Current Scholar

M. Nicole Kunkel

PhD Student, Behavioral Neuroscience
M. Nicole Kunkel
Academic Institution: University of Texas Location: Austin, Texas Cohort Start Year: 2018
Research Topics: Behavioral and Mental Health, Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Early Childhood, Environmental Justice, Violence and Trauma
Populations Served: Adolescents (12-20 years), At-Risk/Vulnerable Populations, Victims of Crime, Women's Health, Young Children (0-5 years)

FOCUS
Nicole’s current research involves testing how chemical exposures during pregnancy may change brain and behavior, and how that impacts an individual’s response to subsequent life stress/trauma. She uses a rat model and looks at brain images, circulating hormone levels, and neurotransmitters as indicators of stress or reward. She also uses behavioral tests to look at mate choice and sexual motivation in females. This project relates to Nicole’s broader interest in understanding and promoting the reproductive and sexual wellness of women. Too often cases of sexual violence are forgotten, rape kits left untested. When cases do move forward in the criminal justice system, victim-survivors lose control over their narrative when prosecutors tell their story for them, question their experiences, and counter their experiences. It is Nicole’s hope that developing more methods and approaches to understanding the needs of victim-survivors of sexual violence, they can feel more control of their experiences.

MORE ABOUT NICOLE
Nicole is a bicultural Mexican-American woman who was the first in her family to be born in the United States. She hopes to broaden her perspective of bench science to public policy. She believes HPRS will help her to think more critically about how the design and translation of her rodent models will promote meaningful interventions for populations that are vulnerable to sexual violence.

DISSERTATION GRANT AWARDEE — FEBRUARY 2021
The Effects of Perinatal PCBs and Sociosexual Stress on the Hypothalamus and Behavior of Female Rats

Stressors impact an organism throughout the life course, from gestation to adulthood, and have serious implications for health and wellbeing. This dissertation will focus on two stressors experienced at different life stages and how each independently, as well as inter-dependently, change the trajectory of health and disease, with a focus on female sexual health.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE HPRS DISSERTATION AWARDS, CLICK HERE.

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