Sleep is a universal phenomenon that is essential to the normal health and behavior of life. Altering sleep function can have major deleterious health effects, and such deprivations have been identified as an early onset symptom for diseases such as Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Alzheimer’s. My primary area of research is investigating the neurogenetics of sleep and sleep-associated disorders related to these neurodegenerative diseases across the entire lifespan of a test subject. Since the machinery of sleep is fundamentally the same across species, I use the Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) model to inhibit, knock out, enhance or otherwise alter gene function in specific brain regions. I can then promote/inhibit sleep in a temporally specific manner to discover how these effectors dynamically change and progress over time. We hope to find effective gene targets that will rescue/restore sleep as a form of therapy and as a means to prolong the effective lifestyle of those affected by neurodegeneration, particularly in respect to dopaminergic function.

Prior to joining Biogen, my academic training was in behavioral ethology, with emphasis in bioacoustics, mate choice, morphometrics and evolutionary ecology. As a graduate student, I studied alternate morphologies and mating tactics in a group of acoustically active insects. My work resolved a long-held discrepancy in the cladistics of that ancient insect superfamily, and established the environmentally inducible dual-morphology as a common phenomenon to the group. As a postdoctoral researcher, I refocused my interests to the neurogenetics of behavior in the Drosophila model. My work focused on discovering how sleep, circadian rhythms and locomotion are altered through manipulating the function and timing of specific circadian regulator genes. We also developed new technologies for collecting and analyzing long-term behavioral data.

Education

  • Ph.D., Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH - 2007
  • M.S., Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH - 2003
  • B.S., Sienna Heights University, Adrian, MI - 2001

Selected Publications

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