Ben Sachs, Principal Investigator.  Dr. Sachs first got involved in research in Dr. James Cherry’s Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology & Behavior at Boston University, where he majored in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology and Psychology. He then joined the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program at the University of California-San Diego where he joined Dr. Katerina Akassoglou’s lab in the Department of Pharmacology. After completing his dissertation describing a novel signaling pathway downstream of the p75 neurotrophin receptor, he joined Marc Caron’s laboratory in the— Department of Cell Biology  at Duke University where he first began performing research related to mental health – investigating the consequences of brain serotonin deficiency. Dr. Sachs came to Villanova in 2015 and started his lab here in 2016. When not demonstrating gross violations of laboratory safety guidelines to his children, Dr. Sachs enjoy spending time with his wife, two daughters, dog, and African Grey parrot.


Graduate Students

Brittany Baugher – Graduate Research Assistant. Brittany is primarily responsible for managing the lab’s animal colony and is working to examine the effects of early life stress on susceptibility to subsequent stressors in adulthood. She hopes to provide insight into the mechanisms leading to susceptibility vs. resilience to mental illness. After graduation, she plans to obtain a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.


Nicole Daly – Graduate Research Assistant

Nicole’s research focuses on examining potential sex differences in response to stress-induced increases in binge drinking behavior.


Shama Huq – Shama is studying the effects of subchronic stress on binge drinking in mice.


Julia Ferrante. CBN ’20. Julia started working in the lab in the fall of 2017. She has been studying potential sex differences in behavioral and molecular responses to buprenorphine, which has recently shown promise as an antidepressant. She is the recipient of an ASPET Travel Award to present some of this research at the annual Experimental Biology/ASPET meeting in San Diego in April.


Kassidy Manning, CBN ’21. Kassidy has been working on studies evaluating the behavioral consequences of binge drinking.



Marie Skaf, CBN ’20. Marie is focusing on molecular studies examining potential sex differences in the effects of repeated buprenorphine expression in the brain.



Leah Waltrip, CBN ’20. Leah started working in the lab in 2018 and she is currently working to understand the cellular mechanisms through which low brain serotonin promote aggression. After graduation, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Neuroscience.

Elisabeth Dimitratos, CBN ’21. Elisabeth started in the lab her first year on campus (Spring of 2018) through the Villanova Match Program for First Year Students . She has been studying the effects of stress on binge drinking behavior and gene expression. She presented some of her results at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego.