Welcome to the Garrity Lab



Molecular genetics



What we study: 

Our work addresses fundamental questions in cellular, molecular and systems neuroscience, focusing on how the nervous system perceives and processes sensory information to control behavior. The basic questions that motivate our work are: How do animals sense their environments? How is this sensory information processed to influence behavior? What are the evolutionarily origins of the underlying machinery and circuitry, and how can such knowledge inform our understanding of how animals operate today?

We probe these questions using insects, primarily Drosophila and vector mosquitoes, focusing on how these animals sense and respond to temperature, humidity and chemicals. With interests that extend from the molecular to the cellular to the systems level, we attack problems using multiple approaches, ranging from molecular biology and genetics to high-resolution behavioral studies to molecular phylogeny to physiology. By investigating sensory responses at multiple levels (which is quite feasible in relatively simple insect systems), the goal is to provide robust insights into how the nervous system detects and processes information.

Overall, our lab combines fundamental investigations into the nature of sensory detection with efforts to apply these insights to issues of direct relevance to human health. These latter efforts include investigating how the processing of sensory information controls host-seeking by insect vectors that transmit malaria, dengue, Zika virus and other diseases.  Finally, since technological advances are critical in helping fully realize these goals, we also work to develop new tools for manipulating genomes and neuronal activity (as in our lab's development of "thermogenetics").

Where we work:

Our lab is part of the National Center for Behavioral Genomics in the Biology Department at Brandeis University.  Brandeis has a vibrant, tightly knit molecular genetics and neuroscience community, and we interact extensively with other labs at Brandeis and at nearby institutions. The critical mass of scientists in Boston is a tremendous resource, starting with our immediate neighbors in the labs of Michael Rosbash, Piali Sengupta and Leslie Griffith, and extending to our NIH-funded collaborations with the labs of Aravi Samuel at Harvard University and Flaminia Catteruccia at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Brandeis is located on the west side of Boston. It is readily accessible by public transportation and car from all over Boston and its suburbs. Lab members often live in Boston, Cambridge, Newton, Somerville, Waltham, and Worcester.

Who supports us:

The lab is supported by funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

Joining the lab:

The lab is actively seeking talented, highly motivated individuals to join us to work on fruit flies, mosquitoes, sensory receptors or some combination of these. Post-doctoral applicants are encouraged to contact P.G. by e-mail. Please include a CV and contact information for three references. Brandeis graduate students should e-mail or just stop by.