Researchers in the Crook Lab come from diverse educational backgrounds and have many different career goals.  

PrincipAl Investigator

Dr. Robyn Crook 

I am an evolutionary biologist and behavioral neuroscientist. I received my undergraduate degree in Zoology at the University of Melbourne, Australia, in 2004. I moved to New York City to complete my Doctorate in Biology (Ecology, Evolution and Behavior) at the City University of New York. After developing an interest in how selection on behavior shapes the evolution of brains, I took a cellular neuroscience post-doc at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston in 2008. I started here at SF State as an Assistant Professor in 2015. My research lab's primary focus is the evolution and function of injury-induced behavior, including pain. My students work mainly on the model organism Euprymna, but also on octopuses and other squid species as pertinent questions arise. 

In addition to running my research lab, I teach undergraduate and graduate courses in the Physiology major and P&B Masters programs.  My current teaching assignments are Human Physiology Lab in the Fall, and Neural Systems Physiology in the Spring.

Lab Members

Masters students

Karen Bueno

I am a Master's student in the Physiology and Behavior Program at San Francisco State University. I received my Bachelor's degree in Zoology from SFSU in 2013.

As an undergraduate, I participated in the SFSU REU BREED program and conducted research in Dr. Anne Todgham's lab at the Romberg Tiburon Center. I looked at the salinity tolerance of summer acclimatized Olympia oysters (Ostrea lurida) under lower salinity conditions than what they experience in the summer. To examine the effects from predicted extreme precipitation events on the organism, we measured metabolic rates of the oysters in the different salinity treatments through oxygen consumption rates. Through this project, I became really interested in seeing how climate change will affect species survival. In the summer of 2014, I volunteered in the Vrendenburg laboratory here at SF State, which is focused on studying the effects of the chytrid fungus that is decimating populations of amphibians, where I learned to take swab extractions in preparation for PCR.

I have joined the Crook lab because I am interested in understanding how environmental changes might affect nociception in cephalopods, and how cephalopods cope with multiple stressors. I am interested in examining how their learning ability is affected when dealing with increased temperature stress, for example.

I plan to apply to a PhD program after graduating. During my time away from the lab, I like to go hiking in the east bay hills with my little Chihuahua mix, Lucy. I also try to spend as much time as I can with my baby niece and nephew, watching movies and taking them to the park. 


Hanna Butler-Struben

I’m a Masters student in the Physiology and Behavior program at SFSU. I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology at UC Davis in 2014. I have a passion for studying animal behavior and have worked with a variety of labs, researching pharmacological interventions in mouse models of Autism, neuropeptide influence on grouping behavior in house sparrows, pigeons as bio-indicators for lead poisoning, and the neurobiology of parenting in pigeons. My research interest in the Crook lab focuses primarily on the effect of serotonin on nociceptor plasticity, and how chronic pain can modulate behavior. The ultimate goal of my research is to understand the purpose of chronic pain. As someone who currently suffers from chronic pain, I have a personal connection to the research I will be conducting. As a researcher who has worked with many different species, ethical treatment of research animals is very important to me. My findings on the behavior of cephalopods will help create regulations to protect them in research settings.

I am currently learning how to perform electrophysiological and behavioral experiments in the lab to answer my research questions on chronic pain. When I am not in the lab I am perusing my other academic passion, teaching, by working as a GTA for BIOL 230: Intro to Bio. When I am not at school, I enjoy English horse riding, playing video games, and crocheting. After I graduate I plan to obtain my PhD in Integrative Biology, and continue to pursue a career in research. 

Undergraduate Students

Undergraduates can receive class credit for their research internship by applying to be admitted to the BIOL699 course, 'Special Study in Biology'.

Fall 2016

Samantha Brophy

I'm a senior in the Physiology program at SFSU. I'm conducting my Biol699 research project by studying defensive behavior in Euprymna,  to understand how organisms react and adapt over time to a frightening stimulus. After graduation I'm planning on attending medical school. In my free time I like to travel the world and go fishing.  


Rob Veline

I'm finishing up a major in physiology here at San Francisco State. After many years as a music major, I somehow fell head-over-heels in love with neuroscience, and I've been pursuing the topic through whatever avenues I can ever since. In the Crook Lab, my 699 project involves behavioral/cognitive research looking at aversive learning. I'm also planning to do some electrophysiology to find the neural pathways that shape various behaviors, especially those relating to plasticity and memory. I hope to continue this research at the graduate level by using invertebrates as models for human injuries, such as spinal cord damage or even senescence. I like to think about how these mechanisms are conserved throughout evolution, and how cephalopods might help us better understand more universal mechanisms of neural stress and plasticity. On the off-chance I'm not maintaining and building our aquarium, I'm probably playing music, listening to music, or doing something productive with my hands.


