Join The Lab

Are you interested in joining the ENL?


Our main body of research right now revolves around two particular topics – decisions about objects (consumerism, waste, hoarding, acquisition versus discard of material goods) and empathy (emotional contagion, mimicry, individual differences, patient care). In both cases, we use a combination of experimental psychology, psychophysiology, and brain imaging. But note that these are listed in decreasing order of prevalence, so you may not want to be primarily housed in the ENL if fMRI is your main interest. We do incorporate some research and theory from JDM (Judgement and Decision Making), Social Psychology, and Neuroeconomics, but since this is the Ecological Neuroscience Lab, we try to modify these methods and concepts to explain real world behaviors in their ecological setting, such as shopping and helping friends, rather than monetary gambles and Trust games. Our ultimate goal is to understand proximate mechanisms – that is, how does the nervous system instantiate the behavior. Thus, we use evolution, comparative psychology, individual differences, fMRI, and data from patient populations as windows into the mechanism.

To help you understand what we typically do in the lab, you can peruse our publications, which are admittedly a weird mishmash, but do represent the different subtopics in the lab.


The ENL is always looking for new, dedicated undergraduates to join our ranks. A lot of our data collection and analysis is handled by undergraduates, and the earlier you start, the more responsibility you can have. Many students have worked in the lab for multiple years, finishing with an honor’s thesis of their own choosing, and a first-authored poster at a professional psychology conference. We even have two (out of two) blue ribbons for the undergraduate honors research poster contest!

Requirements: In order to work in the lab, there are three main logistical requirements: 1) You must commit to two semesters, not just one. 2) You must work at least 10 hours per week. 3) You need to do your research for credit (there are lots of options for credit research).

If you have never worked in a lab before, you should be aware that the actual day-to-day life in a lab is not “exciting.” Research is often a tedious process that requires precision, conscientiousness, and a genuine concern for how the research comes out. Our technique is to have new students work on basic data processing, such as transcribing video tapes or processing psychophysioloogy data under the supervision of another student. Then, if the student does a good job with that task, s/he can do subject testing for an existing project. If all goes well there, students are allowed to design and test their own idea, developed in meetings with myself and the lab. Note that brain imaging is usually reserved for graduate students and undergrads with extensive computer programming experience.

If you think you meet these requirements, feel free to write me an email describing your research interests, the course you would like to register for, and any background information on prior research experience or relevant practical skills (e.g. statistics, programming, Excel).


We are always interested in new graduate students for the lab. We are looking for people who are proactive, hard working, and interested in these topics! Students who are very proactive and diligent can develop an independent research program; but, like with the undergraduates, students typically work on an existing project under myself first while developing their experience and thoughts about a subsequent study of their own choosing. Priority is given for students who have existing research experience, particularly with computers, programming, fMRI, MatLab and the like.

If you are interested in applying to the University of Michigan, to work in my lab you should know the following: Admission is done within areas. Thus, you need to apply to the Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience Area. You should mention my name in your essay (otherwise, I may never get to see your application, since admissions is done by a small committee before relevant faculty are contacted). Ideally, there is more than one person in the CCN area that you could work with, so that you are ensured a successful time here at Michigan, no matter how you decide you like it in our lab. So, search the CCN faculty interests for other labs that interest you. If you need help, I can direct you towards particular people.


We don’t currently have any funding for postdocs, but if you want to write an NRSA to come to the lab as a postdoc, I am more than happy to help you with proposal submission. If you have your own funding through another agency or host country, feel free to contact me. Please specify what topic you would like to study.

Email: prestos at

Thanks for visiting the ENL!