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!
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.
Shivani has completed her Bachelors, and is currently pursuing her Master's in Cell and Molecular Biology from India. She has always been interested in understanding what happens when we sleep? In the Sehgal lab, Shivani is working with Sara to understand the difference between sickness sleep and homeostatic sleep. When Shivani is not in the lab, she likes cooking and exploring new places.
Paula completed her PhD in the lab of Leslie Griffith at Brandeis University working on interactions between Drosophila sleep and memory circuitry. Her work in the Griffith lab showed that the memory-consolidation promoting DPM neurons were inhibitory and promote sleep. In the Sehgal lab, Paula is working to determine metabolic changes that occur in Drosophila and mouse brain neurons and glia following sleep vs. wake and how these changes impact both sleep need and memory.
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.
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.
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.
Summer Lab Assistant
Maddy, from New Hampshire, is a high school student visiting the Sehgal Lab for the summer. She is interested in biological rhythms and how they relate to pathological alterations in the brain. Over the summer, she will work closely with Elana Pyfrom and Vishal Kanigicherla on their lipid metabolism projects pertaining to sleep.
Theresa completed her PhD in the lab of Mariella De Biasi at the University of Pennsylvania, where she developed a model to study e-cigarette exposure and investigated the developmental effects of drugs of abuse in mice. When she joined the Sehgal lab, Theresa was excited to transition to a new field of neuroscience and to gain experience in a new animal model. In the Sehgal lab, she is currently using Drosophila to understand how sleep homeostatic and circadian systems coordinate to time sleep properly and to enable recovery sleep following sleep deprivation.
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.
Jessica grew up in Rochester, NY, and received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania where she majored in Biological Basis of Behavior and minored in Theater Arts. As an undergraduate, she conducted sleep research in the labs of Dr. David Raizen and Dr. Ted Abel. In the Fall of 2017, Jessica started graduate school at Penn to pursue her PhD in Neuroscience, and joined the Sehgal lab in the Spring of 2018. Her current work looks at the effect of aging on sleep and circadian regulated processes.
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.
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.
Yueliang was born in Henan, China and received his PhD at Nanjing Agricultural University in 2012. At the University of Pennsylvania, he will use fruit fly models to explore the potential roles of gut microbiomes under different zeitgeber conditions.