Sotelo, a researcher in the laboratory of molecular geneticist and physiologist Joanna Chiu, professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will speak at 4:10 p.m. Plans are to record the seminar for later viewing.
In his abstract, Sotelo relates: “As genome association technologies improve, we have more information regarding the genetic components underlying neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and schizophrenia. Drosophila melanogaster offers a genetically tractable in vivo system that can be used to perform genetic screens and characterization of genes associated with complex disorders. By combining physiological and behavioral analyses, my work aims to understand the molecular mechanism and neuronal networks involved in some of these conditions.”
“Schizophrenia is a condition that is characterized by its debilitating and poorly understood symptoms," he pointed out. "By studying the genetic component of this disorder, we aim to untangle the mechanisms behind those symptoms. This could potentially help us to develop new and more effective treatments. Using a similar approach would give us insights better understanding of others disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.”
Said Professor Chiu: “Sergio's exciting thesis research highlights the value of Drosophila as an animal model to study biological processors. To many, it is probably surprising to hear that this tiny insect is constantly used as an animal model to study complex human diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. In fact, there are quite a number of similarities between fly and human physiological systems, even in the brain.”
Sotelo joined the Chiu lab as a postdoctoral fellow in the summer of 2020. “Despite the difficult situation brought on by COVID, Sergio is making significant progress in his research on biological rhythms," Chiu said. "He has brought his expertise in neurogenetics, infused the lab with creative energy, and contributed to the training and growth of younger investigators in the lab. Recently, he was named a Pew Latin American Fellow in the Biomedical Sciences, a prestigious award for a well-deserved scientist.”
A native of Puente Alto, Santiago, Chile, Sotelo is one of 10 post-docs from across Latin America—including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay—to receive two years of funding to conduct research. The fellows work under the mentorship of prominent biomedical scientists, including alumni of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences.
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminars are held on Wednesdays at 4:10 p.m. and include both in-person and virtual lectures. All in-person seminars are held in 122 Briggs Hall, while the virtual seminars are broadcast on Zoom. For more information, contact seminar coordinator Shahid Siddique, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty members are now full professors, and a third faculty member has achieved tenure as associate professor.
Molecular geneticist and physiologist Joanna Chiu, vice chair of the department, and community ecologist Louie Yang were promoted from associate professors to professors, effective July 1. Community ecologist Rachel Vannette was promoted from assistant professor to associate professor.
Professor Chiu joined the Department of Entomology and Nematology in 2010 as an assistant professor and advanced to associate professor and vice chair in 2016. She received her bachelor's degree in biology and music from Mount Holyoke College, Mass., and her doctorate in molecular genetics in 2004 from New York University, New York. She served as a postdoctoral fellow from 2004 to 2010 in chronobiology (biological rhythms and internal clocks)--molecular genetics and biochemistry--at the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
Chiu's research expertise includes molecular genetics of biological timing and posttranslational regulation of proteins. She uses animal models including Drosophila melanogaster and mice to study the mechanisms that regulate circadian and seasonal physiology and behavior. Major grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation fund her biological rhythms research. In addition to her research in biological rhythms, Chiu also aims to leverage her expertise in genomics to address key issues in global food security.
In 2019, she was named one of 10 UC Davis Chancellor's Fellows, an honor awarded to associate professors who excel in research and teaching.
Chiu and Yang co-founded and co-direct (with Professor Jay Rosenheim) the campuswide Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology, launched in 2011 to provide undergraduates with a closely mentored research experience in biology. The program crosses numerous biological fields, including population biology; behavior and ecology; biodiversity and evolutionary ecology; agroecology; genetics and molecular biology; biochemistry and physiology; entomology; and cell biology. The goal is to provide academically strong and highly motivated undergraduates with a multi-year research experience that cultivates skills that will prepare them for a career in biological research.
Professor Yang, who holds a bachelor's degree (ecology and evolution) from Cornell University, 1999, received his doctorate from UC Davis in 2006, and joined the UC Davis faculty in 2009. In 2013, he received a prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award of $600,000. He was named a UC Davis Hellman Fellow in 2012; the Hellman Family Foundation contributes funds to support and encourage the research of promising assistant professors who exhibit potential for great distinction in their research. He was promoted to associate professor in 2015.
Yang won the 2018 Outstanding Faculty Academic Advising Award from NACADA, also known as the Global Community for Academic Advising; and the 2017 Faculty Advisor Award of Excellence in NACADA's Pacific Region 9, comprised of California, Nevada and Hawaii.
Yang says of the research underway in his lab: “We study how species interactions change over time. We apply a diversity of approaches and perspectives to a diversity of systems and questions. We do experimental community ecology. We also use observational methods, meta-analysis, conceptual synthesis, ecosystem perspectives, and theoretical models. We like data, and we like learning new things.”
Associate Professor Vannette joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology in 2015 after serving as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University's biology department, where she was a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow from 2011 to 2015 and examined the role of nectar chemistry in community assembly of yeasts and plant-pollinator interactions.
Vannette received her bachelor of science degree, summa cum laude, in 2006 from Calvin College, Grand Rapids,Mich., and her doctorate from the University of Michigan's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Ann Arbor, in 2011. She received a Hellman Fellowship grant in 2018 and a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award in 2019 to study microbial communities in flowers and a National Science Foundation grant to support work on solitary bee microbiomes.
Of her research, Vannette says: “ All plants are colonized by microorganisms that influence plant traits and interactions with other species, including insects that consume or pollinate plants. I am interested in the basic and applied aspects of microbial contributions to the interaction between plants and insects. I also use these systems to answer basic ecological questions, such as what mechanisms influence plant biodiversity and trait evolution.”
“The Vannette lab is a team of entomologists, microbiologists, chemical ecologists, and community ecologists trying to understand how microbial communities affect plants and insects (sometimes other organisms, too),” she says. “We often study microbial communities in flowers, on insects or in soil. We rely on natural history observations, and use techniques from chemical ecology, microbial ecology and community ecology. In some cases, we study applied problems with an immediate application including pathogen control or how to support pollinators. Other questions may not have an immediate application but are nonetheless grounded in theory and will contribute to basic knowledge and conservation (e.g. how can dispersal differences among organisms affect patterns of abundance or biodiversity?)”
A native of Puente Alto, Santiago, Chile, he joined the Chiu lab in 2020 and is exploring the molecular and neural circuits that regulate seasonal biology in animals.
Under this Pew program, young scientists from Latin America receive postdoctoral training in the United States, “giving them an opportunity to further their scientific knowledge by promoting exchange and collaboration between investigators in the United States and Latin America—ultimately resulting in advances in research in Latin America,” Pew spokesperson Abigail Major said.
Sergio is one of 10 post-docs from across Latin America—including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay—to receive two years of funding to conduct research. The fellows will work under the mentorship of prominent biomedical scientists, including alumni of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences.
“Sergio's academic and research track record is outstanding,” said Chiu, associate professor and vice chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology. “Although he has only worked in my laboratory for less than a year, I have been very impressed by his drive, independence, ingenuity, and intellect. Given his long-standing interest in understanding how neuronal mechanisms regulate behavior and physiology, his research goals align very well with my laboratory. I am excited he has been named a Pew Latin American Fellow; it is very well deserved. I look forward to partnering with him to study regulation of seasonal biology."
Hidalgo Sotelo wrote his dissertation on “Using Drosophila to Model Schizophrenia Symptoms.” He was awarded a dual doctorate in physiology and pharmacology in 2020 from the University of Bristol, and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. He also holds a master's degree in biological science from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and a bachelor's degree in biochemistry there.
Of his research in the Chiu lab, he explained: “Animals use environmental cues to match their behaviors with the season: as temperatures fall and days grow shorter, birds fly south, and fruit flies curtail their reproduction, Hidalgo Sotelo said. “But little is known about the mechanisms that allow animals to synchronize with the calendar. I will work on elucidating this machinery, using an array of cutting-edge techniques in cell and molecular biology, neurogenetics, and genomics, aiming to identify the molecules that contribute to the seasonal oscillations of EYA, a key component of the seasonal timer previously described by a number of groups, including Dr. Chiu's lab. These findings will broaden our understanding of seasonal biology and could lead to new approaches for treating disorders that display seasonality, including infectious diseases and seasonal affective disorder.”
Another Pew postdoctoral fellow is Mariana Duhne Aguayo of the UC San Francisco lab of Joseph Berke where she is mapping the neural circuits that calibrate how swiftly animals move.
Other postdocs are training in labs at Harvard University, New York University Grossman School of Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, University of Virginia, Washington University School of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, and New York University Langone Health.
Pew Trust officials also announced the recipients of the Pew Scholars in Biomedical Sciences, who include Bennett Penn, assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Medicine's Division of Infectious Diseases. The Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences provides funding to young investigators of outstanding promise in science relevant to the advancement of human health.
