What we do:
The overarching goal of the research conducted in our lab is to understand a central question in neuroscience, which is at the core of information processing in all animals: How does a circuit of neurons translate olfactory input into behavioral output? We study olfaction since it offers a plethora of biological questions awaiting understanding at the molecular and cellular level. Specifically, we focus our work on the sophisticated (but numerically simple!) olfactory system of the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) larva.
In our research, we use numerous interdisciplinary approaches, including electrophysiology, behavior, and molecular genetics. We have recently developed tools (strong, specific activators for individual ORNs and a novel behavioral paradigm that allows detailed characterization of larval navigation) that will allow us to carry out an unparalleled, systematic, and comprehensive dissection of the larval olfactory circuit.
Why we do what we do:
Our research aspires toward an integrative understanding of olfactory circuit function. Although basic research is the cornerstone of our lab, there are practical benefits to studying insect olfaction. Many insects are important vectors of disease. These insect pests locate their human or plant hosts mainly through olfactory cues. A better understanding of the principles of olfaction and neural circuit function will enable the design of pragmatic and environmentally friendly methods to curb the menace of disease-carrying insects (e.g. mosquitoes), and agricultural pests (e.g. Mormon cricket grasshopper).