Associate Professor of Biology; Faculty Director, Rice Center for Teaching
Ph.D. Stanford University, Neuroscience (2010)
Areas of Expertise
BIOL 311 / NSCI 311 LECNeural Systems and Circuits (not offered 2023/24)
BIOL 412 / NSCI 342 SEMNeural and Hormonal Basis of Hunger (not offered 2023/24)
To ensure that an animal obtains an optimal amount of sleep, food, and water, the brain must sense the internal and external environment and influence behavior by producing sensations we describe as “tired/awake,” “hungry/full,” and “thirsty/quenched.” The ultimate goal of my lab is to elucidate the neural basis of these homeostatic systems. Which neural populations and neural networks in the brain play an important role in maintaining homeostasis, and how does their activity affect animal physiology and behavior?
To address these questions, my lab combines mouse behavioral experiments with a variety of approaches. Neuroanatomical and electrophysiological methods demonstrate which brain regions are active during specific behavioral states. Cutting-edge optogenetic and pharmacogenetic methods allow us the ability to stimulate or inhibit specific neurons in the brain in a freely moving, behaving animal to test hypotheses about the role of these neurons in behavior.
By taking an integrative approach and performing experiments at the behavioral, anatomical, physiological, and molecular levels of investigation, we hope to make substantial contributions to understanding these homeostatic behaviors, and ultimately how they affect the health of the entire organism.