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Inside Look: Postdocs

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Inside Look: Postdocs
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Janelia’s postdoctoral associates collaborate with and learn from some of the world’s leading experts in neurobiology and imaging technology.
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Inside Look: Postdocs
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Janelia’s postdoctoral associates collaborate with and learn from some of the world’s leading experts in neurobiology and imaging technology.
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By pursuing bold research projects, postdocs at Janelia learn firsthand the potential of high-risk/high-reward science. Working with group leaders focused on high-impact research gives postdocs the opportunity to ask tough, crucial questions and pilot their own projects. Like the group leaders, postdocs receive internal funding from HHMI, allowing them to fully channel their creativity and energy into their research.

Watch the videos below for a glimpse into the work of some of Janelia’s postdocs.

Building IsoView: A Postdoc's Perspective

 

After more than a year of tinkering behind closed microscope room doors, Raghav Chhetri, an optical physicist and postdoctoral associate in the Philipp Keller's lab, put final touches on a “next-generation” redesign of the imaging technique known as light-sheet microscopy. The method scans whole biological specimens (e.g., larval Drosophila) with beams of light, capturing subcellular details of live organisms in three dimensions over time. The resulting images can be compiled into high-resolution videos. In collaboration with Keller, Chhetri designed and built the new imaging system, called IsoView, with an aim to improve on conventional light-sheet microscopy, by increasing spatial resolution sevenfold and doubling the depth at which the microscope can image a tissue sample.

With IsoView up and running, Chhetri is diving into a scientific territory more foreign to him – neurobiology. As he and Keller use the scope to peer into simple animal models, like zebrafish and fruit flies, they gain insight into the animals’ biology while also making subtle tweaks in IsoView’s imaging capabilities.

Collaborations: The Card Postdoc Team

 

In the lab of Group Leader Gwyneth Card, postdoctoral associates Katie von Reyn, Ryan Williamson, and Jan Ache bring diverse areas of expertise to bear on a crucial, yet elusive, question in neurobiology: How do networks of neurons control animal behavior? The team takes a “neuroethological” angle, analyzing the various ways in which a Drosophila fruit fly might evade a predator’s attack. Together, the postdoctoral trio chips away at the neural basis of behavior, probing the fruit fly nervous system to understand how the brain encodes a stimulus – like an imminent threat – and subsequently produces the appropriate response.

In her work, von Reyn, an electrophysiologist, records the activity of a pair of fly neurons known as the giant fibers, which primarily control escape maneuvers. Her aim is to pinpoint functional relationships between physical stimuli and giant fiber activity. Williamson pilots an apparatus he helped develop nicknamed the “Fly Pez.” The machine dispenses a single fly into an arena where a predator’s attack is simulated, allowing the team to analyze the fly’s behavior. And Ache, another electrophysiologist in the lab, records the activity from a set of neurons that, when stimulated, trigger the fly’s landing response. In collaboration with Card and others, these postdocs study critical aspects of Drosophila escape behavior to help advance the project as a whole.