Professor of Biology and Neural Science; Chair, Department of Biology
How genes control animal behavior is the big question my lab is interested in. We mainly study circadian (~24hr) rhythms of behavior, arguably the best understood behavior at molecular and cellular levels. We use the fruitfly Drosophila as a powerful model system that has led the way in circadian rhythm research and is ideal for analyzing behavior at the level of single genes, single neurons, neuronal networks and whole animal behavior. We use Genetics, Genomics & BioInformatics, Microscopy and Behavioral assays to build a holistic model of how flies anticipate daily environmental changes.
Adult flies have 24hr rhythms in their activity: they are more active by day, especially at dusk and dawn, and rest by night – paralleling human sleep/wake cycles. These rhythms persist in constant darkness, indicating that flies have an internal sense of time. Forward genetics helped identify a set of core clock genes that are essential for 24hr rhythms in constant darkness, and these genes work together in transcription / translation feedback loops, forming "molecular clocks".
A recent technical breakthrough we made has allowed us to obtain whole genome expression profiles from the master pacemaker neurons (LNvs) at different times of day. These datasets are helping us understand the biology of these neurons by giving us insights into how LNvs control the timing of their output signals, novel signaling pathways involved in circadian rhythms and a system-level understanding of how LNv gene expression is altered in different electrical states.
The larval clock neurons form a “minimal” circadian neural network with many fewer neurons than adult flies. We have been using this simplified circadian system to understand how clock neurons communicate to keep their molecular clocks synchronized with each other and to generate rhythmic behavior. The expectation is that what we learn in Drosophila will hold true for mammalian pacemaker neurons. Other projects ongoing in the lab include developing a novel decision-making paradigm in Drosophila.
|Chris Hackley||PhD student|
|Afroditi Petsakou||PhD student|
|Zhonghua Zhu||PhD student|
|Ryan Raypon||Masters student|
|Irfan Gondal||Undergraduate student|
|Lakshmi Menon||Undergraduate student, NYUAD|
|Nushra Paracha||Undergraduate student|
|Alex Keene||Postdoc||Asst. Professor, Biology Dept, University of Nevada, Reno
|Danny Forger||Postdoc||Assoc. Professor, Mathematics Dept, University of Michigan|
|Marc Ruben||PhD student||Consultant, Defined Health, Morristown, NJ|
|David Dahdal||PhD student||Medical Affairs Department, Ferring Pharmaceuticals|
|Dogukan Mizrak||PhD student||Postdoc, Columbia University|
|Anita Burgos||Undergraduate student||PhD student, Columbia University|
|Elizabeth Kane||Undergraduate student||Rowland Junior Fellow, Harvard University|
|Harris Kaplan||Undergraduate student||PhD student, IMP, Vienna|
|Meg Younger||Undergraduate student||PhD student, UCSF|
NIH R01 GM063911: Regulation of pacemaker neurons
NIH R03 NS077156: GEF activity in circadian pacemaker neurons
NYU Abu Dhabi Research Institute
Genes & Animal Behavior (Graduate course)
The Art of Scientific Investigation (1st year Ph.D. students)
Signaling in Biological Systems (Honors seminar for Undergraduates)
Foundations of Science 4 (NYU Abu Dhabi)
I graduated from Cambridge University with a BA in Natural Sciences in 1991 where my time in Mike Bate’s lab sparked my appreciation for Drosophila. For my Ph.D., I worked with David Bentley at ICRF in London, studying the basic mechanisms of how transcription factors stimulate RNA polymerase II to activate gene expression using mammalian cell culture. I decided to work on a larger and more open question while a postdoc, and joined Mike Young's laboratory in 1996 at The Rockefeller University in New York to study circadian rhythms in Drosophila. I joined the faculty here at NYU as an Assistant Professor in 2000 and was awarded tenure in 2006 and promoted to Professor in 2013.
Organizer NYU NeuroBiology SuperGroup (labs from Biology, Center for Neural Science and the Medical School)
Affiliate of Center for Neural Science
NYU Abu Dhabi Research Institute (co-PI in CGSB, Neuronal systems and Molecular complexity group)