Steve Safarik

Steve Safarik




I develop hardware and software for the researchers in the lab to perform experiments and for other related purposes.  There are a number of different experimental arenas that I’ve developed, each containing some method to interact with a fly or flies. For example, we have a family of walking arenas that each use some combination of computer vision, robotic actuation, laser actuation, heat stimulus, visual stimulus, etc. These usually operate in closed-loop feedback, where the actuation and stimulus that the fly receives depends on what the fly does.  The software platform that ties it all together is called Flylab, and while I won’t list the details here, it performs all of the tasks needed to run the walking arenas, including automating the experimental trials & data collection.  I recently developed a very sensitive feeding sensor to distinguish instances when a fly is touching versus not touching food at a feeding station. Most of my time is spent programming in python, C, or Matlab, and I also provide other various lab services such as building miscellaneous electronic & mechanical instrumentation, occasionally working in the machine shop to make custom parts, fixing or developing the occasional bit of circuitry, etc.  Ultimately though, it’s all just a lot of fun.


M.S. Electrical Engineering, Controls & Robotics, University of Washington, 2008. B.S. Mathematics, California State University, Chico, 1988.


This video shows the realtime tracking and laser galvo system drawing numerals on each fly. In actual use we would use a different laser wavelength (e.g. 1064nm or 470nm) to activate the driver of the UAS-GAL4 system, and a small dot to focus more energy on the fly.

This video shows a fly walking on a circular arena with a “robot” maintaining a distance of 8mm. The robot is just a fly-sized magnet, and is actuated from underneath the arena via another magnet attached to a five bar linkage with two servo motors. This video is sped up 10x.