Scholar Profile

Piali Sengupta

Department of Biology
Brandeis University
415 South Street
Waltham, MA 02454
Voice: 781-736-2686
Fax: 781-736-3107
Personal Homepage
1996 Searle Scholar
Current Member of the Advisory Board

Research Interests

Research in my lab focuses on exploring the complex interplay between an animal and its environment. External cues are translated in the context of an animal’s internal state and past experience into complex, yet coherent, behavioral and developmental decisions. We are interested in describing how animals perceive, transduce and integrate diverse sensory cues to drive specific outputs. We address these issues at multiple levels using C. elegans as our major experimental system. The major questions we ask are the following:

1) Temperature is a ubiquitous stimulus that regulates all aspects of an animal’s physiology. What are the neuronal, molecular and circuit mechanisms by which animals sense ambient temperature, and how does an animal’s experience of temperature drive its behavior and development?

2) Pheromones comprise a language of small molecules that are used for chemical communication across species. Responses to specific pheromones are modulated based on an animal’s developmental history and stage, experience, sex, as well as internal state. How are pheromones sensed and integrated in the context of additional cues to drive defined behavioral and developmental outcomes?

3) Sensory cilia are organelles that act as cellular antennae on multiple cell types. These structures are particularly critical for the specialized functions of sensory neurons. Cilia house signal transduction molecules and are essential for transduction of environmental stimuli. How are sensory neuron-specific cilia morphologies formed and maintained? How do cilia acquire their specific signaling protein complement? How is cilia architecture modulated as a consequence of sensory inputs?