roll (Sept 2011)

2011 Cognac Lab Honors Graduates (May 2011)

Lab Datablitz – click the brain to see!  (April 2011)

With undergraduates Jarrod Stein and Sydney Adams


Ed Pace-Schott (Harvard Medical School)
Lauren Szymula (PhD Program, University of Maine)
Wilbeth Lugo (PhD Program, Iowa State)
Rebecca Owen (Monterey Institute of International Studies)
Jessica Kent (Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Southern California)
Caitlin Dillon (Research Associate, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine)
Brendan Flanagan (MD Program, UMass Medical School)
Katherine Dempsey (Research Scientist, Baystate Hospital)
Enma Pardilla-Delgado (PhD Program, University of Notre Dame)
Billy Anderson (Research Scientist, SUNY Stony Brook)
Mike Brickhouse (Research Scientist, Harvard/MGH)
Michelle Sunm (PhD Program, SUNY Buffalo)
Jessica Wilson (PhD Program, Duke)



Eve Valera (MGH/Harvard Psychiatry)
Uma Karmarkar (Harvard Business School)
Monique LeBourgeious (University of Colorado)
David Wright (Texas A&M)
Jennifer McDermott (Dept of Psychology, University of Massachusetts)
Sofiya Alhassan (Dept of Kinesiology, University of Massachusetts)