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principal investigator

As an animal, your nervous system allows you to sense and respond to your environment, form and retrieve memories, and learn from past experiences. All of this is possible because the billions of nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord are connected to each other and to other cells throughout your body in very precise ways. Although our brains change as we grow and age, many of the most fundamental connections are formed very early during embryonic development. And, although everyone’s brain is unique, basic patterns of neural connectivity are shared in humans and non-human animals alike.

Our lab is interested in how animal nervous systems are properly wired during development. Using the embryonic insect nervous system as a model, we study the genetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms that specify patterns of neuronal connectivity. We use insects like the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster because they have relatively simple nervous systems, but they are built using the same principles as more complex brains like our own. The molecular and genetic tools available in Drosophila allow us to manipulate genes and cells in the developing fly embryo while we examine how they assemble themselves into a functioning nervous system. For more details about specific projects we are working on in the lab, see our Research page.

Lab News

  • Aug 19, 2021, Howard et al, 2021: The Slit-binding Ig1 domain is required for multiple axon guidance activities of Drosophila Robo2
    Our paper based on LaFreda's PhD thesis project on the functional importance of Robo2's Ig1 domain is now a peer-reviewed publication! You can read the final published paper online at Genesis.
  • May 7, 2021, Preprint: The Slit-binding Ig1 domain is required for multiple axon guidance activities of Drosophila Robo2
    Our lab's newest preprint is live today on bioRxiv! You can read it at this link.
  • Apr 2, 2021, Daiber et al in the March 2021 issue of Genetics
    Our paper based on Trent's undergraduate research project comparing Drosophila Robo1 and C. elegans SAX-3 has been published in the March 2021 issue of Genetics!
  • Feb 8, 2021, Muna Abdal-Rhida, Ph.D.
    Muna successfully defended her CEMB Ph.D. thesis today, titled "Molecular and genetic studies of robo2 transcriptional regulation in the central nervous system of Drosophila melanogaster." Congratulations Dr. Abdal-Rhida!
  • Read more news