Dr. Yehuda Ben-Shahar is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis. He received his Masters and PhD in Entomology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He then served as a Howard Houghes Medical Institute Postdoctoral Research Associate in Neuroscience at the University at Iowa College of Medicine. Yehuda is with us today to tell us about his journey through life and science.
Animal behavior is mediated by the nervous system, according to information encoded in the genome. The Ben-Shahar lab uses a variety of behavioral, genetic, genomic, biochemical, and molecular techniques to decipher the genetic architecture that drives specific behaviors. Yehuda uses the powerful model of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster to understand how the function of specific genes in distinct neuronal circuits gives rise to behaviors such as feeding and mating. He also takes advantage of the recent sequencing of 12 genomes of species from the Drosophila genus, which now allow the lab to ask questions about the evolution of behavior. Currently the lab is focusing on several projects. One focus is the role of ligand-gated ion channels as neuronal modulators and sensory transducers. Yehuda is also investigating the role of neuropeptides and their receptors in modulating behavior, as well as the role of divalent cation transporters in feeding induction and food selection. A final research area of the lab is the evolution of behaviorally-related genomic modules in the genus Drosophila. Yehuda can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.