Assistant Professor Todd Hillhouse works with research student Peyton Koppenhaver on how to run a conditioned place preference test as they research a new psychopharmacological approach for pain relief inside the PANE Lab in the Lab Sciences building at UW-Green Bay.

Video: Psychology Cutting-Edge Research in PANE Lab

UW-Green Bay Assistant Professor Todd Hillhouse (Psychology) from the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, works with research students Paige Anderson and Peyton Koppenhaver to run a conditioned place preference test on their quest for a new psychopharmacological approach for pain relief. They are working inside the “PANE Lab” in the Lab Sciences building on the Green Bay Campus. Read more about Prof. Hillhouse and his path from academic uncertainty to published researcher and mentor.

Psychology Cutting-Edge Research in PANE Lab Transcript: Our research in the PANE Lab is focused on creating new pain medications and finding new antidepressants. And we do this because there are current medications that are addictive, we want to find medications that aren’t addictive.

It means a great deal to publish our research in the National Academy of Sciences. The study that we published was a proof-of-concept study showing a novel way of treating pain. Now this will lend us into new projects where we can expand on these findings and develop new drugs that will be more efficacious when treating pain in the clinical population.

A really big, important piece of working in the PANE Lab, is just knowing that eventually down the line once we do unfold some of those hidden pieces about how drugs work in the brain, what they do, and what we can use them for, we can later apply those in drug counseling and clinical work.

We are able to use this information to help those who are struggling with depression, anxiety, pain management, other symptoms like that. Conducting research in the pain field, it really excites me. I’m excited to look at novel pain treatments because we might be able to help a population that currently isn’t being treated for their pain. We can also hopefully treat these people without pushing them toward addiction, which we see with the normal traditional opioid drugs.

Being in the PANE Research Lab makes me feel like I have a purpose and I’m able to contribute something to society even as an undergraduate student. I’m confident and optimistic that our research here can benefit and change the future of pain medications.

I really think that just being this involved so early on in my educational career really makes me proud that I chose UW-Green Bay and that I chose every day from that point on. I’m a first-generation student and so for me being able to have these opportunities is a really big deal.


PANE Lab researchers

UW-Green Bay’s Professor Hillhouse’s journey lights a path for others to follow

From academic uncertainty to published researcher and mentor who is working with students to develop a novel treatment for pain and addiction

When UW-Green Bay Assistant Professor Todd Hillhouse was in high school, college was not even on his horizon. Today, he holds a doctorate in Biopsychology, guides students doing research in a lab he established on campus and mentors his students at UW-Green Bay to “learn to be successful in life,” as he puts it.

He hopes his story of the journey from student to teacher and mentor encourages other students who might not see college in their futures.

“No one in my family had attended college, so it was not something I even considered,” Hillhouse recalled. “One day during my senior year of high school, I saw posters showing which colleges other students from my school were attending and realized college could be a possibility for me. I had missed the application deadline, so friends encouraged me to attend community college.

“I was taking my gen ed courses and discovered a love of psychology. I discovered Northern Michigan University at a college fair there, so I applied to NMU and several colleges. I was accepted at several other schools, but I . picked Northern Michigan University because it offered the biggest change in scenery from my home in Southern California.”

Hillhouse visited the NMU campus in November (his first ride in an airplane) and decided to transfer in time for the spring semester, which started in January that year. It was at NMU that he met his future wife, Kelly, who grew up in Wausau. He finished his bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Experimental Psychology at NMU before he and his wife moved to Virginia, where he entered the doctoral program at Virginia Commonwealth University.

He conducted research in two labs at Virginia Commonwealth: a biopsychology lab and a pharmacology lab. With support and guidance from his mentors there, he was able to complete his graduate studies and publish three research papers within three years. Working in those labs also ignited some interesting questions.

“I was fascinated by the relationship between the psychological and physiological characteristics of addiction, pain management and depression,” said Hillhouse, “and knew I wanted to do research in that area. There have not been any novel mechanism treatments for pain, addiction or depression in decades, and there is a need for novel treatments for patients not responding to current treatments or patients with addiction problems.”

After earning his Ph.D. in Biopsychology, Hillhouse accepted a post-doctoral fellowship in Pharmacology at the University of Michigan Medical School, so he and his wife relocated once more. At Michigan, he focused on researching novel ways to manage pain without undesirable side effects. His work with a research team there resulted in publication of a paper in the distinguished journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Hillhouse animatedly describes the essence of the research. “Essentially, we found a way to activate the opioid receptors in the brain to block pain without causing the addictive side effects. The drug is an allosteric positive modulator. It does not activate the receptor when given alone, but enhances the effects of our natural endorphins that are released during pain. If there is no pain, then there is no drug effect”

At the end of his two-year fellowship in Michigan, Hillhouse accepted a position as assistant professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. At Weber, he also directed the Neuroscience program and started his own research lab to continue his exploration of pain management and addiction. He also continued his collaboration with students there and colleagues at University of Michigan. That collaboration produced more than a dozen published papers (available at ORCID and PubMed) several book chapters (available at Google Scholar) related to psychology and pharmacology.

