University of Oregon - Department of Biology
McCormick Lab, Institute of Neuroscience
Employer Website:
Eugene, OR
Pay Type: 
8 to 12

The McCormick Lab at the Institute of Neuroscience (ION) seeks to understand the neural mechanisms that bring about changes in the brain’s ability to engage with the outside world. The lab seeks to understand how that information is routed through the brain to elicit a behavioral response. We refer to this process as searching for the neural mechanisms, or neural circuits, that underlie behavior. Further, the McCormick lab seeks to understand how these neural circuits are modulated (i.e. made less or more effective) in real time by the brain’s neurotransmitter centers. Anyone who has ever sat in a long lecture or done a long assignment knows that our ability to process information from moment to moment fluctuates—sometimes we are quite focused, other times we are quite disengaged. We hypothesize that these fluctuations are the result of the activity of the brain’s neurotransmitter centers acting on the "local" neural circuits specific to a particular sensory modality, such as vision or hearing.

In order to investigate these questions McCormick lab uses a combination of cutting-edge technologies. These range from specialized cameras that allow us to watch brain activity (we have mice whose neurons literally light up!) to ultra-sensitive recording equipment that allows us to see incremental changes in the electrical activity of individual neurons. We employ these techniques in awake animals performing tasks designed to engage the animal in the sensory world around them. In this way we hope to discover the neural circuits that mediate these behaviors and how input from neurotransmitter centers can alter those circuits to induce optimal behavior.

The McCormick Lab seeks undergraduate research to fill a variety of laboratory needs. Most undergrads will begin helping the lab train animals in sensory detection behaviors. This is an even mix of animal handling and record keeping. During the time that the animals are engaged in a training session, the student can either do personal work or shadow lab staff as they are doing experiments with previously trained animals (we strongly recommend the second option!).

As students gain experience in the lab, we encourage them to begin pursuing leadership roles within the undergraduate team, or to undertake an individual project. This is always done on a case-by-case basis.

One of the joys of neuroscience is that it requires knowledge from a diverse array of fields, from biology to psychology. Individuals with non-neuroscientific or specialized backgrounds, particularly in fields relating to computer science or electronics, are also encouraged to apply.

Undergraduates are expected to work between 8 and 10 hours per week. Most all work will take place between 9am and 6pm.

Lab website:

We welcome all dedicated and interested students from all academic disciplines. As this position involves animal care, students must be mature, reliable individuals who are able to maintain a stable schedule. The position also requires careful attention to detail.

Students with previous experience in computer science, mathematics/statistics, or electronics are encouraged to make this known at the time of application.

Please send a cover letter and resume expressing your interest in the position to Paul Steffan at Note in email Subject Line: Research Assistant Application.

For additional resources on developing or fine tuning your resume (CV) and cover letter, visit UO Career Center site: