Spotlight on PBS Postdocs


How many postdoctoral fellows would you guess are in our department? 10? 20? The answer may surprise you: there are currently 34 PBS postdocs.

Despite their large numbers and the important work they do to advance PBS research, the postdocs in our department sometimes seem invisible. Hired by individual labs, they interact with other members of their lab, and have few connections to the department or university as a whole. They conduct and publish their research and promote the success of their labs, but we rarely hear about their individual interests and concerns, or their prospects and plans for the future.

In recent years, a few postdocs have taken steps to undo some of their isolation from each other by organizing a monthly meeting to socialize and share their research, writing, and career interests. They now have a small, loosely knit social network. And yet, it seems there is room to further integrate them into the department and for all of us to benefit from their intelligence, experience and expertise.

As a graduate student, I couldn’t help wanting to learn more about my dedicated and hard-working colleagues. Below I introduce four postdocs who you may not have met.

Andrea Avena-Koenigsberger, Ph.D.

Andrea is a second year postdoc in Professor Olaf Sporns’s lab, where she also completed her Ph.D. training. In the lab, she studies communication processes in brain networks. You may have met Andrea out and about in the Bloomington community, where she is also known as an environmental sustainability advocate. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Sustainable Living, co-hosts Ladies Nights at the Bloomington Community Bike Project, and is a co-founder of the hOUR Bloomington Timebank, a community bank built upon the exchange of time and talents.

Jeremy Borjon, Ph.D.

Jeremy recently joined our department from Princeton University as a postdoctoral fellow in Professor Linda Smith’s lab; he is co-advised by Professor Chen Yu. With his developing research program, he aims to understand how the autonomic nervous system, which controls many functions including breathing and cardiac activity, influences natural infant behavior throughout development. His fiancée, Lydia Hoffstaetter, will soon join us at IU from Yale University as a postdoctoral fellow in biology professor Dan Tracey’s lab. Jeremy and Lydia hope to find faculty positions at the same institution after completing their training at IU.

Elizabeth Canning, Ph.D.

For the past two years, Elizabeth has worked as a postdoc in Professor Mary Murphy’s lab. She researches how to create equitable and inclusive contexts that stoke motivation, persistence, and achievement, so that all groups, such as underrepresented minority and first-generation college students, flourish and reach their full potential. When she’s not in the lab, she’s busy chasing her toddler around at home and catching up on the latest episodes of “This is Us,” a tear-jerking TV series that details the lives of three adult siblings. After completing her postdoctoral training, Elizabeth hopes to secure a tenure-track faculty position at an institution, where she can continue her work in social psychology.

Peter Kvam, Ph.D.

Peter Kvam completed his undergraduate work at IU, studying psychology, sociology, and math. He then worked at Michigan State, the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, and the University of Tasmania in Hobart, a city sandwiched between the mountains and a river leading into the ocean. During his time as a postdoc in Tasmania, it was not uncommon, he explains, to see small, Kangaroo-like wallabies wandering around near town, though he never encountered a Tasmanian devil. After leaving Tasmania, Peter joined our department once again as a postdoc in Professor Jerome Busemeyer’s lab. He currently works with models of judgement and decision-making , studying how people make selections when given a large number of options – to rank, for example, using a scale from 1 to 100, how confident they were in a decision they have made. He hopes to secure a tenure-track faculty position and remain in academia after completing his postdoctoral training.