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Fuchs Lokensgard Lab Neurobiology of Drug Addiction

Rita Fuchs, Ph.D.

Rita received her B.S. degree in Psychology with Summa Cum Laude (1995) as well as her M.A. (1997) and Ph.D. degrees in Behavioral Neuroscience/Psychology at Arizona State University (2000). Subsequently, she received postdoctoral training and was promoted to a Research Assistant Professorial position at the Medical University of South Carolina. After completing her training, Rita obtained her first tenure-track faculty position at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure and held joint appointments in the Department of Psychology and Curriculum in Neurobiology. She joined the IPN faculty at Washington State University as an Associate Professor in 2013. She has been serving as Director of the WSU Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Program since 2014 and as Chair of the Neurobiology of Motivated Behavior NIH study section since 2017. She is the proud mom of an 8-year-old little girl and a 10-year-old dog.

Rita Fuchs, Ph.D.


Jennifer Walters, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Associate

Jennifer completed her Ph.D. in Behavioral Pharmacology/Psychology at Western Michigan University in 2014. She subsequently obtained a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Food and Drug Administration’s National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) where she investigated the neurotoxic effects of developmental exposure to pediatric anesthetics. She was later promoted to a Staff Fellow at the NCTR were she investigated the reinforcing and pharmacokinetic effects of tobacco-product constituents. With a strong desire to better understand the neural mechanisms underlying aspects of drug addiction, Jennifer joined the Fuchs lab as a Postdoctoral Associate in March 2018. Jennifer has received several travel awards and has multiple first-author publications. In her free time she enjoys exploring nature and learning how to play the guitar.

Dr. Jen Walters,       Postdoctoral Associate

Jessica Higginbotham, Graduate Student

Jessica graduated from Saint Louis University in 2012 (B.A. Psychology, Magna Cum Laude). She entered WSU’s department of Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience in 2013 as a graduate student and received the Research Assistantship for Diverse Scholars (RADS) and the Achievement Reward for College Scientists fellowship (ARCS, Seattle Chapter). Jessica’s ongoing research in the Fuchs Lab focus on investigating the role of endocannabinoids in the reconsolidation of contextual cocaine memories. Jessica submitted a strong NRSA proposal (funding decision pending) and has received multiple travel awards and publications. She is also a super mom to her 7-year-old daughter.

Jessica Higginbotham Graduate Student


Jobe Ritchie, Graduate Student

Jobe graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.S. in Psychology from Portland State University in 2018. During his time at PSU he became heavily involved in neuroscience outreach to underprivileged K-12 children through NW NOGGIN (Neuroscience Outreach Group Growing In Networks). This involvement culminated in a visit to Washington DC to present on the value of STEM outreach to the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus. His research interests lie in the neurophysiological underpinnings of addiction and he strives to someday dive into studying the heterogeneity predisposing the individual to maladaptive behavior and neuropathogenesis. Outside of the lab, Jobe enjoys making and experimenting on his own cheese, reading existential and stoic philosophy, and debating the illusory nature of free will.

Jobe Ritchie Graduate Student

Jennifer Wang, Technician

Jennifer has a master’s degree in English from Xi’an International Studies University in Shaanxi Province, China. Since 2009 she has been assisting in molecular biology and neuroscience labs in the United States. She is currently working on projects related to drug context-induced phenomena, using novel animal models. She is excellent at balancing lab work and raising her teenage son.

Jennifer Wang, Technician

Shi Min Tan, Undergraduate Researcher

Shi Min is a native of China, but she has been a resident of Pullman sinc third grade. She is a pre-med student who has been volunteering in our lab since her freshman year at WSU. Shi Min has already received several prestigious awards, including an Auvil Scholarship and an ADARP individual undergraduate research award. Her poster presentation at the 2017 SURCA conference won first place and was awarded the Crimson Prize. Her current independent research project utilizes optogenetic manipulations to examine the role of the dorsal hippocampus in cocaine memory reconsolidation. In her free time, Shi Min plays the violin and bakes exotic cookies for the lab!

Shi Min Tan, Undergraduate Researcher



Chris Ibarra, Undergraduate Researcher

Chris is a pre-vet student from the West Side. He has been volunteering in the lab since 2018. He recently received a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Summer Research Award! Chris’ independent project will examine the role of the basolateral amygdala in early-stage memory reconsolidation using in vivo optogenetics. Chris is an animal lover who has also worked with baby cows and piglets at WSU.

Chris Ibarra, Undergraduate Researcher


Shayna Grogan, Undergraduate Researcher

Shayna is also a pre-vet student. She has lots of experience working with dogs assisting her mother who is a dog breeder. She has been volunteering in the lab since the fall of 2018. In her free time, she is attempting to accrue the requisite number of vet shadowing hours.

Shayna Grogan, Undergraduate Researcher

Alexis Lacey, Undergraduate Researcher

Alexis (Lexy) is a pre-med student who joined the lab during the summer of 2019, after taking Dr. Fuchs’ Fundamentals of Neuroscience course. She rocked that class and is learning super fast in the lab!

Alexis Lacey, Undergraduate Researcher

Madeleine Anderson, Undergraduate Researcher

Madeleine (Maddie) is a pre-med student. She also joined our lab during the summer of 2019. We have been excited to see how fast she has learned our behavioral procedures.

Madeleine Anderson, Undergraduate Researcher

We are proud of our LAB ALUMNI!

