Chan Laboratory



In the lab, we use genetic, cellular, and behavioral techniques to dissect animal physiology and behavior.

Environmental Factors ---> ANIMALS ---> animal response and adaptation


The lab is interested in understanding the behavioral adaptations and cellular modifications an organism makes in response to environmental challenges. Our environmental surroundings are filled with factors such as toxins, pathogens, heat or disease states that can alter animal physiology and behavior. An animal must appropriately respond and adapt to these environmental factors to survive. We study how animals respond and adapt by using the model organism C. elegans, a roundworm. In particular, we are interested in the adaptability of the nervous system, which may include modifications such as recruiting new neurons, changing neuronal connectivity, or altering the strength of neuronal communication. The interactions of other organs (muscle, skin, intestine) in response to environmental factors will also be explored. Because C. elegans can be studied genetically, cellularly, and behaviorally with fast and manageable methodology, the experiments using worms will help us understand how other animals learn and make the appropriate adaptations to the environment. 
(The image above (top) is from the Nonet Lab showing a worm cartoon with the nervous system in red, the head/pharynx in green, the intestine in yellow, and eggs in blue. The bottom image is from the Hutter Lab, showing green fluorescence labeling of all the neurons in the worm.)

In the picture above, neurons in the head region of the worm are red, and they send signals to the motor neurons in green, despite not being in direct contact. This is an example of endocrine signaling in the worm and may represent an locomotor adaptation of the worm to environmental or sensory stimuli. Other worm physiology consists of the Mouth and Digestive System, Reproductive System, Nervous System (but the don't really have a "brain"), Muscular System, and Cuticle (skin). The interactions between these tissues lead to complex behaviors.