July 25, 2011

We're having a heat wave...a tropical heat wave....

...and so we decided to play hooky and go to the beach for the day. Of course, we needed an excuse, which in this case was pretty easy: Tari Tan and Alex Wiltschko have joined the lab as new graduate students! Tari is currently imaging the olfactory bulb and doing optogenetics in the cortex, while Alex will focus on developing new experimental paradigms for studying odor-driven behavior.

Alex and Tari, the newest students in the Datta lab. Will they stay this happy?
We decamped to Crane's Beach on the North Shore, stopping first at Woodman's for some seriously delish fried clams and lobster rolls. A really great time was had by all: the weather certainly cooperated - the water temperature was 60 degrees F, the ambient temperature was 104 degrees F - and to prevent melting we spent the entire time in the ocean. We will give away our million-dollar idea right here: someone has GOT to invent a way to play water bocce.

All of us, pre-heatstroke. This is the only shot of the bunch where somebody wasn't photobombing us from behind. 

July 14, 2011

Summer is Here...

....and with summer comes summer students! We have two great students with us this summer, both from abroad. The first is Leen Al-Hafaz, who comes to us courtesy of our good friend and colleague Ben Shykind. Leen is a newly-minted medical student at the Weill Cornell Medical School in Qatar, and will be working with Dan and Paul on olfactory transcriptomics for the summer. The other is Luigi Federico Rossi, who joins us from the University of Pisa and comes to us courtesy of a Giovanni Armenise Foundation summer fellowship. Luigi, who actually goes by Federico, is affectionately called Rico in the lab, for reasons obvious to all who are fans of the early 90s Equadorian hitmaker Gerardo. He will also work with Dan and Paul. Welcome to both!

Federico and Leen rocking it on our new qPCR machine.

July 11, 2011

Lab Wins first RO1 Grant

The Datta lab has been awarded its first RO1 award from the National Institutes of Deafness and Communications Disorders. This five-year grant — the workhorse funding mechanism used by the NIH in the biomedical sciences — will support the lab's efforts to probe the general structure and functional architecture of neural circuits within the olfactory bulb and within regions of the olfactory cortex. Bob was also recently awarded a McKnight Scholars Award and a Searle Scholars Award, which was recently covered in the Harvard Focus. These awards are given to young investigators to kick start their independent research programs, and are intended to fund high-risk, high-reward projects; the McKnight will be used to explore the new potential molecular mechanisms for odor sensation in the sensory periphery, and the Searle to characterize functional responses to odors in higher olfactory centers.

July 5, 2011

Scent of a Predator Paper

Congratulations to our colleague, friend and neighbor Steve Liberles and his student David Ferrero for their recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which can be found here. They use a clever combination of chemistry, cell-based screens, imaging and behavioral analysis to implicate a specific chemical that is enriched in carnivore urine - 2-phenylethylamine - in driving the avoidance of mice to predators. Our own Stan Pashkovski contributed to the behavioral analysis in the paper as part of a fruitful ongoing collaboration with the Liberles lab. A great summary of this work is up on the HMS Systems Biology Blog, with more coverage from Nature News.