Chan Laboratory



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

The Chan lab is always looking for new students. If you are interested in biology, genomics, or using computer science and mathematics to study biology, please contact Dr. Chan.


The lab is interested in understanding the behavioral and cellular adaptations 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 use the model organism C. elegans, a roundworm. In particular, we are interested cellular signaling pathways that coordinate the response system in the animal. The interactions of our tissues (neuron, muscle, skin, intestine in worms) in response to environmental factors will 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 Wormbase showing a worm cartoon with the nervous system in red. 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.