Welcome to the Hallem lab at UCLA!

We study the neural basis of sensory-driven parasitic behaviors. Our research, which lies at the interface of parasitology and neurobiology, uses both parasitic and free-living nematodes as model systems. The overall goals of our research are to understand how parasitic worms use sensory cues to locate and infect hosts, and how the sensory systems of parasitic worms have evolved to mediate parasite-specific behavioral repertoires.

A major focus of the lab is on how skin-penetrating nematodes respond to host-emitted sensory cues. For this work, we use the human-parasitic nematode Strongyloides stercoralis and the closely related rat-parasitic nematode Strongyloides ratti as model systems. We are investigating the behavioral responses of S. stercoralis and S. ratti to chemosensory and thermosensory cues, as well as the neural circuits and signaling pathways that underlie these responses. We are also studying the responses of the free-living model worm C. elegans to some of these same sensory 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 the Strongyloides species, which have similar sensory neuroanatomy but highly divergent behavioral repertoires, we hope to gain insight into the specific features of a parasite sensory circuit that drive parasitic behaviors.

Positions in the lab are available!  Please visit the Positions tab if you are interested in joining the lab.