I grew up in a small town in South Texas: the son of decent and honest parents who believed in loving their children and doing right in the world. Everything I am today is due to their determination to teach their children to do right but to be strong and unwavering when confronting wrong.
I studied for my Bachelor’s degree in behavioral biology at The Johns Hopkins University (1992) and my PhD in neurobiology from Yale University (1999). My dissertation focused on characterizing the biochemical changes in prefrontal cortical regions associated with prolonged experience with psychotomimetic and stimulant drugs of abuse. After conducting post-doctoral training periods at the University of Pittsburgh and Yale University, I was appointed as Assistant Professor at UCLA in 2001, where I am now a Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry; I also serve as the Associate Director for Research of the Brain Research Institute. My research focuses on genetic and neurochemical mechanisms that influence cognition, impulse control and decision-making in laboratory animals. I teach hundreds of UCLA undergraduate students each year, and I am fortunate to collaborate with a team of graduate students, post doctoral fellows and UCLA students on my research.
In reaction to escalating extremism amongst animal rights activists, which culminated in the firebombing of my car in 2009, I formed the group Pro-test for Science (www.pro-test-for-science.org). My colleagues and I participate in scientific advocacy by facilitating the response of the scientific community to attacks against researchers.
Outside of work, my time is spent cultivating native California plants in my yard and raising my loving little dog and song birds.