The Team


Sam A. Golden, PHD

Assistant Professor

Sam received his BS in Neuroscience from Bates College (Lewiston, ME) in 2006, PhD in Neuroscience from the Icahn School of Medicine (New York City, NY) in 2015 under Dr. Scott J. Russo, and completed in Postdoctoral Fellowship at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Baltimore, MD) in 2018 under Dr. Yavin Shaham.  Sam joined the University of Washington Department of Biological Structure in 2019, with a co-appointment as a participating faculty in the The UW Center of Excellence in Neurobiology of Addiction, Pain, and Emotion (NAPE).

Sam's scientific interests encompass understanding the psychological and neural mechanisms guiding reward processing. He is particularly interested in understanding how neuropsychiatric disorders- such as maladaptive aggression, depression and substance abuse - subvert basic reward circuitry to manifest pathological behavior. Currently, he aims to better define the intersection of aggression and motivation, and identify the cellular and circuit mechanisms that control the transition from adaptive aggression to maladaptive  aggression seeking behavior.



Simon Nilsson Headshot, 8-1-18.jpg

Simon Nilsson, PhD

Senior Postdoctoral Fellow

Simon completed postdoctoral work at the University of Cambridge (under Tim Bussey/Lisa Saksida/Trevor Robbins), State University of New York at Binghamton (under David Jentsch), and NYU (under Adam Mar). He received his PhD through an industrial scholarship at the University of Sussex and Eli Lilly Ltd. His work has focused on the use and development/validation of cognitive tests of ‘executive functions’, impulse control and attention in rodents, often by using transgenic animal models, pharmacological and chemo-genetic techniques. Simon’s general interest is in the neural mechanisms supporting the behavioral and cognitive domains disrupted in psychopathology, and methods through which they can become identified and targeted for improvement.




Nastacia Goodwin, BS

Graduate Student

Information to come.



Briana Smith, BS

Post-baccalaureate Student

Briana is a post-baccalaureate student at the University of Washington, where she is studying computational neuroscience and conducting research in preparation for graduate school. She received her BS in Chemical Engineering from Auburn University, and she is driven to use her knowledge and experience as a chemical engineer to contribute to the field of neuroscience. Her research interests include investigating the impact of emotional trauma on brain physiology, and how these effects contribute to maladaptive cognitive and behavioral conditions.



Liana Bloom, BA

Post-baccalaureate Student

Liana received her BA in Medical Anthropology and Global Health from the University of Washington in 2019 and is working as a research assistant in preparation for medical school. Her previous experiences in research include working at the UW’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences and collecting data for the department of Public Health’s Seattle Soda-Tax Impact project. Her general interest is in experiencing a biological laboratory environment after participating in mainly social science research. She is intrigued by the work being done to investigate the neurological pathways related to conditions such as aggression and depression.  



Jia Jie (JJ) Choong, BS

Laboratory Manager

JJ received his BS in Chemical Engineering from Iowa State University (ISU) in 2017, while working as an Information Technology Specialist in ISU's IT Department. He then worked in a high-throughput genotyping laboratory at Bayer, focused on the development of automation of qPCR and dPCR. JJ's general interest is in laboratory automation and statistical modelling for data analysis.





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