general research aimsHow is an animal's behavior influenced by the world it lives in and the other animals it interacts with? How are its decisions influenced by its internal state - whether it is hungry, afraid, bored, or in some state that we don't yet understand?
I study the circuits that make these decisions and create computational tools to identify the different behaviors animals are continuously producing.
I care about what computations these circuits are performing, and how internal states change these computations.
I care about the theory underlying circuits and behaviors: why do we see this circuit and not something else? And what are the fundamental scientific principles that are being observed?
how do animals communicate?
I investigate how animals communicate with each other in order to achieve their goals.
To do this, I use the fruit fly Drosophila, a teeny tiny little animal that sings.
When a male loves a female very much, he will sing her and court her; if the song is good enough, the female
will allow the male to mate with her. How does he decide what to sing? How do animals haggle to come to a mutually agreeable decision? How do they even detect that other animals are present, and what are they detecting visually about the other animal that they are using to dynamically pattern their behavior?
I am interested in how the nervous system implements these goals and choices.
how do animals search?
How should an animal search for food? Foraging is one of the most fundamental actions that all animals perform.
Just think about the last time you had to go looking for your keys. First you go look at your desk - nope, not there.
Then you look on the table - not there either. Then you spend some time digging through your pocket and realize they were there the whole time.
This is foraging.
Foraging is an especially interesting problem because animals usually do not have complete information about the world. Is there even food at there at all? I want to understand what is the best way to make these search decisions and how the nervous system is programmed to so.