The lure of Wisconsin drew Hillhouse, his wife and two children back to the Midwest. They landed new professional roles in Green Bay, she as a development officer at the Medical College of Wisconsin’s campus in Green Bay and he as assistant professor of Psychology at UW-Green Bay. They relocated in May of 2020, where Hillhouse started his teaching and research work in August, and opened his new research lab in November.

“It’s called the Pain and Addiction Neuropharmacology lab, or PANE lab, for short,” said Hillhouse, “because we work to develop novel treatment for pain and addiction. There’s a comorbidity between addiction and depression that allows us to evaluate novel treatments for depression, as well.”

Watch the video about the PANE lab, and the undergraduates who have an opportunity to conduct graduate-level research as undergraduates at UW-Green Bay.

The PANE lab opened in November 2020 and has hosted about six student researchers, yet their work has already received professional recognition. One of the students—Peyton Koppenhaver (2022)—joined Hillhouse and his collaborators at the University of Michigan medical school to co-author an article in Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (JPET) on a novel drug to treat relapse in cocaine use disorder. Three UW-Green Bay students—Koppenhaver (2022), Paige Anderson (2021) and Taylor Kegan (2022)—joined Hillhouse and researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University to co-author a manuscript related to the role of the opioid system in the antidepressant effects of ketamine. The manuscript is currently undergoing peer review and should be published in the summer.

“The students in the lab tell me it’s stimulating and enjoyable,” said Hillhouse, “and some of our graduates tell me their lab experience and publication experience helps them stand out when they apply to graduate schools.

“I really try to give them an idea of what life is like as a grad student,” Hillhouse explained. “Once they’re familiar with lab procedures, I just guide them. Sometimes that’s frustrating for them because they don’t get the results they expect and feel like they’ve failed. I try to help them understand that’s how research goes and then lead them from there to the next line of inquiry, to figure out what questions to ask next. That’s really rewarding for me. I was fortunate to have helpful mentors in my career, so I’m trying to return the favor.

“And I’ve had wonderful support from the University, my department and my colleagues,” Hillhouse continued. “When I wanted to set up the lab, the Department of Laboratory Sciences welcomed me. When I needed to hire a student to manage the lab, my department chair and the dean never hesitated. Everyone in the administration wants us to succeed.”

That sentiment, “help everyone succeed,” may also sum up the professor’s entire academic journey. Once unsure where to go, he found others to guide him, earned professional recognition among his peers and now uses his platform to guide others on their own academic journeys.

It’s an inspiring story that should encourage any student who wonders whether college might be on their horizon.

Story by freelance writer Jim Streed

Sarah McKenna

Recent Health and Wellness master’s graduate sees experience as a path to progress

What does fitness have to do with freight?

Spring 2021 Master of Science in Health and Wellness Management (MSHWM) graduate Sarah McKenna Rogers has the answer. For a leadership capstone project through the UW-Green Bay program, she found a partner company (Paper Transport, Inc.) that wanted to improve the health of its truck-driving population. Rogers examined their health and wellness needs and developed a wellness program for those driving long distances.

A fitness professional with more than 10 years of work experience, Rogers saw the degree program as a path to progress in her wellness career.

Sarah Rogers
Sarah Rogers

“I saw an ad for this program in one of the fitness professional magazines and thought I would look into it,” she says. “A year later, the time and circumstances were right for me to consider going back to school for my master’s degree, so I applied. Having the option to do my course work 100% online was really what sold me on the program. I knew I would need to work full-time throughout my time in school and this was the best program out there for both content and flexibility.”

Rogers says the professors and coursework in the program challenged her to grow professionally and academically, with the flexibility of online content.

For her capstone project, she found a company that wanted to work on their employee health. She discussed her ideas with the wellness coordinator and arrived at the conclusion that a wellness program paired with a job requirement would provide the desirable impact.

“Drivers need to pass a Department of Transportation (DOT) medical exam to maintain their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). If they are in poor health, they may not qualify for the medical card and lose their CDL and possibly their job. The aim of this project was to identify the areas of health that are concerning and disqualify drivers on the exam and what health topics, based in this employee population and national truck driver’s data, would encourage health changes at least three months prior to the medical exam date.”

Without a specific career path in mind, Rogers says she now feels prepared to progress where ever new career adventures could lead.

“I am a certified personal trainer, fitness instructor, health coach, corporate wellness specialist, and have managed a corporate wellness facility and exercise and movement is important to me. I have loved my time with the MSHWM program because it has emphasized the other elements of wellness above and beyond exercise,” she said.

