Amita Sehgal, Ph.D.
John Herr Musser Professor of Neuroscience
Julie Williams, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor
Perturbations of sleep and circadian rhythms occur early in many neurodegenerative disorders, and have been linked to their incidence. Joe's research focuses on probing the molecular mechanisms underlying this link, and assessing whether these pathways are sufficient to induce hallmarks of neurodegenerative pathology in aging flies.
How do the brain and body talk to each other? And even more, how does that serve us to feel good? Those questions motivated Sara to move from Spain to Switzerland, complete PhD in Neuroscience in Zurich and now cross the Atlantic to keep digging into them at the Sehgal Lab. During her postdoc she will look at how sleep is encoded in the brain when our body is sick, because yes! How good it feels when our brain puts our body to sleep to recover from disease!
I received Ph.D. from Hanyang University in Korea under the supervising of Jiwon Shim. During my PhD, I studied how hematopoietic stem/progenitor cell populations are maintained by endogenous or exogenous signals. However, contrary to previous studies, I was also curious about how animals can maintain homeostasis in each organ through blood cells. In particular, I was interested in regulating the homeostasis of the body through the brain and blood cells interaction. As a postdoctoral researcher in Sehgal's lab, I'd like to find out how the blood cell affects sleep or circadian rhythm.
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Physician Scientist
Vishnu graduated from the Medical Scientist Training Program (MD/PhD) at the University of Alabama in Birmingham in 2015. Mentored by Dr. Harald Sontheimer, Vishnu's PhD in neuroscience demonstrated the importance of chloride channels in cellular migration and proliferation. He completed his child neurology residency at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in 2020, followed a clinical neurogenetics fellowship in 2021. Vishnu's research training is now focused on using the fly model system to understand how neurogenetic disorders affect, and are affected by, circadian rhythms and sleep.
Camilo was born in Bogotá, Colombia, where he received his MSc after investigating the effect of lithium in calcium signaling in Purkinje neurons. Attracted by one of biology's biggest mysteries, he joined the lab in 2022 to study sleep. Camilo's current projects aim to understand sleep regulation at different scales. At the cellular scale, he is studying how organelles relevant to lipid and ROS metabolism regulate sleep. While at the circuit and organismal level, he uses in vivo imaging to understand the interaction between circadian and sleep circuits. Camilo likes playing with fancy microscopes.
Cynthia's primary interest is in how what an animal experiences while it is awake changes its sleep drive; for the moment, she is focused primarily on changes in sensory inputs. Previously, Cynthia has done doctoral research at Duke University with Dr. Vikas Bhandawat, studying how different descending neurons effect leg kinematics.
Dan grew up in Massachusetts, and received his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania. He completed his PhD in Franck Polleux’s lab at Columbia University, where he developed tools to map synapses across whole pyramidal neurons and studied how global synaptic organization changes in mice expressing the human gene-duplication SRGAP2C. Dan is interested in the timing of brain development across evolution, and in the Sehgal lab his current research is focused on creating a model system in Drosophila to investigate the genetic control of developmental tempo across species and environments.
Vishal, from northern Virginia, is a Biochemistry and Neurobiology major in the Vagelos program. He is interested in circadian rhythms as they relate to neuron degeneration, and will be working with Elana Pyfrom in the Sehgal Lab beginning in 2022.
Samantha grew up in Greentown, Pennsylvania, and received her Bachelor's of Science degree in Biology from Bucknell University. As an undergraduate, Samantha studied and identified inputs to discrete motor units which control various phases of flight steering behaviors in Drosophila, under the mentorship of Dr. Matthew Clark. Understanding how complex behaviors are coordinated by neural circuits is what helped to develop her curiosity in the field of neuroscience. Following graduation from Bucknell University, Samantha joined the Sehgal Lab to work under Dr. Amita Sehgal in various projects studying sleep and circadian rhythms.
