Laboratory Director

Hollis Karoly, Ph.D. (she/her)

Broadly, my research aims to characterize neural, molecular and behavioral mechanisms underlying the etiology of alcohol use disorders, in an effort to inform treatment development. More specifically, I am interested in how functional impairments along the microbiota-gut-brain-axis (MGBA; which refers to bidirectional interactions between gut microbes, endocrine, autonomic, enteric, immune and central nervous systems) may promote alcohol use behavior and serve as potential treatment targets. In recent years, my work has increasingly emphasized the role of the endogenous cannabinoid system – which is distributed heavily throughout the brain and gut – in the context of alcohol use disorders.

Thus, I am conducting several studies measuring the impact of phytocannabinoids (primarily cannabidiol [CBD] and tetrahydrocannabinol [THC]) on behavioral phenotypes related to alcohol use disorder (alcohol consumption, craving, intoxication) and on biomarkers across the MGBA (brain structure and function, peripheral inflammation, intestinal permeability, gut microbial composition). Outside of work, I try to spend as much time as I can enjoying the Colorado mountains with my husband and son.

Graduate students

Meggan Drennan, M.S. (she/her)

I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Cognitive Neuroscience program and currently conducting my dissertation research through heading the ORCA study. Prior to arriving at CSU, I received my B.S. in Behavioral Neuroscience from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Tx where I discovered my love of research and decided to pursue a career in exploring the physiological mechanisms behind psychology and behavior. I relocated to Fort Collins and completed my Master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences before joining the ENIGMA lab for my Ph.D. The timing of Dr. Karoly’s arrival at CSU and the completion of my M.S. felt serendipitous as the goals of the lab and my interests truly align perfectly, combining psychological and biological measures to investigate relationships between the gut microbiome, brain and behavior as it is influenced by alcohol and cannabis use. Outside of academia, I am the mother of 2 beautiful children and enjoy writing music, playing the piano and singing, as well as creating artwork in multiple forms.

Cianna Piercey, B.S. (she/they)

I am a second-year student in the Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program and currently conducting my thesis research through heading the DISCO study. Prior to beginning my graduate studies at CSU, I completed my B.S. in clinical psychology and neuroscience at the University of Central Florida. Broadly, I am interested in researching biopsychosocial mechanisms of substance use risk mitigation, with a focus on protective behavioral strategies (PBS). In my current work, I am conducting a field study of polysubstance use patterns and PBS (e.g., test drugs for the presence of fentanyl) among festival and concert attendees in Colorado. Ultimately, I am passionate about reducing stigma and treating people who use drugs with the compassion and respect that they deserve! In my free time, I enjoy painting, hiking, seeing live music, and spending time with my partner and our sweet puppy, Macaroni.

Vanessa Stallsmith, B.A. (she/her)

I am a second-year student in the Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program and the lead graduate researcher on the FRACTAL and EXCEL studies. I moved to Colorado in 2016 to complete my dual B.A. in Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Colorado, Boulder (sko buffs!). I am interested in researching novel therapeutic approaches to alleviate mental health disorders and promote overall wellness. I am fascinated by the intersection of behavioral health and physical well-being and aspire to someday work in a primary care facility or academic medical center where I can incorporate exercise, diet, and counseling in my approach to “whole-person” care. When I’m not working, I love to celebrate my body through movement. As such, I’m typically at the gym or on a hike with my partner. I love being outdoors and exploring this beautiful state! I’m also a self-proclaimed foodie and enjoy trying new recipes and feeding the people I love.

Eleftherios (Lefty) Hetelekides, M.S. (he/him)

I started the Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program in Fall 2022 and am currently the lead graduate researcher on the NECCTAR study. My previous research experiences include preclinical work related to the endocannabinoid system, neuroimaging, and neuropharmacology in mouse and rat models of addiction. I have also been involved in clinically focused substance use research related to personality, protective behavioral strategies/harm reduction, drug-related behaviors, craving, and neuroelectrophysiology (i.e., EEG). For my PhD and career, I am interested in exploring biopsychosocial mechanisms related to psychopathology, substance use/addiction, and behavior change. In my free time I enjoy being outside, exercising (especially rock climbing!), chilling with friends, having philosophical discussions, playing video games, and cooking delicious food with minimal effort in my air fryer.

Research Assistants

Tabitha McMichael (she/her)

I am an undergraduate student in the college of natural sciences majoring in Psychology and minoring in Chemistry. After taking classes on physiology and learning how the brain interacts with different chemical compounds, I became interested in how different drugs affect the mind, brain, and behavior of the individual. I am currently concentrating in addictions counseling to advance my knowledge on addictions and their treatment. Working with Dr. Karoly and the ENIGMA lab has allowed me to further pursue interests in potential addiction treatments and learning how different drug combinations alter physical and psychological factors. Outside of CSU I work as a Certified Phlebotomy Technician at the Medical Center of the Rockies and volunteer as a crisis counselor with Crisis Textline, and in my free time I recently became a plant mom and love traveling and crocheting. 

Leila Zulic (she/her)

I’m from San Diego, California and a fourth-year student studying neuroscience with an interest in how interactions and components of genetics, environment, and identity shape addiction. I have worked as the lead undergraduate research assistant on several projects in the ENIGMA lab over the past 3 years and aspire to go to medical school after graduating. My hobbies include going to the gym and being outside.

