James M. Otis, Ph.D.


Originally from Wisconsin, Jim completed his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from UW-Stout and UW-Milwaukee from 2006-2014, followed by his postdoctoral work at UNC-Chapel Hill from 2014-2018. Throughout this training, he studied the cellular (graduate school) and neural circuit (postdoc) mechanisms that allow environmental stimuli to engage reward and drug-seeking behaviors. Jim joined the Department of Neuroscience at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in September 2018. When not in the lab, he enjoys playing sports and chess, visiting friends and family, and hanging out with his pup, Rosie.

Jim’s goal in the lab is to provide a fun, friendly, and supportive work environment that allows scientists from all backgrounds to pursue their goals and interests, and in doing so further our understanding of the brain and neuropsychiatric illnesses.


Maribel Vazquez-Silva, M.S.

Lab Manager

Maribel received her bachelor’s from the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey and her master’s in Microbiology from the University of Florida. She moved to South Carolina to do research at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Neuroscience. She currently works in the Otis lab at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in the Department of Neuroscience.

Outside of lab, Maribel enjoys volunteering, as well as spending time with her fiance, family and puppy, Minnie.


Elizabeth Doncheck, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Beth received her bachelor degrees from University of Wisconsin Milwaukee in 2012, and her doctoral degree at Marquette University in 2019. While living in the Milwaukee area, Beth worked in outstanding labs that focus on the neurobiology of drug addiction, including the labs of Drs. Devin Mueller, Cecilia Hillard, John Mantsch, and others. Her work focuses on the influence of circulating hormones and sex differences on addiction behavior, and in the Otis lab she hopes to extend her work to understanding how these hormones function at the level of neural circuits to influence behaviors such as drug seeking.

Outside of lab, Beth enjoys chilling with her pup Vebo, traveling, and hanging with her friends.


Kelsey Vollmer


Kelsey is a graduate student interested in the mechanisms and neurobiology behind addiction. She completed her bachelor's degree at the College of Charleston and worked as a research technician at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in the Neuroscience Department. She is currently pursuing a neuroscience PhD in the Otis lab.

Outside of lab, Kelsey enjoys gardening, knitting, and spending time with her husband and two greyhounds.


Ian Grant


Ian grew up in Massachusetts but is in his 8th year as a South Carolina resident. He attended the College of Charleston and graduated with a B.S. in Biology with a Neuroscience minor in 2015. Following graduation, he worked in a neurovascular imaging lab at MUSC, studying the diversity of pericytes within the murine brain. He is currently a PhD student at the Medical University of South Carolina, where he plans to use multiphoton imaging to dissect the neural circuits underlying addiction.

Outside of lab, Ian enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and going to the beach.

Heather Holman Headshot MPFI.jpg

Heather Holman

MD/PHD Rotation student

Heather completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Florida (UCF) where she double majored in Biomedical Science and Sport & Exercise Science.  After graduating from UCF, she spent a year in the Post-Baccalaureate Research Experience Program at the Max Planck Institute for Neuroscience studying the molecular mechanisms underlying synaptic plasticity. She is currently an MD/PhD rotation student where she plans to study the activity of reward circuits in cued behavior.                                                                                                

Outside the lab, Heather enjoys riding and competing her horse, Harmonie, in the equestrian sport of dressage.  

Liza - Headshot.jpeg

Elizaveta Romanova

UNDERGRAduate research assistant

Liza is an undergraduate student at the College of Charleston, studying biochemistry with a minor in neuroscience. Her postgraduate plans include attending medical school and becoming a cosmetic surgeon.

Outside of the lab, Liza is a coxswain for the College of Charleston crew team and enjoys volunteering with several different organizations on campus. 


Kion Winston

UNDERGRAduate research assistant

Kion is an undergraduate student attending Charleston Southern University, studying biology with a minor in psychology. With an interest in the brain and behavior he plans to attend medical school as to pursue a career in neuroscience and psychiatry. Besides his position in the Otis Lab, Kion participates In Dr. Roberts lab at his home university where he study’s cancer biology, and Dr. Song’s lab where he studies plant biology.

Outside the lab, Kion enjoys spending time with his loved ones and his cat Persephone.