B.A., Wellesley College; M.A., Pepperdine University; Ph.D., Brandeis University
Sara WassermanKresa Family Assistant Professor of Neuroscience
Research utilizes fruit flies and 'virtual-reality' flight simulators to investigate the neuronal mechanisms that permit the multi-sensory integration required to produce contextually appropriate behavior.
My interest and training in research began during my time as an undergraduate at Wellesley College where I double majored in neuroscience and theater studies. I did independent research in the laboratory of Dr. Barbara Beltz investigating the circadian control of neuronal apoptosis in crayfish. Upon graduation from Wellesley I spent two years developing and teaching a science based curriculum for elementary school students while simultaneously earning a Master’s degree in education from Pepperdine University. During this time my interest in pursuing further training in neuroscience was solidified. In graduate school I worked in the laboratory of Dr. Piali Sengupta at Brandeis University studying the molecular and physiological mechanisms of thermotaxis behavior in C. elegans. A significant portion of my doctorate work was done in collaboration with Dr. Aravi Samuel’s lab in the Physics Department at Harvard University. My experiences and training as a graduate student exposed me to the benefits of a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving. Using cutting-edge techniques combined with powerful genetic tools available to those working with model organisms, my colleagues and I were able to investigate the genes, neurons, and circuits that underlie thermotaxis behavior.
I am currently pursuing my postdoctoral work in Dr. Mark Frye’s laboratory at UCLA/HHMI, and and am thrilled to be returning to Wellesley as a member of the Neuroscience Program. My training in the Frye lab has continued to allow me to utilize a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the complex behaviors of flying Drosophila melanogaster. My research program focuses on examining the genetic identities, cellular mechanisms, circuit physiology, and computations that underlie the behavioral algorithms that allow nervous systems to discriminate and assign subjective value to sensory stimuli in order to generate appropriate behavioral outputs under varying internal and external state changes.To read more about the "virtual-reality" flight simulators I use to investigate these questions please refer to the research section.