Amy Arguello, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Alumna

Amy is currently an Assistant Professor in Psychology at Michigan State University. She was a postdoctoral fellow in the Fuchs Lab both at UNC Chapel HIll and at Washington State University. While in the Fuchs Lab, Amy received several well-deservbed awards:

  • NIH NIDA K99 grant
  • Minorities and Women Travel Award presented by the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 2014
  • Minorities and Women Travel Award presented by the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 2015
  • Minorities and Women Travel Award presented by the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 2016
Amy Arguello, Ph.D.

Xiaohu (Tiger) Xie, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Alumnus

Tiger took a Research Assistant Professor position in the Department of Chemistry at North Carolina State University upon our lab’s move to Washington. We were sad to say goodbye to him! Tiger is currently a Grant Writing Specialist at Eva Garland Consulting, LLC. While in the Fuchs Lab, Tiger received a prestigious travel award:

  • Young Investigator Travel Award presented by the College on Problems of Drug Dependence, 2010
Xiaohu (Tiger) Xie, Ph.D.

Donna Ramirez, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Alumna

After completing her postdoctoral training in the Fuchs Lab, Donna obtained a position of Assistant Director of the Addiction Research Center at the University of Texas in Galveston. She currently works as a Science Writer for the University of Texas Medical Branch. During her tenure, Donna received some outstanding awards:

  • NIH NIDA R01 Diversity Supplement
  • Travel award to NIDA Frontiers in Neuroscience conference, 2008
  • Travel award to NIDA Frontiers in Neuroscience conference, 2009
Donna Ramirez, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Alumna

Audrey Wells, Ph.D., Graduate Alumna

After completing her dissertation research, Audrey obtained a competitive postdoctoral position at McLean Hospital, Harvard School of Medicine. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Pfizer, in pursuit of a position in the pharmaceutical industry. As a graduate student, Audrey won several prestigious honors and awards:

  • NIH NIDDK T32 Neurobiology training grant award
  • NIH T32 Addiction training grant award
  • NIH NIDA F31 Individual Predoctoral Fellowship
  • Publication corresponding to master’s thesis selected for Faculty of 1000 review, 2012
  • Society for Neuroscience travel award to attend the FENS Forum in Barcelona, Spain, 2012
  • NIH NIDA Director’s Travel Award to attend the College on Problems of Drug Dependence meeting, 2012


Audrey Wells, Ph.D.

Heather Lasseter, Ph.D., Graduate Alumna

Heather completed her dissertation in the Fuchs lab and went on to train to become a science writer. To this end, she completed a competitive Health Communications Postdoctoral Fellowship through the National Cancer Institute. Subsequently, she worked as a Science Writer through Percolations, LLC. More recently, she accepted a position as Senior Scientific Program Manager at Cohen Veterans Bioscience. While in graduate school, Heather received an impressive number of accolades:

  • NIH T32 Addiction training grant award
  • NIH NIDA F31 Individual Predoctoral Fellowship
  • Office of Undergraduate Research Graduate Mentor Support Grant, 2010
  • Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award, 2012
Heather Lasseter, PhD
Heather Lasseter, PhD

Kati Healey, Mark Presker, and Sierra Stringfield, Ph.D.; Graduate Alumni

Kati, Mark, and Sierra received their early graduate training in the Fuchs Lab and continued their training at UNC Chapel Hill after the lab’s move to Washignton. They are still missed today! Kati and Mark completed their master’s theses based on their research conducted in the Fuchs lab. Kati is close to defensing her doctoral dissertation at UNC, while Mark is currently in the Neuroscience doctoral program at Rutgers University. Sierra recently defended her doctoral dissertation at UNC and moved onto a competitive postdoctoral position at the University of Pittsburg School of Medicine. Here are the honors and awards these students received while in the Fuchs Lab:


  • NIH NIDA T32 Addiction training grant award


  • NIH NIDDK T32 Neurobiology training grant award


  • NIDDK T32 Neurobiology training grant award
  • R01 Diversity Supplement (2013)

Rotating WSU Neuroscience Graduate Students:

Jesse Barnes, Priyanka Bushana, Cody Kowalski, Nicklaus Millican, Lydia Baxter-Potter



Kati Healey, Audrey Wells, Mark Presker, and Sierra Stringfield, Ph.D.
Priyanka Bushana and Cody Kowalski


Our Awesome Undergraduates

WSU Undergraduate Researchers: Abigail Jindra, Nichole (Mahan) Jones, Theresa Dorrian, Daniel Wynhoff, Jordan Bromley, Janelle Lugo, Sabrina Slattery, Jacob Hall, Marshall Mitchell, Michael Bukolt, Joshua Wilkes, Taylor Brown, Jaclyn Roland-McGowan

UNC Undergraduate Researchers: Zu-In Su, Guinevere Bell, Jennifer Shurney, Andrew Hamlet, John Tobben, Portia West, Amy Zipurski,  Trey Newsome, Joel Shilinglaw, Landon Kline, Antonia Bista, Megan Blanton, Ana Maria Balta, Daijha Copeland, Keona Perry, Victoria Greene, Stephanie Kaszycki, Andrew Reittinger, Carey Hanlin, Matthew Hodges,Kelly Daffron, Aaron Clayton, Katrina Lawrence, Andrew Reittinger‡, Julian Duda, Margaret Kovach, Daniel Reich, Chandler Sours, Kyree Clark, Adrienne Yancey, Courtney Brown, Daniel McNeal

Summer Research Fellows: Jade Donaldson, Melissa Vargas, Honorio Lara

Some of our WSU undergraduate lab alumni: