Lab Personnel


Erin Hecht

Erin E. Hecht, Ph.D. | Assistant Professor

Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University
Office location: Museum of Comparative Zoology, Room 535C 
Mailing address: 11 Divinity Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
Google Scholar  |  ResearchGate  |  The Canine Brains Project

Dr. Hecht received her B.S. in Cognitive Science from the University of California San Diego in 2006, and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Emory University in 2013.  Before moving to Harvard, she was a Research Scientist in the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience at Georgia State University, and an Affiliated Scientist at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University.  Dr. Hecht joined the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University in January 2019.  Her lab studies brain-behavior evolution in dogs, primates, and humans.  She has two Miniature Australian Shepherds, Lefty and Izzy, who are mostly good.


Munawwar Abdulla, B.S., M.S. | Research Technician and Laboratory Manager  |  LinkedIn

Munawwar Abdulla received her Bachelor of Medical Science degree from the Australian National University and her B.S. and M.S. in Physiology and Pharmacology from the University of New South Wales, where she used behavioral tests, immunohistochemistry and microscopy to study mechanisms and treatments of neuropathic pain and peripheral neuropathy. She continues to use these skillsets in support of the work at the Evolutionary Neuroscience Lab. In the outside world she enjoys agonising over her translations of Uyghur literature, and working in Uyghur advocacy and community building.


Sophie Barton, B.S. | Graduate Student    |   Curriculum Vitae

Sophie earned her B.S. in Psychology and B.A. in Linguistics from the University of Georgia in 2019. She is a third-year PhD candidate in the Human Evolutionary Biology Department of Harvard University. Her research investigates how selection for complex behaviors shapes the brains of domestic dog breeds and other canids. Sophie began working with the Canine Brains Project as an undergraduate student researcher. She draws inspiration from her rescue dog Tamsin, an Australian Shepherd x Labrador Retriever mix, who helps pilot her studies.

Mira Sinha

Mira Sinha | Graduate Student

Mira obtained her B.S. in Biology at Utrecht University in The Netherlands. She is a first-year Ph.D. candidate at the Human Evolutionary Biology department at Harvard University. She compared the neural representation of social cognition in humans and non-human primates at Utrecht University and is excited to continue investigating how sociality has impacted human brain evolution during her graduate studies. You can find her playing soccer, singing jazz, and trying out local restaurants in her free time.

Julia Espinosa

Julia Espinosa, Ph.D. | Postdoctoral Fellow | Curriculum Vitae

Julia received a B.S. in Neuroscience from the University of Michigan, a M.S. in Animal Bioscience from the University of Guelph, and subsequently an M.A./Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Toronto. As an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, Julia will be unpacking the socio-cultural determinants and physiological bases of dog aggression, combining techniques from neuroscience, genetics, psychiatry, and ethology.


Suhas Vijayakumar, Ph.D. | Postdoctoral Fellow | Curriculum Vitae

Suhas obtained a bachelor's degree in physics, maths, and electronics before deciding to take his chances in the field of neuroscience. He pursued a cognitive neuroscience master's at Radboud University in the Netherlands and continued there to do a PhD at the Cognitive Neuroecology Lab of the Donders Institute, where he compared the parietal-frontal brain network of macaques and humans. He has mainly used neuroimaging techniques to study the brain and is generally interested in knowing what makes human brains (and consequently humans) different from all of the other animals. At Hecht lab, he will try to understand how does one's brain change as they learn and acquire new skills. Apart from neuroscience, he likes to think about science communication, education, and tech. He also sometimes plays badminton. Not very often, though. 

Jenny Michlich

Jenny Michlich | Research Technician | Curriculum Vitae

Jenny received their dual Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree in anthropology and neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh in May 2021. They are currently completing a Master of Science in complex systems science at the Arizona State University while splitting their time between the Vazey Laboratory at UMASS Amherst and the Evolutionary Neuroscience Laboratory at Harvard University. Both of their projects are focused on quantitative and qualitative histological analysis of the neuroanatomical features of domesticated foxes and nonhuman primates. Jenny’s primary research interests center around autonomic-vocal-motor-acoustic systems in nonhuman animals under domesticated and within wild-caught species with an interest in the intersection of hormones and neuromodulatory influences on these circuits. In their spare time, Jenny enjoys reading philosophy of science and philosophy of physics books, Saturday trips to the beach, and hanging out with Moussa the rabbit and Sylvia the cat.


Hanna McCuistion | Postgraduate Student Researcher

Hanna is a 2020 graduate from Harvard College with an A.B. in Human Evolutionary Biology and a Foreign Language Citation in Spanish. She is interested in a career in biological research with a focus on the development of personalized medicine for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. 

After graduating, she moved to Montevideo, Uruguay, where she is pursuing a Master of Science degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology and working remotely for the Hecht Lab. Beyond biology, Hanna loves playing the guitar, learning new languages, and playing with her cat, Yeti. 


