Welcome to the Hallem lab at UCLA!
Both free-living and parasitic animals are capable of detecting and responding to olfactory cues present in their environments. We are interested in understanding the neural basis of these odor-driven behaviors. We are also interested in how olfactory neural circuits can evolve in species with different lifestyles and ecological niches to mediate species-specific behavioral requirements. We study these questions using insect-parasitic nematodes, mammalian-parasitic nematodes, and the free-living nematode C. elegans as model systems.
A major focus of the lab is on the neurobiology of host-seeking behavior in parasitic nematodes. We are interested in the behavioral responses of parasitic nematodes to carbon dioxide and other host-emitted olfactory cues. We are also interested in understanding the neural circuits and signaling pathways that underlie these responses.
We study the responses of C. elegans to these same olfactory cues to better understand how the nervous system of a parasitic animal differs from that of a free-living animal. By comparing the responses of C. elegans to those of other nematode species, which have similar neuroanatomy but very different behavioral repertoires, we hope to gain insight into the specific features of a neural circuit that determine its behavioral output.
A secondary focus is on the immune response to nematode infection. For these studies, we use insect-parasitic nematodes as model parasites and the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model host.
Our lab is in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics at UCLA. We are also a member of the ACCESS graduate program, the Neuroscience Graduate Program, the Molecular Biology Institute, and the Brain Research Institute.
Positions in the lab are available! Please visit the Positions tab if you are interested in joining the lab.