ABOUT ME

I'm a Data Scientist at Evidation Health. I have a PhD in Dynamical Neuroscience from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I was a proud member of the Miller Memory Lab.  Before graduate school, I attended the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology where I double majored in Biology and Psychology and minored in Chemistry.

I am a native New Mexican and I was lucky to grow up amidst reservations, desert landscapes, and lots of chile. Now I live in beautiful Santa Barbara with my husband and our bunny rabbit, Hugo. I like painting watercolors, reading (lately I've been reading books about healthcare and decision-making), and watching Netflix/Hulu (especially British crime dramas, documentaries, and competition shows). 

I have received several prestigious fellowships and awards, including the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship, the Doctoral Scholars Fellowship from the UCSB Graduate Division, the SAGE Center’s Graduate Student Fellowship, and the Macey Scholarship. I was also selected to attend and present at the 65th annual Nobel Laureate Conference in Lindau, Germany.

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These are the current flow models of 15 participants. For each participant, we collect anatomical scans of their brains, then use Freesurfer to create 3D meshes of their brains. Then we select brain targets (for my experiments, we target the left and right inferior frontal gyrus) and set up an electrode montage to maximally stimulate those targets. Lastly, we simulate current flow in participants' brains given their unique electrode montages with SimNIBS. As you can see above, there is a lot of variability when it comes to the amount of current delivered to the cortex. The advantage of modeling current flow is that we can account for these differences in current intensity at the cortex when analyzing the results of tDCS.

These are the current flow models of 15 participants. For each participant, we collect anatomical scans of their brains, then use Freesurfer to create 3D meshes of their brains. Then we select brain targets (for my experiments, we target the left and right inferior frontal gyrus) and set up an electrode montage to maximally stimulate those targets. Lastly, we simulate current flow in participants' brains given their unique electrode montages with SimNIBS. As you can see above, there is a lot of variability when it comes to the amount of current delivered to the cortex. The advantage of modeling current flow is that we can account for these differences in current intensity at the cortex when analyzing the results of tDCS.

ABOUT MY RESEARCH

We often form beliefs based on information that is incomplete, uncertain, ambiguous, and that changes with time. There's an incredible amount of variability in how people interpret information and integrate it into their belief systems, and beliefs often form the basis of decisions that have far reaching consequences. (Take for example the fact that jurors' beliefs that a defendant is guilty can send an innocent person to jail, which has happened in at least 353 cases.)

I investigate how frontal neural networks contribute to belief formation and belief updating. I use high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation (HD-tDCS) to simultaneously increase activity in one frontal lobe and decrease activity in the opposite frontal lobe as participants complete tasks in which they evaluate and integrate evidence to make decisions. In one task, participants report their opinions on different ballot measures as they are presented with arguments in favor or in opposition to the measures. In another task, participants hear evidence from real criminal court cases to decide whether a defendant is guilty or innocent. 

Based on previous studies on different patient populations, we expect that artificially biasing activity to the left or right hemisphere will influence how people update their beliefs. We expect that biasing activity to the left hemisphere will make people more certain in their beliefs while biasing activity to the right hemisphere will make people more sensitive and responsive to conflicting evidence.


ABOUT THE BLOG

This is the second iteration of my personal website and blog. My first website was prematurely laid to rest because someone accidentally forgot to renew her website's domain name. Oops.

The good news is that my website is back and better than ever. I'm bringing back popular blog posts and I have plans to create more posts in the future. I am focusing on posting things that I find both interesting and useful (spoiler alert: that means a whole lot of data visualization tutorials with some templates sprinkled in).

As always, my goal is to share some of the things that I've learned along the way so you can Google a little bit less today.