Alexander Junxiang Chen | Undergraduate Student Researcher

Alexander Junxiang Chen ‘24 is an undergraduate at Harvard College pursuing a double concentration in Chemistry and Neuroscience on the Mind, Brain, and Behavior track. Alexander is originally from Pleasanton, California, and is generally interested in studying the neural correlates of animal behavior. On campus, Alexander directs the PBHA Chinatown ESL teaching program and is a board member of the Global Alliance for Medical Innovation. He is also passionate about pursuing opportunities for adventure travel and historical linguistics fieldwork, two hobbies he hopes to be able to combine someday!

Sonya Ganeshram

Sonya Ganeshram | Undergraduate Student Researcher

Sonya Ganeshram ‘24 is an undergraduate at Harvard University studying Neuroscience on the Mind, Brain, Behavior track. An avid lover of dogs, she enjoys participating and working on various projects in the lab and spent this summer helping pilot behavioral studies with her service dog, Athena. Outside of the lab, she enjoys hiking and being an active member of the Harvard Foundation for the International Medical Relief of Children. 

Oliver Hollo

Oliver Hollo | Undergraduate Student Researcher

Oliver Hollo '23 is an undergraduate at Harvard College studying Integrative Biology and Environmental Science and Public Policy. He is from Bernardsville, NJ. Ollie spends his time on campus between his studies, training for the Varsity Men's Lacrosse program, and working for the Pre-Vet Society. Ollie's passion for understanding canine evolution comes from his background in working in Veterinary general practices from a young age. 

Eliza Kalfellz

Eliza Kallfelz | Undergraduate Student Researcher

Eliza Kallfelz ’22 is an undergraduate from Jamestown, Rhode Island. She is an undergraduate researcher, currently co-leading the Howling Study while pursuing an A.B. in Human Evolutionary Biology. She is a part of Harvard-Radcliffe’s Varsity Heavyweight Rowing team and is also a member of Harvard College’s student-led Athlete Medical Mentorship Program. When she is not studying or training, she enjoys sailing, swimming, and petting dogs. 

Katie Sierra

Katie Sierra | Undergraduate Student Researcher

Katie Sierra ‘23 is a pre-veterinary student at Harvard College studying Integrative Biology from Northport, NY. Katie spends her free time on campus as a research assistant in Dr. Hecht’s dog behavior lab, conducting public service work with the Harvard College Conservation Society, and competing with Harvard Undergraduate Ethics Bowl. Katie is assisting with the lab’s canine MRI project, and currently completing a honors thesis in the lab. This thesis is a  comparative study of attachment behaviors in dogs and a tame strain of Silver Foxes from the Russian Fox Domestication Experiment in order to provide insight into the selective pressures leading to dog domestication.


Courtney Sexton, MFA, MS | Collaborator | Primate Genomics Lab, The George Washington University

Courtney is a PhD candidate at The George Washington University Department of Anthropology’s Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology (CASHP), where she studies human-animal interactions and evolution. She is especially interested in how dogs can inform what we know about the evolution of nonverbal communication and social relationships. Courtney is passionate about scientific outreach and journalism, and often ropes her hound, Sonder, into helping out. She is thrilled to be an honorary member of the awesome Canine Brains team.

Lauren Duffee

Lauren Duffee, VMD, DACVAA | Veterinary Anesthesiologist

Curriculum Vitae

Lauren Duffee provides expert veterinary support to dogs during MRI scans at the Hecht lab.  She is an anesthesiologist at the Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital in Woburn, Massachusetts.  Lauren received her veterinary degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.  She then spent a year in the San Francisco area for a private practice equine internship before returning to the University of Pennsylvania to complete a three-year residency in veterinary anesthesia and analgesia in small and large animals.  Lauren is a diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia (ACVAA) and a member of the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture (AAVA).  Outside of the hospital, Lauren enjoys gardening, travel, and hiking with her two corgis.

Andrea Looney

Andrea Looney, DVM, DACVAA, CCRP, DACVSMR | Veterinary Anesthesiologist

Curriculum Vitae

Andrea Looney provides expert veterinary support to dogs during MRI scans at the Hecht lab.  She received her DVM from Cornell University's NYS College of Veterinary Medicine in 1989.  Since then, she has become specialty trained and boarded in veterinary anesthesiology and pain management (Dip, ACVAA) & veterinary rehabilitation and sports medicine (Dip, ACVSMR).  She has served on staff at Angell Animal Medical Center, Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and Cornell University`s Hospital for Animals in general and emergency medicine, anesthesiology, intensive care and rehabilitation.  Her current position is with Ethos Veterinary Health where she mitigates multi hospital anesthesia and rehabilitation/pain management for small animal patients.


Christina Campbell, CCRP, CVT   |   Credentialed Veterinary Technician 

Christina Campbell assists with veterinary care during MRI scans. She is a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner as well as a Credentialed Veterinary Technician. She has over 15 years of experience in animal care, including examinations, surgeries, therapy, and client education. Christina has two dogs, Chloe and Serena, and two tabby cats, Weedge and Theo. She enjoys spending her free time outdoors, canoeing, camping, biking, and going on long walks with her dogs.



Graduate application information can be found on the HEB website.  Please email to enquire about postdoctoral, undergraduate, or technician positions.