Get to know the Schmidt Lab!

citationsMarc Schmidt

Raised in Belgium, Dr. Schmidt attended Swarthmore College where he majored in Biology and was a member of a national championship winning tennis team. Dr. Schmidt received his PhD in Colorado where he studied the developing nervous system and spinal cord regeneration. He then did his postdoctoral work at Caltech with Dr. Mazakazu Konishi studying the neural bases of vocal production and perception in songbirds. Dr. Schmidt is professor in the Biology department where he continues his studies on neural aspects of vocal production and learning with a special interest in how social context shapes brain circuitry. Dr. Schmidt has received several scientific awards including a Basil O’ Connor Award from the March of Dimes Foundation and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship award. In addition to teaching and research, Marc is also involved in raising awareness of Tourette Syndrome and serves on the national chapter’s scientific advisory board.

Ammon Perkes

Ammon (rhymes with “examine“) is a PhD candidate in the Biology Department. He is interested in the role of the song system in female mating behavior. He’s hoping to develop new techniques to bring computational power to the study of behavior. At the risk of being a jack-of-all-trades, Ammon feels that the integration of diverse fields will provide new and exciting insights into life. When he isn’t in the lab, Ammon can be found rock climbing, watching Doctor Who, hanging out with his amazing wife, or all three at once. He intends to become a professor and continue investigating the mechanisms of animal behavior.

Luke Anderson

Luke is a first year PhD student in Biology. Prior to arriving at Penn, he spent two years as a high school teacher in New Orleans, where he cultivated his love of both biology and teaching. He hopes to use the cowbird system to pursue questions at the intersection of animal behavior and evolutionary ecology. Outside the lab he is an avid musician, moonlighting as a bassist and guitarist in various bands around the city. Find him on Spotify.



Jakub Jarmula
From the suburbs of Chicago, Jakub Jarmula is planning on majoring in Biology with a Concentration in Neurobiology, and he hopes to pursue a career in medicine. He enjoys watching hockey, playing tennis, exploring Philadelphia, and cooking (and being off the dining plan this year, he hopes to improve).


Jessie Burke
Jessie is a junior BBB major who’s always had a passion for birds, brains, and now bird brains. She is particularly interested in language and cognition and thinks bird communication might help us understand our own. She spent the summer of 2016 working in Dr. Elissa Newport’s language acquisition lab at Georgetown University, trading finches for human subjects ages 5 to 7. Jessie is planning on pursuing her studies in grad school though right now is enjoying the scattered freedom of her undergrad years. In addition to majoring in BBB, she also has a minor in South Asian Studies focusing on Hindi-Urdu and South Asian literature.

Ian Jean

Ian is a member of the class of 2019 pursuing majors in BBB and Philosophy. He is interested in a career in medical research. He comes from Indiana, and is fluent in Korean and English. He is a violinist of 11 years and can identify the composers of most classical pieces. At the lab, he is interested in using carbon-fiber electrode arrays for higher resolution neural recording.


Courteney Ly

Hailing from the faraway lands of the suburbs of Philadelphia, Courteney is currently undeclared, but intends to pursue a career in medicine. Since she was a small girl, Courteney has always been interested in neuroanatomy and physiology, and hopes to learn more about avian circuitry and behavior through working in Dr. Schmidt’s lab. When not playing with songbirds in the lab, you can find Courteney playing one of various instruments, or singing with her a cappella group– in fact, she secretly thinks she may be a songbird herself– quite the identity crisis.


Zach Sheldon

Zach is a rising junior who hails from a small town in the mediocre state of New Jersey. This spunky Cognitive Science major wants to pursue a PhD after graduation, aiming to work at the intersection of neuroscience and computer science. Zach hopes to bring new meaning to the term ‘bird-brained’ with his project on the acoustic effects of perturbation of viscerosensory feedback in zebra finches. He is also the current College House Research Fellow for Sansom West. Outside of the lab, he is the Sports Photo Editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian and the chair of the YouToo Tennis Program for Penn Speaks for Autism.

Photos courtesy of Zach Sheldon Photography  🙂