James graduated from UConn in 2006 with a B.A. in Psychology, 2011 with a M.A. and 2012 with a Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience.
What are you doing now?
I am currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Program. I run a lab that investigates how the physical spaces we inhabit are mapped in the brain and then how that information is utilized to guide future behavior. We combine large scale electrophysiological recordings from numerous single neurons in freely behaving rodents combined with a detailed analysis of the animal’s behavior. In addition to running a lab I teach courses in behavioral neuroscience including a course on Learning and Memory, which is the very course that got me started in behavioral neuroscience as an undergraduate at UConn.
How has your UConn degree helped prepare you for what you’re doing now?
It’s quite safe to say that without the training I received during my time at UConn I would not be in the position I am today. The coursework I completed and research experience I gained while completing the psychology major gave me the foundation to pursue graduate training in behavioral neuroscience, which I also completed at UConn. Everything I learned during my time at UConn propelled me into a top caliber Postdoctoral Research Fellowship position that I completed prior to accepting my current position as a professor.
What do you hope to be doing 5 years from now?
I hope to be doing the same thing that I’m doing now. The combination of continuous discovery from the research in the lab with the teaching and training of students in and out of the classroom is incredibly rewarding.
What was your favorite psych course you took?
Learning & Memory with Prof. Etan Markus. This is the course that got me started in behavioral neuroscience and made me switch from being a Philosophy major to a Psychology major.
What’s a piece of advice you would give to current students in our program?
Always pursue that which you are most interested and passionate about regardless of whether that path has twists and turns in it. The twists and turns are what make life so much fun.