Welcome to the Francis Laboratory

Genetic Regulation of Circuit Connectivity and Behavior

Our laboratory investigates molecular pathways that sculpt the connectivity of circuits, alter their performance, and shape behavior. In particular, we seek to identify regulatory mechanisms that control synaptic activity and to understand their contribution to nervous system development, as well as neural circuit output and behavior. To address these questions, we have developed tools for manipulating the activity of specific synapses in a genetically tractable model system, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. In addition to an abundance of available genetic tools, C. elegans offers a number of features that make it ideally suited for our work. The pattern of neural connectivity has been established by electron microscopy, allowing for detailed knowledge of synaptic partners in a circuit. The organism is optically transparent, enabling (1) easy imaging of the cellular and subcellular distribution of fluorescent reporters, (2) Ca2+ imaging studies, and (3) optogenetic approaches for cell-specific optical stimulation or inhibition of neurons, all in the intact animal. Finally, we have extensive expertise in patch clamp electrophysiology in order to measure synaptic currents from defined neurons or muscles in vivo.

Video: Neuropeptide Modulation of Behavior


June 2016 Congratulations to Navonil  for receiving the GSBC Travel Award!

June 2016 Congratulations to Alison for receiving the Dean's Award for outstanding
Mid-Thesis Research!

May 2016 Congratulations to Devyn for passing her qualifier!

September 2015 Alison's paper is accepted at Current Biology!
See UMMS press release

June 2015 Mike receives Dean's Award for Mentoring!

June 2015 The Francis lab welcomes Devyn, our newest graduate student!

February 2015 Congratulations to Alison for her predoctoral NRSA award!

July 2014 Belinda successfully defends her thesis – Congratulations, Dr. Barbagallo! 

June 2014 Raja's paper is accepted at PLOS Genetics!

May 2013 Congratulations to Alison for passing her qualifier!

February 2013 Hilary's paper is accepted at J. Neuroscience!

August 2012 Hilary successfully defends her thesis – Congratulations, Dr. Petrash! 

August 2012 The Francis lab welcomes Alison, our newest graduate student!

June 2011 Congratulations to Belinda for her predoctoral NRSA award!

June 2011 Congratulations to Navonil for passing his qualifier!

June 2011 Hilary receives poster award at the C. elegans meeting!

August 2010 Belinda's paper is accepted at J. Neuroscience!

July 2010 Mike is awarded Muscular Dystrophy Association grant!

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