Melissa Coffel is a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign alumna, with her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with a formal concentration in Behavioral Neuroscience. During her time at UIUC, she was heavily involved in Cognitive Neuroscience research at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, where she was the Laboratory Manager and a Research Assistant for multiple interdisciplinary labs affiliated with the Psychology Department and Neuroscience Program at UIUC.
Melissa's advocacy for individuals with disability conditions developed as her passion for the brain blossomed. This began her lifelong journey in pursuit of understanding the vast complexity of individual people on a psychological and biological level, as well as their many interactions with the rest of the world. As she began coordinating research for student organizations and growing connections with UIUC faculty and researchers, she began to notice the remarkable need for resources specifically aimed for researchers who have disability conditions in the laboratory setting.
Melissa strongly believes that understanding and diversity is what makes the academic and scientific community great, and although a lot of progress has been made, there is still a lot that needs to be done to ensure this.
She is devoted to contributing all she can to enrich the scientific community through social outreach right now, as well as her own scientific contributions by attending graduate school in the future.
Joey Ramp has been an advocate for disability services with a focus on individuals with service dogs, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) since 2012. She is completing a degree in Biocognitive Neuroscience in the Spring of 2019 which is an interdisciplinary collaboration between Behavioral Neuroscience, Cognitive Neuroscience, and Molecular and Cellular Biology.
Joey joined the Rhodes’ Lab at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology in the summer of 2017 after receiving a grant to conduct a 2-year research study on the impact a service dog has on laboratory rodent physiology and behavior. She is accompanied everywhere by her service dog Sampson who was named the 2018 Service Dog of the Year by the American Kennel Club Humane Fund Award for Canine Excellence (ACE). Their work as partners to develop access protocol for service dogs in laboratories has been recognized internationally.
As a problem-solver Joey is passionate about developing innovative solutions for equal access to an education with a focus on science and research, while securing equal opportunities and equal rights for all people with disabilities, in academics, the workplace, and breaking institutional, physical, and societal barriers that prevent people with disabilities from living their lives to the fullest.
Opportunities, not obstacles. Solutions, not situations. Breakthroughs, not barriers.