James Lab 

Rutgers University

Robert Wood Johnson  Medical School

Department of Psychiatry

& Brain Health Institute

Our mission is to better understand the neural basis of psychiatric illnesses and to guide the development of more effective treatments for these devastating conditions.


We are particularly interested in studying illnesses characterized by aberrant motivation, including substance use disorders, depression, and eating disorders.


Lab Updates

May 2021: We have a new, fully funded postdoc position available in the lab! We are especially interested in someone with molecular neurobiology expertise to work with RNAseq and related approaches to better understand the role of hypothalamic neuropeptides in addiction. For more information on how to apply, see here.

April 2021: Congratulations to Shayna O'Connor from the lab for publishing her first, first-author paper in Neuropharmacology this month. Shayna's data indicates that the sensation seeking trait can predict susceptibility to the addiction-promoting effects of intermittent cocaine self-administration. You can read the paper here.

March 2021: A HUGE congratulations to Jackie Mehr from the lab for being named a 2021 Barry Goldwater Fellow. This is an extremely competitive, nation-wide award, and Jackie was successful among an applicant pool of ~5000 sophomores and juniors. You can read more about the Goldwater program here and read a news article on Jackie here

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March 2021: We are thrilled to have worked with Hao Zhu’s lab at Rutgers Camden on a project where we applied machine learning to publicly available data to identify and prioritize new analgesic opioids with limited off target effects. Particular congratulations to first author Xuelian Jia. Check out the paper here.

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February 2021: Congratulations to Jackie Mehr for being awarded an Undergraduate Research Fellowship by the Rutgers Aresty Research Center! This fellowship will support Jackie to continue her exciting work examining the role of the orexin system in a rodent model of binge eating. 

January 2021: We are thrilled that (soon-to-be) Dr. Utsav Gyawali will soon be joining our lab as a postdoctoral fellow! Utsav will come to us following his graduation from Dr. Donna Calu's lab at U Maryland School of Medicine, and accordingly has outstanding experience with drug self-administration and neuroscience techniques. Good luck wrapping up your Ph.D. Utsav - we look forward to you joining us! 

January 2021: Welcome to Michelle Bilotti who will be rotating in the lab over the Spring semester. Michelle is a first year graduate student in the Joint Graduate Program in Toxicology at Rutgers and brings to our lab several years of experience studying microglia. Welcome!

January 2021: Welcome to the lab Nish Trivedi who is majoring in Cell Biology and Neuroscience and plans to carry out her final year project in our lab. Welcome!


December 2020: A HUGE congratulations to Jackie Mehr for being awarded the Society for Neuroscience Trainee Professional Development Award!

October 2020: Congratulations to Shayna O’Connor on her first publication (first of many, we are sure)! We highlight the orexin system as a promising target for new therapies to treat cocaine and alcohol coabuse, complete with new proof-of-principle data. Check out the paper here.

August 2020: We are honored to highlight an excellent paper by Ellie-Anna Minogianis and Anna Samaha recently published in Neuroscience - they examined cocaine-induced gene regulation in corticostriatal regions using the intermittent access model for cocaine self-administration. Check out their article here and our commentary article here.

August 2020: It's official. The James lab is up and running! We are very excited to join the vibrant (and still growing) neuroscience community here at Rutgers, which includes an outstanding addiction research program. Looking forward to getting started - safely and socially-distanced, of course. We even joined Twitter!

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July 2020: A HUGE congratulations to Jackie Mehr and Orion Yedidia for being named prizewinners at the New Jersey Academy of Science Virtual Research Competition. Jackie tied for first place (!) in the Microbiology Division, and Orion earned an honorable mention. Much deserved! More details available here.

May 2020: Congratulations to Mohita, Orion, and Noah for successfully defending their senior theses and graduating! Mohita is off to medical school at NJMS, Noah is preparing for dental school, and Orion is continuing on as a postbac in the James lab before applying for medical school. A special mention to Orion who received several awards for his thesis, including the Cognitive Neuroscience Award, Henry Rutgers Award, and a Paul Robeson pin. Congratulations to you all - especially given the additional challenges that were thrown at you thanks to COVID-19. Thank you also to Drs. Aston-Jones, Fragale and Bowrey for their co-mentorship. 

March 2020: Check out our special issue (editors Drs. James and Aston-Jones) recently published at Brain Research, featuring 19 articles focused on the orexin system as a potential target for new therapeutics designed to treat substance use disorder and other related diseases. Thanks to all of the contributors!

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