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(l to r) Christina Zimanyi, Antje Fischer, David Rousso, and Anita Autry (not shown Mehdi Goudarzi and Johannes Kohl)

It is our pleasure to announce that six postdoctoral fellows from MCB have won awards. Fellows include Anita Autry and Johannes Kohl from the Catherine Dulac Lab, Antje Fischer from the Susan Mango Lab, Mehdi Goudarzi from the Alex Schier Lab, David Rousso from the Joshua Sanes Lab, and Christina Zimanyi from the Rachelle Gaudet Lab. Their research ranges from protein function to animal behavior, and has earned the interest of the following fellowship committees.About the Research


Anita AutryDulac Lab

Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award
Project title: Neural Mechanisms Controlling Infant-Directed Behavior
While mechanisms underlying expression of parental behavior have been extensively studied, neural populations involved in the negative regulation of this behavior are poorly understood.  I propose to identify neural populations active during agonistic behavior toward infants in order to facilitate functional studies.  NARSAD Young Investigator Award
Project title: Neural Mechanisms Underlying Stress-Induced Disruption of Maternal Behavior
Post-partum depression (PPD), clinical depressive symptoms in parents after the birth of a child, affects up to 15% of mothers in the U.S.  I plan to determine if a neural population associated with negative regulation of parental behavior is abnormally activated by an animal model of PPD.  If so, I will attempt to block stress-induced disruption of maternal behavior by inhibiting these neurons.
Together, these studies will illuminate define neural mechanisms underlying the negative regulation of parenting and identify brain circuits involved in mental disorders associated with stress-induced mood alterations.



Antje FischerMango Lab

German Research Foundation Fellowship
Project title: The Function of the SMG-8 Protein during Caenorhabditis Elegans Embryogenesis
SMG-8 (Suppressor with Morphological effect on Genitalia 8) is a protein that is highly conserved across the animal kingdom yet its function is unknown. The goal of my project is to unravel the function of SMG-8. SMG-8 is especially interesting as it is one of very few known factors that can suppress FoxA/PHA-4, the master regulator of foregut development in Caenorhabditis elegans. FoxA/PHA-4 mutants do not form a pharynx and die at the end of embryogenesis. Understanding FoxA/PHA-4 regulation is crucial to understanding fundamental principles of organogenesis in animal development. I will analyze the activity of SMG-8 in vivo during C. elegans development. The nematode C. elegans offers the only known SMG-8 mutants and the only known loss-of-function phenotype – the suppression of the pha-4 phenotype, which makes worms the ideal model organism to investigate the role of SMG-8. My specific aims are to understand how SMG-8 modulates the amount of FoxA/PHA-4 protein, and to identify additional components of the SMG-8 pathway. These aims will shed light on human disease, as preliminary data suggest a role for SMG-8 in cancer.


Mehdi GoudarziSchier Lab

Leopoldina Postdoc Scholarship
Project title: Regulation of Zebrafish Embryogenesis
The proper specification and interaction of different cell types is crucial for development of multicellular organisms. In my project I use a combination of genetic approaches and microscopy in zebrafish embryos to study how various signaling pathways, chromatin states and non-coding RNAs interact to orchestrate embryonic development.


Johannes KohlDulac Lab

Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral FellowshipEMBO Long-Term Fellowship
Project title: Neural Crcuits Underlying Parental Behavior
The aim of my research program is to understand how neural circuits encode parental behavior. Parental behavior, aimed at the care and protection of the young, is essential for the survival of offspring in many animal species. However, the neural circuits underlying this behavior remain largely unstudied. Using the mouse as a model system, I will first trace the circuits controlling parental behavior and investigate their functional logic. Subsequently, I will test whether different brain areas control discrete aspects of parental behavior, such as nest building, nursing or pup retrieval. Finally, I will compare network structure and function between virgin males and fathers to reveal why male mice drastically change their behavior towards pups after sexual experience. Addressing these questions will (a) expand our knowledge of the circuit mechanisms underlying parenting and (b) uncover how social experience can modulate innate behaviors.


David RoussoSanes Lab

National Eye Institute Fellowship
Project title: Characterization of a Newly-discovered Cell Type Family in the Retina
Vision begins in the retina. In most mammals, including humans, the retina is composed of a myriad neuronal cell types, each type responsible for a specific task, such as detection of color, contrast, or movement. Exploring neuronal diversity within the normal retina thus provides insight into the fundamental building blocks of vision. Using combinatorial molecular and genetic labeling, I discovered a group of related cell types distinct from any previously known retinal neurons, whose members share several remarkable features. These cells may function individually or as a group to give rise to potentially novel visual pathways. My studies aim to better understand this new cell type family by characterizing their molecular, morphological, and functional properties.


Christina ZimanyiGaudet Lab

Jane Coffin Childs Fund Fellowship
Project title: The Molecular Basis of Noxious Chemical Sensing by the TRPA1 Ion Channel
This fellowship supports my study of the earliest steps in pain perception. Pain is a major medical issue and pain treatments with minimal side effects remain an unmet medical need. Transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels are direct sensors of pain stimuli. How these channels interact with their activators and how this causes ion channel opening and thus pain sensation is not well understood. Here, I focus my work on one specific but highly conserved pain response: the activation of TRPA1 by noxious small molecule electrophiles (including those found in mustard gas and wasabi). Using a structural approach, I hope to gain a molecular understanding of TRPA1 activation as a model for how the very first events in pain transduction are orchestrated.