Patrick Gonzalez (he/him)

I am a junior psychology major concentrating in mind, brain, and behavior. After undergrad, I’m aiming for graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in neuropsychology and conduct research in the process. My interests include exploring individual differences in the effects of neuropharmaceuticals and optimizing these effects. In my free time, I enjoy having Mario Kart tournaments with my roommates and refining my Spotify playlists.

Jesse Ruehrmund (she/her)

My name is Jesse “Roo” Ruehrmund, I am going into my 5th undergraduate year at Colorado State University in the College of Liberal Arts and College of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences. I hope to gain a few years of field experience before continuing on to a PhD/MD program to pursue a career in the field of neuro-psychopharmacology. I look forward to seeing how research continues to expand to explore more novel drug interactions and therapies. I hope in my future to see and participate in a new wholistic approach to therapies where all facets of a person’s life can be cared for by a team that works together to provide a thorough but fluid and efficient treatment process. Outside of research I enjoy spending my time outside on the water or exploring Colorado’s social scene with my friends.

Devin Henry (he/him)

I am a Mind, Brain, and Behavior Psychology Major here at CSU in my first year. In the future, I look forward to achieving a PhD in the realm of Cognitive Neuroscience. As a researcher in this field, I plan to explore ways to help those with PTSD and substance use issues by learning how new neural connections are made. In my free time I find myself playing table-top games, exploring the mountains, and researching alternative medicines.

Mikayla Allen-Collins (she/her)

I am an undergraduate 4th year General Psychology student who aims to progress into a graduate proI am a recent General Psychology graduate who aims to progress into a graduate program for Clinical Mental Health or Psychology Research. I currently assist on the ORCA and DISCO study within Dr. Karoly’s lab and have previously worked on a study within Dr. Harman’s Applied Social Psychology lab, focusing on intimate partner violence. I spend as much leisure time as I can outside and enjoy visiting my hometown beaches in FL as often as possible. Additionally, I’ve grown to adore skiing and hiking in the Colorado mountains. When I’m indoors, you can find me reading, painting, playing guitar and spending time with my cats.  

Wes MacLean (he/him)

I am a senior Psychology major concentrating in addiction counseling. I am originally from Colorado, raised in Los Angeles, and lived in New England, D.C. and Florida before returning to Colorado in 2019. I am interested in harm reduction, reducing stigma and working with underserved populations. I plan on attending graduate school for a master’s degree in addiction counseling. In my free time, I love to be outside hiking and skiing or relaxing at home with my cats. 

Dane Roesler (he/him)

I am a 4th-year student in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience with a minor in biomedical sciences. Originally I am from Peoria, Illinois but my parents recently retired to Vail, Colorado. After undergrad, I am planning on either going to medical school or graduate school to pursue my interest in psychopharmacology to help those with mental disabilities. I am really excited to get experience in this lab to understand how drugs are manipulating how we think and feel in real-life scenarios. When I am not focusing on school, I enjoy hiking, skiing, traveling, and concerts for local bands.

Joseph Cameron (he/him)

I am a 3rd year psychology student at CSU. I was born and raised here in Fort Collins. I am interested in the study of addiction and counseling. My current interest is in methamphetamine addiction, harm reduction, and the improvement of treatments for those who have substance use disorder. I plan to attend graduate school and get a masters or Ph.D. in Clinical and Counseling Psychology. In my spare time I like to watch a good Netflix movie with my husband and our dog.

Perri Freeman-McKeon (she/her)

I’m a fourth year undergraduate studying psychology in the general concentration. I’m interested in addiction counseling, harm reduction, and understanding what influences addiction. In the future I hope to work with people struggling with substance use disorder. Outside of school I listen to as much music as possible, visit my family in Denver, and create multimedia art. 

Maia Bransom (she/her)

My name is Maia and I am an undergraduate psychology student at Colorado State University. I am passionate about clinical psychology and I would love to be a therapist or addiction counselor one day. I also love painting, astrology, and spending time with my newly adopted dog, Romeo! 

Ainhoa Flores Anzola (she/her)

I am a 2nd-year student majoring in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience. I’m originally from Venezuela but moved to Fort Collins when I was 13, so I’ve lived in Colorado for a long time. After taking some psych classes and learning more about it, I realized I’m very interested in the field and understanding how the brain works. As I continue learning, I’m looking forward to narrowing down my specific interests so I can figure out what I’d like to do after undergrad. In my free time, I like to spend time with my family and friends, go on walks with my dog, and enjoy a good movie or show.

Mira Urushima (she/her)

I am a recent graduate of CSU with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Psychology. I grew up in Texas and have been enjoying everything that Colorado has to offer since moving out here. I hope to gain a Master’s degree to continue my love for psychology and how the brain works. This lab is the perfect place to get hands-on experience in research, especially in a topic that I am passionate about. In my spare time I am usually beating my friends at Mario Kart, working on a new video project, or planning my next travel vacation. 

Lab Alumni

Taylor Knox B.S. (she/her)

Wyatt Taylor (he/him)

Hector Gutierrez M.S. (he/him)