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.


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 developing phenomenological models for olfactory navigation, mostly based on data from Drosophila (fruitflies) from the Nagel Lab.

Maggie McHugh
PhD 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. This time-resolved, high-resolution data will be used in two ways: first in determining how the structural information varies in different flow types and source releases, and second to numerically test algorithms of animal olfaction behavior. Furthermore, these datasets will be disseminated to the group for use as part of a virtual-reality odor system for experiments of brain activity in animals performing odor-based searches.

Aaron True
Postdoctoral Researcher, Crimaldi Lab

Aaron True 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.