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    What we study

    Our lab examines how animals detect and process sensory information to control their behavior. We focus on how insects, particularly flies and disease-spreading mosquitoes, sense and respond to sensory inputs, especially temperature and humidity. This allows us to address fundamental questions in physiology, cell biology and neuroscience, while simultaneously exploring issues of direct relevance to human health. At a basic science level, the fundamental mechanisms of temperature and humidity detection remain unknown, providing numerous opportunities for discovery. At a practical level, mosquito-borne diseases sicken more than 500 million people annually, killing >500,000, and mosquitoes rely on the detection and processing of sensory input, including temperature and humidity, to find humans to bite and water for egg laying. A better understanding of how mosquitoes sense and respond to these cues will be important for devising new strategies to combat the spread of vector-borne disease.

    In the lab, we use three insect species: the model insect, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster the malaria vector mosquito Anopheles gambiae, and the dengue vector mosquito Aedes aegypti. We use Drosophila melanogaster because its powerful molecular genetic toolkit facilitates the discovery and dissection of sensory mechanisms at the molecular and circuit levels. We use Anopheles gambiae and Aedes aegypti because they allow us to leverage insights from Drosophila to understand the complex behaviors of host-seeking and blood-feeding responsible for the transmission of malaria, dengue, and other devastating human diseases. Together, these systems complement one another and allow our lab to work on topics of intrinsic basic science interest while contributing to efforts relevant to human health.

    Where we work

    Our lab is part of the Volen Center for Complex Systems in the Biology Department at Brandeis University.  Brandeis has a vibrant, tightly knit molecular genetics and neuroscience community, and we interact extensively with other labs at Brandeis and at nearby institutions. The critical mass of scientists in Boston is a tremendous resource, starting with our immediate neighbors in the labs of Michael Rosbash, Yerbol Kurmangaliyev, Sebastian Kadener, Piali Sengupta and Leslie Griffith, and extending to our NIH-funded collaborations with the labs of Aravi Samuel at Harvard University, Rachelle Gaudet at Harvard University and Flaminia Catteruccia at the Harvard School of Public Health.


    Brandeis is located on the west side of Boston. It is readily accessible by public transportation and car from all over Boston and its suburbs. Lab members often live in Boston, Cambridge, Newton, Somerville, Waltham, and Worcester.

    Who supports us

    The lab is supported by funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. 


    Latest Publications

    Humidity sensors that alert mosquitoes to nearby hosts and egg-laying sites

    We examine how two major disease vectors, Anopheles gambiae and Aedes aegypti, rely on Ir93a-dependent heat and humidity sensors to drive blood feeding and oviposition behavior. Most dramatically, Ir93a loss renders Aedes aegypti females unable to find water to lay eggs.

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