Personal profile

Research interests

Nervous systems evolved to control behavior. One of the primary functions of nervous systems is to receive and process information from the outside world, and then act on that information in ways that maximize survival and reproduction. We employ an integrative approach to understanding animal communication and the evolution of information processing. We are interested in understanding:

How do sensory receptors encode stimuli in the periphery?

How do central sensory pathways extract behaviorally relevant information from peripheral responses?

How does evolutionary change in sensory systems mediate adaptive diversification of perception and behavior?

How does behavior influence ecological interactions and evolutionary processes?

Our work is unique in its application of detailed neurophysiology within a broad comparative framework, and it has implications for our understanding of neural mechanisms for behavior as well as the evolution of behavioral diversity.


I run a small lab, with 2-4 graduate students and postdocs at a time, along with 2-5 undergraduate students. I have weekly one-hour meetings with my trainees, during which time we discuss research questions and ideas, experiment plans, recent data, troubleshooting of experiments, teaching, long-term career goals, academia, work-life balance, personal difficulties, and whatever else my trainees might want to discuss. In addition, we all meet as a group once a week, alternating between group research meetings and journal clubs. In our research meetings, each trainee gets up to 10 minutes to discuss recent data, problems with their experiments, research plans, or research ideas. In our journal clubs, we collectively discuss a paper that each of us has read. Importantly, I recognize that no two trainees are the same, and that we each bring our own unique background, experiences, and perspectives to the lab. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. I cater my mentoring to each individual’s strengths, weaknesses, and needs, and my relationship with trainees changes as they develop on their trajectory towards becoming an independent scientist. As a white, cisgender, heterosexual man who grew up in the US, I recognize I have benefited from numerous seen and unseen privileges, and that I will never be able to understand fully the experiences and perspectives of others, especially those who come from very different backgrounds. I strive to be an empathetic listener. I also encourage my trainees to foster relationships with additional mentors who may be better able to understand the unique difficulties they experience. I am strongly committed to equity and inclusion, both in my professional and personal lives. As chair of the Biology Inclusion Committee, I am in charge of the Biology Department’s efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion. These include: workshops, seminars, panels, and roundtables; training and education; information campaigns; development of policy; responding to incidents; and working with similarly focused committees across the university. I am also active in local politics and activism, especially in relation to social, racial, and economic justice.

Available to Mentor:

  • PhD/MSTP Students


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