Sarah E. Cooper

  • Graduate Students

Faculty Advisor: Michelle S. Mazei-Robison, PhD

B.S., 2009, University of California, San Diego

Entered Program in 2013
Robison/Mazei-Robison Lab
Personal Website

Academic and Research Background

After completing my BS from UC San Diego, I continued my research career at UC San Diego first as a lab technician studying protease processing of neuropeptides using LC/MS techniques with Dr. Vivian Hook. I then became the primary lab technician of Dr. Sweeney's lab, focusing our research on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of autoimmune diseases: Rhuematoid Arthritis and Lupus. After several years and a variety of lab research experience, I became enthralled with neuroscience when I joined Dr. Ruth Wood's lab at the University of Southern California. While in Dr. Wood's lab I studied the effects of chronic anabolic androgenic steroid abuse on impulsive behavior and drug abuse using a rodent model. Following my new passion for neuroscience, I joined the Neuroscience Graduate Program in Fall 2013 to further my education studying the effects of drug abuse and stress on behavior and neuron morphology.

Current Research Interests

I am in interested in the effects of chronic emotional or physical stress on opiate function, and its combined effect on the reward pathway in the brain. My project uses a recently developed Chronic Social Defeat Stress (CSDS) model where mice witness, but do not physically experience, the subordination stress of the CSDS model. Using this paradigm, I am able to characterize the behavioral and molecular effects of emotional stress on the use of pain-relieving opiates without confounds of physical pain. In addition to characterizing the behavioral changes from chronic emotional stress, I am working towards identifying novel molecular markers of susceptibility to emotional stress induced changes in the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) and the Nucleus Accumbens (NAc).

Personal Interests

I spend most of my free time as a competitive highland bagpiper and active member of the Greater Midwest Pipe Band. This involves frequent trips to competitions across the US, Canada, and Scotland to compete in solo and band competitions hosted by Scottish Highland Festivals. I also spend time compiling, formatting and editing music for publication. Seumas Coyne’s Collection of Bagpipe Music Vol. 1 (2008) and Vol. 2 (release: 2015).


  • Sarah E. Cooper, Ruth I Wood. 2014. Androgens and opiates: testosterone interaction with morphine self-administration in male rats. Neuroreport. May 7;25(7):521-6.
  • Sarah E. Cooper, Sydney P Goings, Jessica Y. Kim, Ruth I Wood. 2014. Testosterone enhances risk tolerance without altering motor impulsivity in male rats. Psychoneuroendocrinology 40, 201—212.

Posters and Presentations

  • Mackenzie Thibault, SE Cooper, AL Eagle, S Kaska, EJ Nestler, MS Mazei-Robison, V Vialou, AJ Robison. November, 2014. Region-specific induction of FosB isoforms in mouse brain after stress and chronic fluoxetine exposure. Poster presented at the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, Washington, DC.
  • Megan Kechner, Sophia Kaska, Sarah Cooper, Michelle Mazei-Robison. November, 2014. Physical and psychological stress increase voluntary morphine consumption. Poster presented at the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, Washington, DC.
  • Sarah E. Cooper, Ruth I Wood. June, 2013. Testosterone increases risk tolerance in male rats. Poster presented at the Society of Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Annual Meeting, Atlanta GA.