Kia Seehafer

I’m a summer intern with the REU BREED program at SFSU. I’m a graduating senior from California State University, Sacramento, where I’m completing both a B.S. in Biology (concentrating in Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation) and a B.A. in Philosophy (concentrating in Logic and Philosophy of Science). I’m interested in behavioral ecology, especially communication and signaling, and I’m currently performing behavioral experiments to study Euprymna’s capacity to learn through habituation, and to survey Euprymna’s defensive behavior in response to a simulated predator. After graduating in Spring 2017, I’m planning to pursue a PhD to further study animal behavior.


Emily Zepeda

I'm a senior at SFSU majoring in Cell and Molecular Biology. I am interested in animal behavior, especially understanding cognition and the capacity of animals to learn. For my 699 research project, I am currently working on a behavioral project looking at aversive learning in Euprymna. Once I complete my bachelor's I plan to pursue a PhD in ethology. After spending the first year and a half of my research career in a biochemistry lab, I am really excited about exploring my passion for studying animal behavior.


Lab Volunteers Fall 2016

Christina Lardie

Christina Lardie

I graduatied from SFSU in Spring 2016 with a major in Physiology. I’m interested in the role of early life experience in pain processing and the effect of serotonin on nociceptor plasticity. I conducted behavioral, and am now conducting electrophysiological experiments, to understand how these processes develop, change and function, using squid as a model organism.  I'm planning to obtain my Master's of Science in Nursing, then Master's of Science, Nurse Practitioner.


Leila Nabavi

I received my B.S. in Physiology from SFSU in May 2016, and joined the lab right after due to my interest in learning more about the physiological aspects of how squid change behaviorally when in pain. I am currently helping out on behavioral experiments to better understand Euprymna, our model organism. I plan to obtain a graduate degree in Public Health, and attend medical school in the future. Hopefully, the knowledge I gain from the lab will allow me to later pursue a career in biomedical research.

Joshua Hernandez

Joshua Hernandez

I graduated with a BS in Biology in Spring 16, with an emphasis in Physiology and minors in Asian American Studies and Chemistry.  As I joined this lab, I became increasingly interested in studying the various neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, that dictate the neural plasticity on multiple cephalopod species.  I am currently working on an electrophysiology project charting plasticity on sensory neurons after early life injury.  I’m planning to continue my education by pursuing my Master’s in Physiology and Behavior.

Sara Tom

Sara Tom

I graduated from San Francisco State University in Spring 16, with a BS in Biochemistry. I’m interested in the role of the stellate ganglion in modulating nociceptive sensitization. I am conducting electrophysiological experiments, using squid as a model organism, to measure excitability in nerves central and peripheral to the stellate ganglion, and to understand how the stellate ganglion modulates excitability in the peripheral nervous system. After completion of my undergraduate studies I plan to pursue a career in Pharmacy and acquire a Doctor of Pharmacy Degree. Through involvement in this research I hope to increase my knowledge in neuroscience and neuropathy so that I may apply it to the field of medicine and therapeutics for pain as a future Clinical Pharmacist. 

Lauren Lopes

Lauren Lopes

I majored in Physiology at SFSU, graduating in Spring 16. I’m interested in the role of early life experience in pain processing. I am currently doing behavioral and electrophysiological experiments to understand how these changes develop, using Euprymna as a model organism. 

I will be applying to a Masters of Nursing / Nurse Practitioner Graduate Program with an emphasis on family health. 


Lemo Dayekh

I'm a senior at SFSU majoring in Physiology. I'm interested in learning more about nociception, and to work on the effects of serotonin on nociceptor plasticity. I will be conducting electrophysiology experiments to further understand how serotonin contributes to rural plasticity after injury, using squid as a model organism. 

After graduation, in Spring 2017, I am planning to pursue medical school. In my free time, I enjoy playing video games, and working on puzzles. 


Lab Alumni

Spring 2016

Paul Perez (Currently completing SFSU Study Abroad Program, Japan)

Katie Lam (Graduated BS Physiology, June 16)

Kristen Liang (Graduated BS Physiology, June 16)

Sugar McQuarn (NIH Bridges Fellow, Summer 2016)

Stephanie Skidmore (Graduated BS General Biology, June 16)

Stephanie Yin (Graduated BS Physiology, June 16)