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Katie Schretter

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I have always been interested in understanding how our environment shapes social decisions and behaviors. I enjoy taking an interdisciplinary approach to answering such questions. As a result, I have gained scientific training in a diverse set of tools and methodologies, ranging from molecular biology to computer science, to accomplish this. 

In my graduate work in Sarkis Mazmanian’s lab at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), I developed a highly independent project determining how the gut microbial environment shapes animal behavior (Schretter et al., 2018). This work served as the foundation for my interest in environmental influences on behavior. After completing my Ph.D., I joined Gerry Rubin’s lab at Janelia to learn more about cutting-edge tools in neuroscience and the development of genetic tools for interrogating the neuronal circuitry underlying behavior.

My postdoctoral research, which employed connectomics with genetic and computer vision tools, has identified neuronal circuitry modulating a relatively understudied behavior, female aggression (Schretter et al., 2020). Following this work, I have developed genetic lines, performed computational analysis of behavioral experiments, helped design/engineer behavioral arenas, and managed three collaborative projects examining the neuronal circuits and cell types underlying social behaviors. One of these collaborative projects with Hui (Vivian) Chiu and David Anderson at Caltech was recently reviewed (Chiu,...Schretter, 2023) and another, performed in collaboration with Tom Hindmarsh Sten and Vanessa Ruta at Rockefeller, was submitted and is available as a pre-print (Schretter et al., 2024). Some of my broad interests include investigating animal behavior in the wild, internal states, host-microbe interactions, metabolism, and the development of genetic and computational tools for behavioral- and circuit-based analysis.

I believe supportive and inclusive communities containing different perspectives will lead to diverse ideas that benefit science and society. Throughout my training, I have mentored students and volunteers with a broad array of backgrounds and goals, including science policy, medicine, industry, and academia. At Janelia, I created a new mentorship program for technicians and staff so that they could discuss their goals and career trajectories with peers and trained mentors. Additionally, I have engaged in multiple outreach opportunities ranging from science demonstrations at local elementary schools to teaching local university students experimental design, data collection, and analysis with our behavioral setups and code. As an educator, I have designed courses, taught lectures, and led discussion sections and laboratory classes across a variety of subjects, including Vertebrate Evolution, Comparative Neuroanatomy, Animal Physiology, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Microbiology. 

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Ph.D., Biology and Bioengineering, California Insitute of Technology
B.A., Interdisciplinary - Neuroscience, University of Virginia