Evolutionary Genomics & Sensory Biology

I am currently a postdoc in Richard Benton's group at UNIL's Center for Integrative Genomics.  My efforts here have been aimed at developing the fruit fly's sensory neural systems as models for functional evolutionary and developmental studies.  The main questions I have are: "What genes underlie the evolution of sensory systems and sensory-related behavior?", "What are the evolutionary processes shaping these genes?", and  "How do sensory neural circuits evolve?" To get at these questions I have been taking an integrative approach, combining my background in population genomics and molecular evolution with rapidly expanding genome editing and neurogenetic tools.  My ongoing projects include:

(1) Investigating local adaptation within D. melanogaster's chemosensory system using whole genome data (SNP, indel, & CNVs) from fly populations sampled around the globe

(2) "evo-devo" studies of sensory neuron populations using between-species comparisons (QTL-based approaches) and cell-type comparisons (using cell-specific transcription-based methods)

(3) The evolution of new and lost neural circuits that accompany the gain/loss of chemosensory receptors, and their behavioral impacts

Previously, I was a postdoc with Andy Clark's group in Cornell's Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics.  I was/am involved in population genomics projects that involved the generation and analyses of genomic data from 5 geographically diverse populations of D. melanogaster.  The analyses that we have been carrying out include inferences of the genetic structure and demographic history of these populations, and the role that selection has had in shaping patterns of DNA polymorphism.  The data are also being combined with extensive phenotyping data that members of the Clark Lab have collected over the last several years.

My graduate work was carried out within the University of Chicago's Committee on Evolutionary Biology.  I studied evolutionary genetics in Manyuan Long’s group in the Department of Ecology and Evolution.  My research at Chicago focused on the origin and evolution/population genetics of gene families.  I was particularly interested in the origin of new genes (which remains an ongoing interest). I also worked on a polymorphism-divergence project investigating recombination and the reduction of purifying selection along the Drosophila’s 4th chromosome in closely related species.  In addition to the lab work, I was also fortunate to be able to do some research with the folks in The Committee on the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science.