Biological Fidelity and Robustness

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Researchers

Molly Kirk

I am interested in the molecular mechanisms by which complex organisms, specifically the nervous system of complex organisms, survive extreme environmental challenges. To answer these questions, I use the extremely tolerant Tardigrade, a unique invertebrate clade renowned for its ability to survive, complete desiccation, hypoxia, the vacuum of space, and radiation 1000 times the dosage of other animals! I am currently pursuing three avenues of research in the lab.

Caroline Ackley

For my thesis, I am investigating C. elegans graviperception using genetic tools and behavioral analysis. C. elegans is a fascinating model organism in neuroscience research because it uses only 302 neurons to perform a number of complex tasks. I am interested in how these networks develop consistently across individuals and the mechanisms they use to convey information such as the direction of gravity.

Chee Kiang (Ethan) Ewe

I’m interested in understanding how environmental stress is translated into epigenetic information which can potentially be transmitted transgenerationally and regulate developmental plasticity. I’m also investigating variation in behavioral responses exists among C. elegans wild isolates.

Ghassan Akkad

I’m interested in studying the complex relationship between space and life; more specifically how spaceflight affects biological systems. I am currently working with Dr. Joshi on two main projects. The first project involves the systematic assaying of various compounds stimulating the different modalities – taste, smell, spectral response, pH, salt concentration – for either attraction or aversion in tardigrades. The second focuses on studying certain tardigrade-specific proteins (Dsup and similar orthologs) that are associated with increased resistance to DNA damage.

Ruchira Krishnamurthy

I am currently assisting Caroline Ackley on running gravitaxis assays and understanding the relationship between genetics and C. elegans’ ability to perceive gravity. As part of the gravitaxis project, I have also worked on data visualization in R. This past summer, I collaborated with Ethan Ewe and Caroline to research and present on how atmospheric pressure may play a role in C. elegans migration behavior for the Academic Research Consortium.  

Research Collaborators

Mechanical Engineering
UCSB