Our Team

Principal Investigators

crimaldi-headshotJohn Crimaldi
Professor of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

The Crimaldi lab will work to quantify the spatial and temporal patterns of odor plumes in both air and water using laser-based measurement techniques.  This information will be used in the design of real and virtual odor environments for testing animal navigation behavior.

bard-ermantrout-headshotBard Ermentrout
University Professor of Computational Biology, University of Pittsburgh

Ermentrout will be working on the modeling aspects of the project in two area. First, he will develop algorithms for odor localization and trail following based on the incomplete information given in the odor plume. These will be tested with the behavioral data on mouse. Secondly, he will create models for the neural processes that underlie these algorithms using the physiological data that is gathered. Most of his efforts will focus on the mouse data.

Lucia Jacobs
Professor, University of California, Berkeley

The Jacobs Lab will study the behavior of species orienting to odors but moving at different spatial and temporal scales than the mouse or the fly. These will include invertebrate species, such as the leopard slug, hermit crabs and cockroach species, as well as search dogs and humans.

nagel-headshotKatherine Nagel
Assistant Professor, Neuroscience Institute, NYU Langone School of Medicine

The Nagel lab seeks to understand the behavioral algorithms and neural circuits underlying olfactory navigation in the fruitfly Drosophila. We use quantitative behavioral measurements, electrophysiology and genetic manipulations to address these questions.

urban-headshotNathan Urban
Professor of Neurobiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Associate Director, University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute
Co-Director, Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition

The Urban lab will be focused on experimental and computational approaches to the analysis of the algorithms used for mouse olfactory navigation behavior, and also of the neural circuit mechanisms by which tese algorithms are implemented.


Justus Verhagen
Associate Professor, The John B. Pierce Laboratory and Dept. Neurobiology, Yale School of Medicine

A major goal of the project is to model (by Dr. Victor) how behavioral odor navigation strategies as well as to model (by Dr. Ermentrout, Urban and Nagel) how neural network activity depend on an animal’s movement abilities, sensor configuration and odor inputs, and how all this relates to the statistics of the odor plume in space and time. To this end Dr. Verhagen will develop and implement “virtual odor navigation” in transgenic mice, which allows manipulation of each of these pertinent aspects. Mice will track the source of a virtual dynamic odor plume (imaged by Dr. Crimaldi) while head-fixed under a fluorescent microscope and moving in virtual odor space via a trackball. The virtual plume odor concentrations encountered by the nostrils will be presented to the mice by fast olfactometers.

WebInfo_Headshot_Victor_10Nov15-headshotJonathan Victor
Professor of Neurology & Neuroscience, Weill Cornell Medical College

Dr. Victor’s primary role will be to build phenomenological models for olfactory navigation, and to develop strategies (e.g., stimulus design, altered sensorimotor coupling) for testing these models.


Efren Alvarez-Salvado
Postdoctoral Researcher, Nagel Lab

Efren joined the Nagel lab in 2015 after completing his PhD at the Instituto de Neurociencias de Alicante. In the lab, he has developed a quantitative behavioral approach to dissect the computations performed by walking flies during olfactory navigation behavior. These behavioral data have allowed us to develop computational models of navigation, and have identified the main sensory cues used by fruitflies to locate an odor source. Efren is currently performing behavioral silencing experiments to test the role of candidate neuron populations in olfactory navigation behavior.

Keeley Baker
Postdoctoral Researcher, Verhagen Lab

Keeley received her PhD from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth in 2013 and joined the lab in 2016. She is responsible for the development and implementation of the virtual reality odor navigation paradigm. Using this paradigm, she has trained mice to navigate within a virtual odor plume.

Sebastian Boie
Postdoctoral Researcher, Victor Lab

Sebastian Boie did his PhD research in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. His work will focus on information-theoretic analysis of odor environments, based on measurements from the Crimaldi Lab, and developing phenomenological models for olfactory navigation, mostly based on data from Drosophila (fruitflies) from the Nagel Lab.

Erin Connor
PhD Student, Crimaldi Lab

Erin Connor joined the Crimaldi Lab in 2016 after completing a master’s degree at MIT in the field of Environmental Fluid Mechanics. Erin’s work will focus on laboratory measurements of airborne plume structure, as well as numerical simulations of periodic respiratory flows associated with mammalian olfaction.

Ankita Gumaste
Graduate Student, Verhagen Lab

Ankita started on the project in 2017 and has been responsible for establishing a navigation paradigm within a standard olfactory landscape. She is responsible for training mice to navigate to both learned and innate odor sources and analyzing the trajectories of these mice within a given odor plume.

James Hengenious
Postdoctoral Fellow, Ermentrout & Urban labs

James received his PhD from Purdue University in 2015 and joined the lab in January 2016. He has been responsible for analyzing the video data of mouse movement on trails and using this to develop algorithms for trail following based on casting and intermittency strategies.He has also measured PID data and has used the statistics of this data to develop the intermittency strategy.

Judy Jinn
PhD Student, Jacobs Lab

Judy Jinn (2012 BS Biology with honors, University of Michigan) studies how spatial information, acquired during search, alters an animal’s decision processes. Judy joined the Navigators team in 2016, after earlier studies of spatial decisions in wild squirrels. Judy studies olfactory navigation decision processes in humans, using real and virtual odor landscapes, and in trained search dogs, using laboratory and field studies.

Annie Liu
MD/PhD Student, Urban Lab

Annie started on the project in 2016 and has been responsible for training mice in trail following tasks, collecting data and designing variants to test specific aspects of the models. She also has been working on developing approaches to using optogenetic activation of sensory neuron populations to perturb navigation behavior.

Andrew Mattheson
Graduate Student, Nagel Lab

Andrew joined the Nagel lab in 2016. Andrew is working to identify neurons that carry important cues for olfactory navigation, such as detection of odor offset, and the integration of odor information with wind direction information.

Maggie McHugh
MS Student, Crimaldi Lab

Maggie McHugh joined the Crimaldi research lab in fall 2015, after graduating with a BS in Environmental Engineering from Ohio State University. Maggie is working on collecting air based PLIF data by visualizing the fluorescence of acetone vapor in a controlled system.

Nour Riman
Graduate Student, Ermentrout Lab

Nour started on the project in the summer of 2016. She has been responsible for the analysis of the simple binaral algorithm on various types of trails.

Marie Suver
Postdoctoral Researcher, Nagel Lab

Marie joined the Nagel lab in 2015 after completing her PhD at Caltech. Marie developed a novel electrophysiological preparation that allow her to record from single identified Drosophila neurons in whole cell configuration, while presenting controlled wind direction and odor stimuli to a behaving fly. Using this preparation, Marie has identified a novel wind direction pathway in the fly brain that is involved in orientation to wind— an important cue for odor source localization.

Aaron True
Postdoctoral Researcher, Crimaldi Lab

Aaron joined the Crimaldi Lab in 2014 upon completing his PhD at the Georgia Institute of Technology. As a researcher in civil and environmental engineering, specializing in environmental fluid mechanics, True has interdisciplinary expertise in fluid dynamics and sensory ecology. His thesis work involved looking at biophysical interactions between marine zooplankton and the hydrodynamic and chemical cues that govern their lives. He is currently developing a three-dimensional laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) system to generate high-resolution, time-resolved turbulent odor plume data sets. These data will inform design and implementation of standard odor landscapes utilized in behavioral and physiological assays throughout the odor navigation project.