Graduate Training in Neuroscience
University of Washington
Ben Hall Professor of Basic Life Sciences, Biology
Complex and intellectually challenging problems can be so commonplace that they escape our attention. Much of the research in my lab focuses on one such everyday phenomenon - the motion of a fly through the air. While the buzz of fly wings is more likely to elicit a sense of annoyance than wonder, insect flight behavior links a series of fundamental processes within both the physical and biological sciences: neuronal signaling within brains, the dynamics of unsteady fluid flow, the structural mechanics of composite materials, and the behavior of complex nonlinear systems. The aim of my research is to elucidate the means by which flies accomplish their aerodynamic feats and other behaviors, focusing primarily on the function of the nervous system. A rigorous mechanistic description of behavior, however, requires an integration of biology, engineering, physics, and mathematics. Students and post-docs fascinated with any aspects of insect behavior, physiology, or evolution are invited to apply to my laboratory. What is more important than an interest in insect behavior, however, is a love of complexity and a commitment to interdisciplinary approaches. Much of our research involves the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, because of the powerful genetic approaches that are uniquely available in this species. We view this organism - not as a convenient laboratory model - but as a successful animal with a complex and varied life history.