The Team

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Samantha Soto is a Neuroscience senior and McNair Scholar. She began her research endeavors in the Behavioral Medicine Laboratory where she developed a novel research investigation examining a multidisciplinary view of stress. After her operations within human models, Samantha investigated the role of the rat prefrontal cortex in cocaine-seeking behaviors under Dr. Saddoris at Colorado University Boulder. This spring, Samantha is excited to join the Hwa Lab to expand upon her research interests relating goal-oriented behavior, environmental stress, and the neuronal basis of alcohol/addiction-related behaviors. In her free time, she enjoys exploring the city, cooking, and indulging in coffee!


Valerie Davila is a sophomore Neuroscience major from San Antonio, Texas. Once she graduates in 2023, she hopes to attend graduate school to continue to pursue her love of neuroscience and psychology. She is involved on campus as a member of Kappa Chi Alpha, the Baylor Union Board, and the Medical Service Organization. In her free time, she enjoys watching movies, exercising, and trying new local Waco restaurants! She is excited to be under Dr. Hwa’s mentorship in the lab and expand her growing love for research.


Sidney Kaliher is a sophomore Psychology major with a minor in English. She is a Baylor Kappa Kappa Gamma, part of Baylor’s Honor Society (Alpha Lambda Delta), and loves to take spontaneous adventures with her friends. She is passionate about helping others achieve their full potential in mental, physical, and spiritual well-being and hopes to become a Clinical Therapist.


Esther Ko is an international student from South Korea. She is a sophomore Neuroscience major and an Honor’s Program student aspiring to pursue a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience after graduation. Outside of school, Esther is a basketball lover and an ecstatic gamer, and she also enjoys watching crime documentaries and TED Talks in her free time. Esther has always been interested in alcoholism and drinking culture across societies, and she is very eager to take part in Dr. Hwa’s lab on alcoholism and social stress to grow and learn as a researcher.


Paige Whittle is a senior Neuroscience major with a minor in Forensic Science. She aspires to work as an analyst in a crime lab after graduating in May. At Baylor, she is Secretary of the Forensic Society and was the Osteology Lab Assistant for three semesters. Paige studied abroad in Sydney, Australia where she was able to travel the country and take neuroscience courses. In her free time, she enjoys exercising, baking, and going to Baylor sporting events. This spring, Paige is excited to connect how the molecular mechanisms of alcohol drive behavior and gain a deeper understanding of a substance often implicated in crimes.

Interested in joining our research team? Contact us.