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Eight Scientists Join Janelia Farm Research Community

Summary

Over the past year, two scientists who have been at Janelia since its opening took on new roles as group leaders, and six new fellows were recruited to head their own research groups.

When the Howard Hughes Medical Institute opened the Janelia Farm Research Campus nearly four years ago, it began a quest to create a collaborative research environment that would speed the development of research tools and transform the study of biology. The campus has now developed into an intellectual hub for scientists from diverse disciplines, and Janelia Farm continues to add creative, adventuresome scientists to its community.

Over the past year, two scientists who have been at Janelia Farm since its opening took on new roles as group leaders, and six new fellows were recruited to head their own research groups. An interdisciplinary approach drives research at the campus, and the three women and five men bring a range of expertise that includes biophysics, computer science, electrical engineering, and neuroscience. They were recruited to Janelia Farm from some of the top research labs in the United States and Germany, some immediately after completing their doctoral degrees, others at more established stages of their careers. With the new appointments, 18 group leaders and 15 fellows now direct laboratories at Janelia Farm.

These scientists bring exactly the kind of interdisciplinary expertise and enthusiasm we need to address the fundamental questions that Janelia Farm has set out to answer.

Gerald M. Rubin

“These scientists bring exactly the kind of interdisciplinary expertise and enthusiasm we need to address the fundamental questions that Janelia Farm has set out to answer,” said Gerald M. Rubin, the director of the research campus. “We are excited to see what new technologies and discoveries will come out of their collaborative efforts with the other labs here.”

All Janelia Farm group leaders and fellows are actively engaged in research. They work in small teams that cross disciplinary boundaries to address the research center’s two broad scientific goals: discovering the basic rules and mechanisms of the brain’s information-processing systems, and developing biological and computational techniques for creating and interpreting biological images.

Janelia Farm group leaders direct research groups of two to six lab members and receive an initial appointment of six years. Harald Hess, former director of the Applied Physics and Instrumentation Group, and Vivek Jayaraman, who came to Janelia Farm as a fellow, are the research center’s newest group leaders. Jayaraman is the first Janelia Farm fellow to be promoted to a group leader position.

Fellows are independent researchers who lead labs with up to two additional members, and receive five-year appointments. Four of the fellows recruited in 2009—Kristin Branson, Gwyneth Card, Louis Scheffer, and Eva Pastalkova—have already begun setting up their labs and launching their research programs. Davi Bock and Philipp Keller will arrive at Janelia Farm later this year.

Recruitment of new scientists continues, and researchers from a variety of disciplines—including biochemists, biologists, chemists, computer scientists, engineers, mathematicians, neurobiologists and physicists—can apply for group leader and fellow positions through a current competition that closes July 15, 2010. Scientists at all career stages who are passionate in their pursuit of solutions to important basic scientific and technical problems are invited to apply.

Group Leaders

  • Harald Hess, an experimental physicist and the former director of Janelia Farm’s Applied Physics and Instrumentation Group, is interested in developing novel methods for both optical and electron microscopy. The iPALM imaging system that he developed at Janelia Farm is the highest resolution 3D optical microscopy imaging technique available for use with biological specimens. Complementary electron microscopy explores rapid 3D imaging of neural tissue.
  • Vivek Jayaraman, who trained as an aerospace engineer before switching careers, is interested in understanding how information from different senses is represented and integrated by ensembles of neurons in the brain. As a fellow at Janelia Farm, his lab developed novel methods to record the activity of nerve cells deep in the brains of behaving fruit flies, which they are now using to understand principles of neural processing in decision-making circuits.

Fellows

  • Davi Bock is mapping how circuits in the brain transform information. To aid in mapping the fine anatomical connections between neurons within these circuits, Bock will build a high-throughput electron microscope that will automatically generate terabytes of high resolution image data. He is also developing new strategies to mine the huge amount of data that such a system will generate.
  • Kristin Branson's research is aimed at creating high-throughput tools to help biologists characterize the behavior of genetic model organisms. Her computational tools will help researchers quantify key behaviors in large numbers of flies and connect them to particular neuronal circuits and genetic pathways.
  • Gwyneth Card is investigating the neural circuits that control a suite of escape behaviors in fruit flies, including motor planning and rapid takeoff. By combining genetics and electrophysiology with detailed behavioral analyses, she hopes to unravel how the fly decides which maneuvers to make, and how those decisions are translated into action.
  • Philipp Keller is working at the interface of biology, physics, and computer science to study the principles that underlie the development of an animal's body plan. To examine the embryonic and neural development of fruit flies and zebrafish, he plans to build a new microscope based on technology he developed as a graduate student to track the movement and division of individual cells in an entire vertebrate embryo.
  • Eva Pastalkova studies how the brain generates the sequential firing of neurons that coordinates performance of a particular task, such as a rat navigating a maze. She also plans to explore studies of how emotions are generated.
  • Louis Scheffer is applying techniques developed for electrical engineering and the design of computer chips to understanding the construction, development, and operations of the nervous system.

For More Information

Jim Keeley
[ 301-215-8858 ]