Sam Centanni, PhD

Principal Investigator

Sam grew up in Rochester, NY and graduated with a BS in biology from the University at Albany in 2010. As an undergraduate, Sam worked in the lab of Dr. Melinda Larsen studying the proteins regulating branching morphogenesis in salivary glands. He broke into neuroscience when he joined the graduate school biomedical science PhD program at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC. Sam did his dissertation in the lab of Dr. Judson Chandler studying the effects of adolescent binge alcohol exposure on prefrontal cortex development and function in adulthood. He obtained his PhD in 2015 and moved on to work with Dr. Danny Winder at Vanderbilt as a postdoctoral fellow. Here he studied the neuronal circuitry driving negative affect induced by stress and/or alcohol abstinence. He started his lab in November 2021 at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in the Physiology and Pharmacology Department. On his free time, Sam enjoys playing ice hockey, running, hiking, biking, and spending time with his wife, daughter, and two dogs.


Twitter: @samcentanni

Jincy Little, B.S.

Lab Manager

Jincy Little received her Bachelor of Science in Biology (Zoology track) in 2017 from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. In 2018, she began working for Wake Forest University School of Medicine in the Animal Research Program (ARP) as a Laboratory Animal Technician. She joined Dr. Centanni’s lab in 2022. Jincy has lived in King, North Carolina her whole life, where she grew up knowing she would work with animals. Outside of the lab, Jincy enjoys reading and watching fantasy movies, since she is a bit of a nerd. She also enjoys quilting, painting, playing with her dogs and cat, riding horses, spending time with family and friends, and especially helping her “barn siblings” to grow in their horsemanship.


Sandra Leone-Kabler, B.A.

Lab Technician

Sandra joined the Centanni lab in January 2022. She was born in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, she has lived in California, Virginia/DC  and Missouri. Sandra has a degree in Biology from University of Missouri Columbia. She has worked in research for the better part of 35 years from slime molds in Columbia Missouri,  sea turtle research in Florida to research at Wake Forest in Cancer Biology, Biochemistry and Physiology/Pharmacology.  She has been at Wake Forest Health Sciences for 26 years doing science, fixing equipment and all manner of problem solving! Sandra loves the beach and warm weather, and enjoys painting, gardening running and cooking!


Amanda Salazar, B.S.

Neuroscience MS Graduate Student

Amanda is a Miami born resident who graduated from Rhodes College in 2020 with a BS in Neuroscience with a minor in Music. There, she worked in Dr. Kimberly Brien’s lab and studied organic chemistry to help synthesize chelating macromolecules to clean up pollution in lakes and rivers. Amanda joined the Neuroscience Masters program at Wake Forest in 2022 to continue her studies and further explore her interest in alcohol use disorder. She is a big proponent of diversity in science and loves engaging in science outreach. When she is not in the lab, you can find Amanda taking a nap, practicing music, reading a good fantasy novel, or obsessing over Harry Styles.


Zach Gillis, B.S.

Neuroscience MD/PhD Student

Zach is originally from McLean, VA near Washington, DC. He received a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh in 2017. During his time as an undergraduate student, he worked in Dr. Sara Morrison’s lab researching reward circuitry. He also spent his summers as an undergraduate student working at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute: Janelia Campus in Ashburn, VA. Upon receiving his bachelor’s degree, he spent two years as an associate researcher in Dr. Erin Rich’s lab at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, NY. Zach is a current MD/PhD student and began his PhD in the Centanni Lab in 2023. His primary research interests are addiction related – specifically the behavioral and cognitive aspects of alcohol addiction. When not in the lab, Zach enjoys playing bass guitar, video games, reading, and skiing among other activities.


Aditi Buch, B.S.

Integrative Physiology and Pharmacology PhD Graduate Student

Aditi is a Nashville native who graduated with a Bachelors in Neuroscience from Belmont University in 2019. At Belmont she worked with Dr. Timothy Schoenfeld looking at learning and memory circuits in rodents models. After graduating, she joined the labs of Drs. Colleen Niswender and Jeff Conn at the Warren Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery at Vanderbilt University where her work contributed to therapeutic avenues for Rett Syndrome. Aditi joined the IPP PhD program at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in the fall of 2022 where she’s interested in studying the effects of different stressors on the brain’s reward pathways that influence alcohol and substance use. Outside of lab, Aditi likes to read, eat good food, go to soccer games, and watch Harry Styles perform live.


Ben Williams, M.S.

Neuroscience PhD Graduate Student

Ben received his Bachelors and Masters in Neuroscience from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He did research as both an undergraduate and a graduate student for 5 years in Scott Steffensen’s lab studying reward circuits in the nucleus accumbens in the context of alcohol use disorder. He started the Neuroscience PhD program at Wake Forest in Fall 2022. Ben is from Holbrook, Arizona, a small town that is known for being part of the inspiration for the Disney movie Cars. Outside of the lab, he loves playing basketball, down-hill skiing, playing chess, playing video games and riding motorcycles.


Ellie Howard

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ellie Howard is a current undergraduate student at Wake Forest University working on a major in psychology and minors in neuroscience and philosophy. She is originally from Laurel, Mississippi, but spent much of her time living in Los Angeles, California. Ellie joined the Centanni lab in 2023 to gain more experience as an undergraduate and to pursue her interests in addiction and relapse prevention. Outside of the lab, Ellie is a member of the Wake Forest mock trial team and club ski team. In her free time, she enjoys visiting cow farms, listening to
country music, and eating sushi


Cole Binder

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Cole comes all the way from Oakland, California and will graduate this May with a B.S. in Biology and minors in Neuroscience and Chemistry. Previously, Cole has worked with Dr. Stitzel and Dr. Urban of Wake Forest Biotech on their motorsports project studying concussive and sub-concussive impacts from racing in NASCAR and related junior series’. Now, he is more interested in brain reward pathways in alcohol use disorder and seeking as much experience as he can in the modern neuroscience research methods used by the Centanni lab. In his spare time, Cole can be found practicing archery on warm days, cooking new food with friends, exploring new mountain bike trails, or skiing in the winter.