Through their investigations into behavioral and cellular neurobiology using instruments and applications designed in-house, scientists at Janelia invoke a cornerstone of the research campus’ culture: cross-disciplinary collaboration. Diverse bands of scientists – including biologists, physicists, and computational scientists, among others – put their heads together to devise, implement, and analyze experiments to advance knowledge of the brain and the tools we use to study it.
After homing in on specific questions of interest, for example, neurobiologists utilize special fluorescent dyes, created by chemists, to label and track neuronal pathways and their subcellular components, in fixed and living cells. Imaging these cells, their inner organelles, and their networks of connectivity requires a keen knowledge of optics and various forms of microscopy, allowing physicists, engineers, chemists and biologists to meld areas of expertise.
After capturing detailed, high-resolution images of the cells, the team turns to software engineers, computational scientists, and mathematic modelers to help streamline data annotation and analysis.
Though seemingly linear, the process is an intertwined, interdisciplinary cycle, guided by the collective intellect of many scientists. From every experiment, tweak, and iteration come new insights and questions, sparking the innovative thinking that drives our campus. As researchers in one discipline drill deeper into their field, they simultaneously open new opportunities for collaboration with others, whether to expand their own science, contribute to a colleague’s research, or develop tools for broader use.