Genetics of Substance Abuse Laboratory

Institute of Behavioral Genetics

phone: 303-492-1463
fax: 303-492-8063

Research Interests

  • Identification of genes contributing to substance abuse in humans.

  • The effects of exercise on alcohol-related phenotypes in mouse models.


  • Director: Marissa A. Ehringer, Ph.D.
  • Postdoctoral Fellows: Matthew Powers, Ph.D.
  • Graduate Students: Sonya Belimezova, Kristin Rasmus.
  • Undergraduate Students: Kristin Allen, Kirsten Chun, Tyler Fox.
  • Collaborators: Matthew McQueen, John Hewitt, Michael Stallings, Susan Young, Robin Corley, Andrew Smolen, Allan Collins, Jerry Stitzel, Institute for Behavioral Genetics, University of Colorado at Boulder; Christian Hopfer, Laura Bierut, School of Medicine, Washington University in St. Louis.

Front row: Xavi Gallego, Riley McCarthy, Marissa Ehringer, Jill Miyamoto-Ditmon.
Back row: Kristin Rasmus, Ryan Cox, Whitney Melroy, Tristan McClure-Begley.
Not pictured: Sonya Belimezova.

Current Research Projects

  • Translational studies of human neuronal nicotinic receptor genes associated with alcohol and tobacco behaviors.

    • Identification of rare, novel SNPs.

    • Dense SNP mapping in large human samples.

    • In vitro functional characterization of human SNPs.

    • Behavioral testing of nAChR knock-out mice.

  • Studies of the effects of voluntary wheel running on alcohol consumption in mice using a genetics approach.

Opportunities for Undergraduates

  • Our lab is currently looking for an undergraduate to assist with ongoing mouse behavioral testing.
  • The requirements for undergraduate students who want a research experience in our laboratory are:

    • A major in Integrative Physiology.
    • Either have completed or be concurrently enrolled in IPHY 2800 Introduction to Statistics.
    • Enroll in Independent Study (IPHY 4860) for 8-10 hours/week for at least one semester.
    • Cumulative GPA of 3.3 or higher.

  • Interested students should complete this application and e-mail it to


Recent Publications


  • 2009-2014, NIH, "Translational Studies of Nicotinic Receptor Genes: Alcohol and Nicotine".