Current Research Interests
I am currently developing an undergraduate-driven summer research lab and year-round CURE-based research experience that will use drosophila to explore the neuroethology behind the intersection of sleep & pain, two fundamental neurological functions that influence one another immensely (i.e., sleep affects pain and pain affect sleep). Because these behaviors are highly conserved among all animals, we can harness the powerful genetic and neurological tool-kits available to fruit flies to study it. To do this, I use modern neuroscience techniques such as optogenetics, calcium imaging, immunohistochemistry, viral tract tracing, and machine learning with deep neural networks to measure animal behavior. Through collaborations at the University of Pennsylvania, we will advance our findings to mice.
Since my research program primarily utilizes undergraduates, I craft “bite-sized research projects” that can contribute to the overall goals of my research and enable students to get their findings out fast in pubmed-indexed micro-publishing journals. This helps my students quickly become competitive when applying to graduate school.
The primary research goals are two-fold.
1. Use deep neural network machine learning and markerless tracking of adult drosophila to identify novel pain behaviors.
2. Characterize the intersection of pain on sleep pain and explore the genetic conservation of these systems.
Other Research Activities:
In addition to this, I am studying the best practices for teaching students biology as a Discipline-Based Education Research (DBER) Scholar. To this end, we are integrating experiential learning into all levels of the curriculum because you can’t learn science without DOING science.
Further, I am exploring how chronic pain, specifically the overprescription of opioids, has contributed to the opioid epidemic in the Philadelphia region.