New Pristionchus polyphenism paper out!

ErikblogLong time friend and fellow Sommer Lab postdoc just had a great paper come out in the most recent issue of Cell. Though I didn’t contribute anything intellectually to the paper, I was able at least to help them out with a couple images for Figure 1. I think the paper is a good demonstration of why one shouldn’t be afraid of working with non-standard model organisms.

Erik (along with Manuela Müller and Christian Rödelsperger, also in the lab) explores the mechanisms by which developmental plasticity Continue reading

Journal Club: Connectomic reconstruction of the inner plexiform layer in the mouse Retina

In a landmark paper demonstrating the capabilities of modern connectomics approaches, Moritz Helmstaedter et al. present a reconstruction of nearly 1000 cells and 500,000 cell-cell contacts in the mouse Retina using data collected with serial block face microscopy. This is a high-throughput electron microscopy method championed by Moritz and two of the other co-authors, Kevin Briggman (now at NIH in Bethesda) and of course Winfried Denk (a Max Planck Director with joint appointment at Janelia Farm). Valuable in its own right, this paper represents Continue reading

Pristionchus on the cover of Evolution & Development

EvoDevoCover001One of the groups in our lab, headed up by postdoc Erik Ragsdale, is investigating the genetics and evolution of a feeding polyphenism in Pristionchus. They just had a nice paper come out in Evolution & Development entitled: “Feeding plasticity in the nematode Pristionchus pacificus is influenced by sex and social context and is linked to developmental speed.” Once it was accepted, they asked me to help design a cover submission. I used some still captures from some of my predatory feeding movies, and the cover was accepted! Score another point for my artistic career! Check out the paper, and expect more cool work from this group on the same polyphenism to be coming out later this year.

My thoughts on the first BRAIN initiative meeting

cropped-Gogli1The first of a series of planning meetings for the BRAIN initiative took place early this week in Arlington, VA. Officially called the NSF Workshop on the Physical Principles of Brain Structure and Function, it collected many of the nation’s most prominent neuroscientists together into a stuffy hotel conference room to Continue reading

The Connectome Blog and Scientific Community

Connectome-Masthead“Connectomics” is a nascent but growing discipline. As evidence of this, a simple pubmed search of Connectome will show that at the end of 2010 there were fewer than 20 papers using the word. It’s growth seems to be exponential, however, as today the same search yields nearly 200 hits. One of the artifacts of being an emerging discipline is that there is very little established infrastructure for promoting community between all of the various participants in the field. Probably the most prominent Continue reading

Getting the message out in the good old U.S.A.

WP_20130321_003Just got back from a whirlwind tour of the greater Washington D.C. area, where I was given my opportunity to present my work at two different institutions. My first stop was Janelia Farm, a Howard Hughes institute and one of the major drivers that are pushing the electron microscopy and computational technologies needed for large scale synapse-level connectomics work. I was invited by Albert Cardona Continue reading

An artistic contribution to worm neuroanatomy.

sideview4Bumbargercover1In annotating all of the connectivity for my recent comparative connectomics papers, one of the byproducts was a massive 3D model of the anatomy of all the cells in the nervous system. For me, these models are fascinating to look at and  I enjoy when I get a chance to admire some of the beauty in the data I generate. I spent some time making some 3D rendering of the models using Blender ( in order to submit them as possible covers for the issue in which the paper was published… they weren’t chosen for the cover, but I still want to share them with the world!  Click the images to see them larger on my FLICKR page, and let me know what you think!