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!
Nitin has always been fascinated by the ability of an organism to modify its behavior through experience. Understanding neurogenetic underpinnings of such behavioral modulations served as a motivation for his previous research. His research work focuses on comprehending the link between sleep and memory formation using Drosophila as a model system. Fruit flies, like many other organisms, demonstrates the daily sleep-like behavior. Nitin is interested in how sleep in flies affects memory acquisition and how can it facilitate memory consolidation. To answer these questions, he uses various learning and memory paradigms like olfactory conditioning and courtship suppression. Nitin wants to characterize molecular mechanisms and the relevant neuronal circuits that promote various effects of sleep on learning and memory in flies.
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Physician Scientist
Vishnu graduated from the Medical Scientist Training Program (MD/PhD) at the University of Alabama in Birmingham in 2015. His PhD in Neuroscience was mentored by Harald Sontheimer, PhD and demonstrated the importance of ion channels in cellular migration. Since completion of his Child Neurology residency at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in 2020, his clinical and research training has focused on understanding how neurogenetic diseases, including epilepsy, interact with sleep and circadian rhythms.
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.
Arielle, a Philly native, is a prospective biology major in the College. She joined the Sehgal lab in the summer of 2021 under Jessica Schwarz, studying aging as it relates to circadian-related operations and sleep patterns.
Anna received her Bachelors Degree in Neuroscience and Psychology at Temple University where she was inspired to learn more about how the brain functions to direct how humans behave. While at Temple, Anna was an Undergraduate Research Assistant in Dr. Mathieu Wimmer's Lab studying the neural mechanisms underlying drug addiction as well as how future progeny are affected by paternal use of drugs. Post-graduation, Anna joined Amita's Lab in May 2017 in hopes of learning more about circadian rhythms and the homeostatic changes that occur with disrupted sleep. She continues to work on projects focusing on sleep deprivation and sleep rebound in Drosophila to help uncover genes that may promote resiliency to sleep loss. In her free time, Anna enjoys playing the violin, reading, and making art.
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.
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.
After Christopher completed his undergraduate degree in cellular and molecular biology at West Chester University, his curiosity of molecular biology and behavioral genetics took him to Saint Joseph's University where he earned his Master of Science. Here, under the mentorship of Dr. Matthew Nelson, he studied the formation of stress granules during stress induced sleep in Ceanorhabditis elegans. Following graduation from Saint Joseph's University, he joined the Seghal lab in the May of 2019 to work under Dr. Julie Williams to understand how sleep is induced after experiencing stress.
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.
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.
Shirley has her bachelor's degree from NYU and her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. Her doctoral research was in developmental immunology. Her primary interest in her postdoctoral work is in understanding how peripheral rhythms can influence the brain. Her primary work centers on the rhythms of the blood-brain barrier.
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.