Story by Marketing and University Communication student assistant Charlotte Berg. Photos submitted.

young peregrine falcons

Photos: Young Peregrines ‘Holly’ and ‘Wolf’ receive their official names and bands

Two of UW-Green Bay’s young Peregrine falcons received their bands for future identification and their names. One was named “Holly” after enthusiast Holly Keener (Provost’s Assistant) and the other was named “Wolf” after Prof. Amy Wolf who is often the faculty supervisor for the student researchers working with the falcons, and Jacob Woulf, the graduate student who led the effort to set up the web cams for the livestream to watch the falcons from nesting to flight each year.

Greg Septon, leader of Wisconsin’s Peregrine recovery efforts during the past 30 years, once again led the banding effort. The endangered falcons have been nesting on the Cofrin Library for a number of years.

Holly Keener and Holly (Peregrine)
Holly Keener and Holly
Greg Septon and Brandon Byrne, Banding falcons
Greg Septon and Brandon Byrne
Greg Septon and Max Stafford banding falcons
Greg Septon and Max Stafford

Video: Spring Commencement Celebration 2021

More than 700 UW-Green Bay graduates (from Fall/Winter 2020 and Spring/Summer 2021) and their families follow the special route through campus during the Spring Commencement Celebration on Saturday, May 15, 2021. This commencement celebration set a record as being the longest commencement in UW-Green Bay history. This is the University’s 103rd Commencement Ceremony since its first in June of 1970. Graduates from all four UW-Green Bay Campuses (Green Bay, Marinette, Manitowoc, and Sheboygan) participated.

Photos: Ben Gilles takes Navy oath at UW-Green Bay Commencement Celebration

The 2021 Commencement Celebration meant even a bit more for graduating student Ben Gilles. He also took an oath to serve as an officer with the U.S. Navy. UW-Green Bay’s Veterans Services Advisor Elaina Koltz assisted in the effort. According to Koltz, Gilles received a major scholarship from the Navy for dental school.
Click to advance slideshow or view the album on Flickr.

Ben Giles Navy Oath at UW-Green Bay Commencement Celebration
– Photos by Dan Moore, Marketing and University Communication.

The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Video: 2021 Spring Commencement Celebration featured Menominee drummers

Three young Menominee men from Keshena honored graduates Kelly House (Oneida), a First Nations Studies and Psychology major, and Bailey Tlachac (Oneida), who majored in First Nations Studies and Democracy and Justice Studies, with a hand drum processional at UW-Green Bay’s Spring 2021 Commencement Celebration, May 15. The drummers, arranged by Crystal Lepscier (First Nations Student Success Coordinator) led them through the cheer section to the Commencement stage. Both Tlachac and House are outgoing leaders of the Intertribal Student Council. The drummers were Manny Teller, Issac Webster and James Waupoose.

At the End of the Year Celebration students play the spike ball lawn game during sunset at UW-Green Bay's Phoenix Park on Friday, May 7, 2021.

Photos: End of Year Celebration 2021

End of the year celebration for UW-Green Bay students featuring live music and lawn games at Phoenix Park and fireworks show at Aldo Santaga Stadium on Friday, May 7, 2021.

Click to advance slideshow or view the album on Flickr.

UW-Green Bay End of Year Celebration 2021

Kari Moody, director of Alumni Relations

Alumni assist with the recruiting process during the pandemic, send 5,000 notecards to prospects

One of the things that makes UW-Green Bay so special is the commitment to the Phoenix family—and some of our alumni have been showcasing that commitment throughout the past year. In a collaboration between the Office of Admissions and Alumni Relations, a team of alumni is engaging with prospective students for Fall 2021.

When the pandemic began, students were in a place of uncertainty. Uncertain about next steps, about college, about their futures—but they bet on themselves. The Admissions team saw an influx of applications for the upcoming fall semester, surpassing the total number of Fall 2020 applications just a few months after applications opened. As students continue to make their college decisions, Admissions has the task of yielding those students to commit to UW-Green Bay.

That’s where alumni have stepped up to the plate. Director of Alumni Relations Kari Moody (’00) was searching for ways to get alumni connected with admitted students. Our alumni are extremely supportive—donating annually and even funding their own scholarships—but they don’t have many opportunities to interact directly with incoming Phoenix.

With Moody’s direction and a group of enthusiastic alumni, the notecard project was born. A team of alumni from many disciplines, majors, and eras of UW-Green Bay are rising to the challenge to write letters to our admitted students within their busy days. The ability to share their Phoenix story with the next generation is something that they’ve enjoyed doing—the numbers show it! With more than 5,000 note cards sent—their stories are traveling far and wide to our future Phoenix. Besides the notecard project, alumni have also stepped up to call students, write emails, and even take over the LifeatUWGB Instagram page from time to time.

We can confidently say that from admissions to alumni—this University is dedicated to the best student experience!

Submitted by Alexandra Campion, Admissions; In the photo, Alumni Director Kari Moody loads-up on Phoenix pride items from The Phoenix Bookstore!