I am interested in using biodiversity and technology to create new medicines and understand origins and basic principles of the brain.
My aim is to establish a research program in academia or industry.
I propose to leverage molecular to organismal biodiversity and use cutting-edge sequencing, imaging, and genetic technologies to
1) create or advance powerful new genetic technologies for research and medicine, like engineering novel ultrasound-sensitive channels, identified from sequencing and functional assays in bacteria, dinoflagellates, carnivorous plants, or marine invertebrate larvae, for sonogenetics, and
2) understand origins, evolution, and function of brain and sensory components and systems in organisms, gaining insight into our own brain and behavior, with potential impacts in biology, medicine, robotics, and AI.
Three projects that integrate these two areas and that I envision building my research program around are: Ocean To Brain, No Brains, and Big Brains. The projects are outlined below and highlighted on their pages.
OCEAN TO BRAIN
I am interested in leveraging natural diversity and establishing novel lab models in discovery and engineering of new genetic tools in research and medicine. To advance the sonogenetic toolkit as part of the Sonogenetics Team in the Chalasani Lab, I work with diverse sequences at the computer to characterize ion channel diversity and evolution - and developed the GIGANTIC phylogenomic pipeline to do so. In parallel, I work with diverse species in lab - from bacteria to dinoflagellates to carnivorous plants to marine invertebrate larvae - to sequence and in some cases screen identified candidate channels in the species prior to testing in HEK cells. Dinoflagellates, single-cell algae famous for their mechanosensitive bioluminescence in the ocean, are of particular interest.
Learn more about Ocean To Brain here.
I am interested in evolutionary origins, core functions, and basic principles of "neural" components in organisms and lifecycle stages lacking a nervous system - and how their molecules to systems sense, interpret, and control behavior in comparative context to the human brain. Mechanosensory ciliary systems, like the apical tuft-prototroch system used for larval swimming in molluscs, annelids, and other phyla, are of particular interest.
Learn more about No Brains here.
I am interested in using functional comparisons of components and circuits in large sophisticated brains of vertebrates vs cephalopods to reveal basic principles and novelty in complex neural design. I have long-standing projects to establish and advance genetic tools, genomic resources, advanced imaging, and culturing techniques in cephalopods, and more specifically to develop pygmy squid and/or pygmy octopus into research lab models that enable direct experimental cephalopod-vertebrate comparisons, with a greater comparative context to the human brain. Mechanosensory and possibly ultrasound-sensitive ion channels in skin - and part of giant axon-jet propulsion, dynamic skin color systems, or lateral line - are of particular interest.
Learn more about Big Brains here.
I have funded my research in sonogenetics and cephalopods with grants from NIH, Human Frontiers In Science, and others. I have active collaborations with top researchers around the world for these and other projects.
My CV is here.
Research publications are here.
Outreach and education projects include:
giganticFISH, octocam, and octosquid.