Behavioral Neuroscience Alumni Kiran Long-Iyer Continues Education at UC Davis

Kiran Long-Iyer is an alumni from the Department of Psychological Sciences who studied Behavioral Neuroscience. She is now a graduate student at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine pursuing her PhD in optical neurophysiology. During her time at USD, Kiran developed close relationships with Dr. Jena Hales and Dr. Divya Sitaraman who served as her academic mentors. She also had the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Hales in her research lab. Kiran was able to reach out to the department to discuss her journey to becoming a graduate student.


Describe your current position and the academic path you took in order to get there?

I am currently a second year graduate student in the Neuroscience PhD program at UC Davis. I was a Behavioral Neuroscience major at USD, and I was involved with on-campus research in Dr. Jena Hales' lab during undergrad. After I graduated, I worked for a year at Neurophotometrics, a San Diego based start-up that specializes in building in vivo imaging systems for academic neuroscience research. Through my job, I was able to visit labs at institutions around the world and work with grad students, postdocs, and faculty to collect and analyze data. I applied to PhD programs in the fall of 2018, and matriculated at Davis in the fall of 2019.


Can you describe the research projects you are involved in?

I recently joined Dr. Lin Tian's research group, where I will conduct my thesis research on the development and application of neuromodulator biosensors. I am particularly interested in exploring the interplay of dopaminergic and serotonergic systems in the context of reward and aversion. Currently, I am optimizing a novel genetically-encoded fluorescent serotonin sensor for in vivo use and recording serotonin transients in mice during a series of operant reward paradigms.


How did your undergrad education at USD prepare you for your advanced studies?

At USD, I was able to develop close relationships with my academic mentors, Dr. Hales and Dr. Sitaraman, who encouraged me to apply to PhD programs in neuroscience. I gained valuable hands-on research experience, which was really helpful during my gap year and starting graduate school. The upper division BN courses at USD prepared me well for the rigor of graduate school classes. Additionally, I met the founder of Neurophotometrics through a USD Psychology Club event in the spring of my senior year, which is how I was able to land such a cool post-grad job!