Assistant Professor (since 2012)
Department of Biology & Biotechnology
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Social species form organizations that extend beyond the individual as a result of a variety of behaviors such as securing a mate, parenting, and bonding. These innate behaviors require the ability to recognize conspecifics. What are the sensory modalities that are required for social recognition? How does the brain process and integrate sensory and internal homeostatic signals to enact stereotyped social behaviors? How does social experience modulate neural circuits underlying innate behaviors in organisms? Research in my laboratory focuses on understanding how biogenic small molecules (BSMs) regulate innate social behaviors at molecular, cellular and circuit levels in the nervous system, using a combination of behavioral analysis, molecular, and functional imaging approaches in C. elegans.
Research in my own laboratory has three major areas:
- Neural basis of social behaviors in C. elegans
- Signaling pathways underlying response to small-molecule metabolites
- Regulation of innate behaviors by neuromodulation and social experience
My research adopts interdisciplinary approaches (genetics, neurobiology, and chemical biology) to understand how small molecules regulate different innate behaviors of an organism. These studies will provide insights into the roles of small-molecules in physiological pathways in C. elegans, which show strong analogies to corresponding pathways in humans.
I am looking for talented graduate students and postdocs, who would be willing to come to the northeast. WPI is a growing graduate institution and I am privileged to be a part of this community. Students wishing to work in my lab will be exposed to diverse techniques and form part of a team tackling a complex problem of neural and genetic basis of small-molecule mediated social behaviors. (Contact)
Role of GSA in your career:
I have been attending GSA meetings since my graduate school days in Germany. When I became a faculty member at WPI, one of the first things I did was to become a member and convinced my doctoral students to become members as well. Becoming members of GSA has helped them and me reduce out-of-pocket expenses for going to meetings. In addition, access to journals such as GENETICS and G3 helps them read the latest research in different areas of biology. As a young tenure-track professor, I feel that organizations like GSA are a good voice to the lawmakers to increase funding for basic science. Given the current funding scenario, it is imperative that views of scientists are represented.
“What I like about science and my work is that it raises more questions than it answers. Every experimental result spawns multiple questions and this is extremely fascinating and makes the question being asked even more intriguing. Every day when I enter my lab, I feel like I am entering a candy store (I do have a sweet tooth!) and don’t know what results await me. I cannot imagine having this feeling anywhere else.” – Jagan Srinivasan on the favorite part of his work
Previous training experiences:
- Undergraduate – Chennai University, India
- Masters in Marine Biology & Biotechnology – Goa University, India (characterizing microfauna of oil spills)
- PhD – Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Germany (C. elegans, P. Pacificus)
- Post-Doc – California Institute of Technology (animal behavior, C. elegans)
During the academic year, I teach two undergraduate courses and guest lecture in three others. In my Genomics, Molecular Engineering and Biotechnology course (BB4010), I use an “omic-level” approach to teach principles and applications in biology and medicine. The ultimate goal of this course is to make my students into informed citizens so that they are empowered members of society and the scientific community. In this course, I am able to tie in my research by explaining some the techniques we use in lab such as DNA sequencing and the use of mutant genes. In my Neurobiology course (BB3080), I introduce the students to different aspects of neuroscience including brain function and disorders. I am also able to tie in my research to this course in explaining how we use C. elegans as a model system to study the brain and neural connections and functionality. For my guest lecture in Animal Behavior, I talk about animal communication with a focus on chemical communication, which is one of the main areas of focus of my laboratory. The other two courses that I guest lecture in, Introduction to Biology (BB1001) and Introduction to the History of Science (HI1331), are courses that are not necessarily intended for biology majors. This allows me to share my knowledge and research outside of the biology department to students pursuing other majors.
Interests Outside of Work:
When I am not working, I like to run. I am currently training for a marathon. I also love cooking and trying out fusion food for my wife and kids.