Fu was born in central China and got his B.S. and M.S. at Sichuan University and Tsinghua University, respectively. Afterwards, he moved to Germany and worked at Max Planck Institute for his doctoral study on membrane trafficking. At Penn, he will use fruit fly and mice models to investigate the endocytosis roles in the blood-brain-barrier (BBB).
Yongjun was born in Shanxi, China. Before he came to Penn, he received both his B.S. and M.S. in China. Yongjun's particular research interests are longevity, sleep and lipid metabolism. His current project aims to uncover how lysosome functions in circadian rhythm and sleep.
Lopez Valencia, Mariela
Mariela graduated with a B.S. in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience from UC San Diego in 2020. During her time there she worked with Dr. Olivia Osborn where she investigated the mechanisms by which antipsychotic medications induce food intake and weight gain. She also worked with Dr. Christina Gremel investigating the neural circuits that control decision-making as well as how alcohol dependence disrupts such circuits. Mariela joined the lab in 2022 and is now interested in investigating the role of specific genetic mutations in metabolism and sleep.
Pavel is an Aquarius. He was born in Yoshkar-Ola, Russia; grew up in Columbus, GA; and earned a Biology B.S. & Visual Arts B.A. from Duke University in Durham, NC. As an undergrad, he worked at two Evolutionary Biology labs, investigating broad genetic concepts like natural selection & adaptive evolution. He also helped out at the Nijhout Lab, studying the phylogenesis of butterfly wings. Post-graduation, he moved to Philly and joined the Sehgal lab–now, he has his hands on multiple projects studying sleep, & circadian rhythms.
Sukanya earned her Ph.D. in Tina Mukherjee's lab at InStem, Bangalore in India. Her doctoral research focused on uncovering the relevance of the olfactory perception of the environment with the development of blood cells and along with investigating the homeostatic functions of blood cells. In Sehgal's lab, her current area of interest revolves around uncovering the regulation and relevance of circadian rhythms in peripheral tissues, specifically focusing on the immune system.
Rebecca has always been fascinated by the way organisms modify their behavior using clues from their environment. Understanding these host-environmental interactions has served as a motivation for her previous research. Rebecca completed her PhD in the lab of Dr. Coleen T. Murphy from the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University studying C. elegans transgenerational epigenetic avoidance behavior following exposure to the gram-negative pathogen P. aeruginosa. Rebecca is interested in using her previous research experiences to study inter tissue communication during sleep. More specifically, Rebecca will work in the Sehgal lab to understand how gut-secreted molecules affect sleep in flies. This research will shed light on molecules that navigate the body to promote or inhibit sleep.
Elana is a Cell and Molecular Biology-Genetics & Epigenetics track PhD student. She grew up in Maryland, received her Sc.B. in Molecular and Cell Biology at Brown University, and worked in Andrew Gordus’ worm+spider neuroscience lab before coming to Penn. She is interested in how environmental factors influence genetic and metabolic processes, so she is also completing training in PSOM’s Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology. Upon joining the Sehgal Lab in 2020, Elana plans to characterize mechanisms of lipid metabolism which regulate sleep need.
Hrishit graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with honors degree in neuroscience. At Pitt, he worked under Dr. Amy Wagner to discover the role of cytokines in the development of epilepsy after a Traumatic Brain Injury. Hrishit's hobbies include exploring new restaurants, going to the gym, and taking walks in different parks.
Hannah comes to the Sehgal lab after earning her PhD with the Granato lab, also at the University of Pennsylvania. For her PhD, she studied the genetics and circuitry underlying a sensorimotor decision in larval zebrafish. Before coming to UPenn, she attended Scripps College, where she studied philosophy and the neuroscience of how songbirds learn and retain their signature melodies. In the Sehgal lab, she is interested in studying how sleep facilitates certain forms of learning and memory.
Fola grew up in Maryland, right outside of Washington, D.C. and received her Bachelor’s degree in Neurobiology at Harvard College. She is currently an MD/PhD student and a member of the Cell Physiology and Metabolism graduate group. Fola joined the lab in 2019 and plans to pursue a project investigating the role of metabolism in autism and intellectual disability.