Principal Investigator

Piali Sengupta

A.B. Bryn Mawr College
Ph.D. MIT (Advisor: Brent Cochran)
Postdoc UCSF (Advisor: Cori Bargmann)

I’ve always been fascinated by the complex interactions between animals and their environment. As a grad student, I studied pheromone signaling in S. cerevisiae and then discovered the wonderful C. elegans system as a postdoc in Cori Bargmann's lab then at UCSF. My lab continues to use C. elegans as the primary experimental organism, although we have also started some work in the vertebrate nervous system and even in Drosophila.  A PI's ‘job’ is constantly unpredictable and always interesting, and it is great fun to be able to interact with and learn from so many smart, interesting, and interested lab members and peers.  I love to travel (the more remote the better), am a bookaholic and a movie buff, and am trying to teach myself to play the drums.


Research Associates

Hillary Katz

Lab Technician

B.A. Smith College


I have worked in the lab for over 25 years. I have held various positions from Research Associate to Lab Manager to Applications Scientist in academia as well as industry. In the Sengupta Lab I am responsible for ongoing daily lab support and preparation of consumables. In my spare time I enjoy reading, baking, and spending time with my family.

Maddie Piccione

Lab Manager

B.A. Holy Cross


I recently graduated from Holy Cross, where I majored in Neuroscience. I am currently working with Munzareen to investigate how different contexts modulate the chemosensory behaviors exhibited by C. elegans. Outside of the lab, I love to travel, read, and make string art.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Nathan Harris

Ph.D. University of California San Francisco

(Advisor: Grae Davis)


I am interested in the mechanisms by which an animal's experience influences neuronal gene expression, and how alteration of gene expression drives neuronal plasticity. I am using C. elegans thermotaxis behavior and temperature preference as a model in which to connect stimulus-dependent changes in gene expression to neuronal function and behavior. In my free time I enjoy rock climbing and listening to music.

Funded by F32 NS112453 and T32 NS007292

Hannah Lawson

Ph.D. University of Rochester

(Advisor: Doug Portman)


I am interested in understanding how neuronal cilia-cilia contact is established and whether this contact regulates neuronal function and behavior. In C. elegans, several sensory neurons extend cilia through a channel and are partially exposed to the environment. Within this channel, cilia appear to contact each other in a stereotypical pattern. I’m currently investigating how the cilia of two of these neurons contact each other and whether this contact mediates response to external stimuli. When I’m not in the lab I like to go camping, play video games, and cook.

Ashish Maurya

Ph.D. National University of Singapore

(Advisor: Phil Ingham)


I am interested in how primary cilia are organized and maintained to fulfill the diverse roles they play in sensory signal transduction. I am focusing on the mechanisms involved in forming and maintaining the many specialized and diverse forms of sensory cilia observed on C. elegans chemosensory neurons. Presently I am trying to determine how one of these sensory primary cilia achieves a highly branched morphology.

Alison Philbrook

Ph.D. University of Massachusetts Medical School 

(Advisor: Mike Francis)


I am interested in understanding how cilia morphology regulates sensory neuron function. Chemosensory neurons in C. elegans exhibit a range of morphologically distinct cilia. My current project aims to characterize how specialized cilia morphologies contribute to the unique responses of individual chemosensory neurons, and how in turn sensory activity shapes cilia structure. In my free time, I enjoy watching movies and exploring national parks.

Funded by T32 NS007292 and F32 DC018453

Jamie Jihye Yeon

Ph.D. Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology

(Advisor: Kyuhyung Kim)


I’m interested in the mechanisms  by which genetic factors contribute to  experience-dependent plasticity in thermosensory neuron function. Currently, I am investigating how food deprivation alters thermosensitivity in C. elegans. In my free time, I enjoy taking pictures and watching good movies.


Graduate Students


Tyler Hill

Neuroscience Ph.D. Candidate

M.S. Kennesaw State University 


I am interested in understanding how organisms sense their surroundings and translate those sensory signals into relevant behaviors. In particular, I am interested in the mechanisms by which C. elegans adapts its behavioral response to differences in cultivation temperature. In my spare time I love reading speculative fiction, singing, going to concerts, and dancing!

Funded by T90 DA032435

Munzareen Khan

Neuroscience Ph.D. Candidate

B.S. University of Connecticut


 I am interested in learning how neural circuits integrate sensory stimuli and process information to generate relevant behavior and how the processing mechanisms change under different conditions. My current project examines an olfactory plasticity paradigm to understand how experience and context modulates neural activity and behavioral output. In my spare time I love to travel and learn about different cultures, read, and write.

Funded by T32 GM007122  

Anjali Pandey

MCB Ph.D. Candidate 

B.S. UMASS Boston


I am interested in exploring how different microbes can affect C. elegans behavior through its diet by providing ascaroside intermediates. Ascarosides are small molecules, produced by the worm, that act as chemical signals used to regulate behavior. My project will explore how Providencia bacteria can induce worms to dwell by influencing worm ascaroside signalling.

Travis Rogers

MCB Ph.D. Candidate 

B.S. University of Maryland College Park 


I'm fascinated in organisms with alternative developmental programs & life cycles and how these metabolic and molecular "remodeling" events change animal behavior, pathogenesis, and reproduction. I'm currently investigating how the C.elegans dauer larvae modulates is chemosensory responses and chemotaxis strategies in response to attractive and aversive cues.

Funded by T32 GM007122

Lauren Tereshko

Neuroscience Ph.D. Candidate 

M.S. Brandeis University 


I am passionate about molecular neuroscience, and intrigued by the mechanisms regulating the dynamic changes of synapses. The majority of mammalian cortical neurons actively maintain a single primary cilium throughout the life of an animal, however their function is largely unknown. My current work explores a potential role for cilia-mediated signaling in developed mammalian neurons. Outside of the lab, I like to explore the New England coast line, snap photos, and cruise on my bike.

Funded by T32 MH019929

Richard Zhuang

MCB MS Student


I am interested in the molecular mechanism for the regulation neuronal plasticity. The C. elegans thermosensory neuron pair, AFD, exhibit temperature experience-dependent plasticity of thermotaxis behavior and thermosensory response properties. Such plasticity is regulated transcriptionally in AFD, and my current project is to investigate the possible genes involved.


Undergraduate Students

Matthew Bernstein



I am a junior at Brandeis, majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in HSSP and Anthropology, investigating with Nathan transcriptional mechanisms that affect AFD and thermotaxis behavior. Outside of the lab, I like to watch Netflix, travel and hang out with friends.

Laura Grunenkovaite


I am currently a junior at Brandeis working with Alison to investigate how chronic and acute disruption of intraflagellar transport affects the localization of sensory signaling proteins in C. elegans. Outside of the lab, I like to read, make scrapbooks, and spend time outside with my friends.


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