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 (class of 2018)

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.  

Karen is funded by the NIH-RISE fellowship program.


Hanna Butler-Struben (class of 2018)

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. 


Stephanie Bazarini (class of 2019)

I’m a Masters student in the Physiology and Behavior program at SFSU.

I'm interested in how fluctuations in female reproductive hormones affect nociceptive sensitization after injury, and more broadly, in conserved mechanisms of hormonal regulation of behavior..

I'll be using cuttlefish to examine whether estrogen influences nociceptive sensitivity after injury in a comparative model where females do not undergo estrous cycles like mammals do. 

I also teach the BIOL 230 Lab class.


Ryan Howard (class of 2019) 

I’m a Masters student in the Marine Biology program at SFSU. I'm interested in how injury affects mate competition, camouflage and signaling. I'm planning to study camouflage decision making in octopus that have experience minor tissue injuries that would disrupt their normal camouflage patterns

I am a TA for BIOL 613GW, Human Physiology Laboratory. 

Ryan is funded by the NIH-BRIDGES fellowship program


Viven Enriquez (class of 2019)

I’m a Masters student in the Behavior & Physiology program at SFSU. I'm studying the effect of V. fischeri colonization of the light organ of Euprymna scolopes on hatchling behavior and survival.

Vivien is funded by the NIH-RISE fellowship program.

Undergraduate Students

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


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.  



Nasira Johnson, Marine Biology.

Nasira is studying the effect of arm injury on escape behavior and place avoidance in octopus, and is also working on a study of anesthesia in cephalopods

Joseph Abdelmessih, Physiology.

Joseph is our newest lab member, and is currently learning all the husbandry procedures for day-to-day operations of the lab, and assisting other lab members with experiments and data analysis


Lab Alumni


Leno Dayekh, BS Physiology.

Emily Zepeda, BS Cell & Molecular Biology (PhD program in Animal Behavior, UC Davis)

Robert Veline, BS Physiology (Research Specialist, UCSF)

Sara Tom, BS Physiology (MS Medical Health Sciences, Touro U)

Lauren Lopes, BS Physiology (MS Nursing, Touro U)

Katherine Stennette, REU BREED program (BS Montgomery College, Md)


Kia Seehafer, REU BREED program (PhD program in Animal Behavior, U Minnesota)

Paul Perez (Graduated BS Physiology, June 16)

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)