Our research program is centered in two UF locations. One laboratory is located at the Whitney Laboratory in St. Augustine and the other at the McKnight Brain Institute on the main campus in Gainesville. Research associates and graduate students can work at either location.
Our laboratory studies olfaction – the sense of smell. The common theme that runs through our research is sensory coding – how information about the sensory environment, the odor world in our case, is encoded by the nervous system. We address these questions primarily through electrophysiological approaches, but also integrate molecular, biochemical, and, through collaboration, computational modeling approaches. In recent years our research has focused on sensory coding in the olfactory periphery, using both arthropod (lobster, insect) and mammalian (mice, rats) animal models. Much of this research centers on understanding mechanisms of olfactory transduction – the process by which primary olfactory receptor cells convert odor signals into the electrical signals the brain uses to process information.
Disruption of any aspect of olfactory transduction potentially can disrupt olfactory function in both humans and animals. Understanding olfactory dysfunction, therefore, requires elucidating the full range of steps involved in olfactory transduction. For example, olfactory receptor neurons in arthropods, including those of insects such as mosquitoes that are vectors for major human diseases such as malaria and Dengue fever, signal through ionotropic olfactory receptors. Disruption of any olfactory signaling component associated with ionotropic receptor-mediated olfactory transduction can potentially disrupt olfactory function, and therefore host-finding, in insect vectors for major human disease.