Her topic is "How Does the Time of Eating Affecting Our Circadian Physiology?" Access this form for the Zoom link.
The abstract: "The integration of circadian and metabolic signals is essential for maintaining robust circadian rhythms and ensuring efficient metabolism and energy use. Using Drosophila as an animal model, we showed that clock-controlled feeding-fasting cycles is strongly correlated to daily protein O-GlcNAcylation rhythms, which may represent a key post-translational mechanism that regulates circadian physiology. Our results could shed light on the benefits of TRE (or intermittent fasting) and the extent to which modern human lifestyles contribute to the current epidemic of metabolic disorders."
The host is her major professor, Joanna Chiu, a molecular geneticist and physiologist, vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and a Chancellor's Fellow. Liu is currently working in the Chiu lab as a postdoctoral fellow.
For her thesis, Liu explored the interplay between circadian clock and metabolism in maintaining animal health using Drosophila melanogaster as a model. Specifically, she investigated the regulation of cellular protein O-GlcNAcylation by circadian clock and metabolic signals. O-GlcNAcylation is a nutrient senstive post-translational modification that can alter the structure and function of thousands of cellular proteins. She is fascinated by how circadian biology can be shaped by multiple factors through complex mechanisms. Her long-term goal is to understand how molecular pathways are coordinated temporally to maintain animal health and wellness.
Liu received her bachelor's degree in biological sciences in 2014 from Beijing Forestry University, China. She was a recipient of a CSC-UC Davis Joint Fellowship.
Coordinating the fall seminars is Cooperative Extension specialist and agricultural entomologist Ian Grettenberg, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He may be reached at imgrettenberger@ucdavis for any technical issues.
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's seminar on Wednesday, Feb. 26 will feature six “Faculty Flash Talks.”
The seminar, set from 4:10 to 5 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall, will include Joanna Chiu, Jason Bond, Geoffrey Attardo, Rachel Vannette, Julia Fine, and Arathi Seshadri.
Associate professor Joanna Chiu, vice chair of the department, will present “results from a project in which we study the mechanisms by which insects sense environmental changes (temperature and photoperiod) to regulate their seasonal physiology. Our lab has identified a protein that can track seasonal changes in temperature and photoperiod to promote winter physiology. Without this protein, insects don't know winter is coming!”
Her laboratory research interests include molecular genetics of animal behavior, Circadian rhythm biology, and posttranslational regulation of proteins.
Jason Bond, Schlinger Chair in Insect Systematics, is a global expert on spiders. His research interests include systematics, taxonomy, and evolution of terrestrial arthropods with an emphasis on arachnids and myriapods. "We employ molecular, morphological, and ecological approaches to study questions related to evolutionary diversification at multiple hierarchical levels (populations – higher taxa)," he says. (See recent grant.)
Geoffrey Attardo, a medical entomologist/geneticist, focuses his research on insect disease vectors, insect reproduction, vector/parasite interactions, reproductive physiology, male seminal secretions, symbiosis, lactation, nutrition, lipid metabolism, transcriptional regulation, comparative genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics. His research on tsetse flies was recently featured on KQED's Deep Look (see news story on Deep Look). (See news story on landmark research.)
Rachel Vannette, community ecologist and assistant professor who coordinates the department's seminars, says: "All plants are colonized by microorganisms that influence plant traits and interactions with other species, including insects that consume or pollinate plants. I am interested in the basic and applied aspects of microbial contributions to the interaction between plants and insects. I also use these systems to answer basic ecological questions, such as what mechanisms influence plant biodiversity and trait evolution." (See recent research)
Arathi Seshadri and Julia Fine, who recently joined the USDA-ARS lab on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, aim to improve honey bee survival and beekeeping sustainability in California and nationwide. They collaborate with federal, university, non-governmental and industry partners. (See news story on opening of the facility.)
Seshadri, a pollination biologist with expertise in honey bee behavior and plant reproductive strategies, is working with beekeepers and farmer stakeholders to develop projects aimed at finding solutions to the ongoing pollination challenges. Also trained as an evolutionary biologist, she has applied principles of plant-pollinator mutualism, specifically the impact of phytochemicals in pollen and nectar on honey bee health and colony performance. Her contributions to pollinator conservation include enhancing the sustainability of all pollinators, including native bees on farms and urban areas. She also has expertise in agroecosystem-based approaches and citizen science programs to promote pollinator diversity and abundance.
Fine, an entomologist with expertise in insect toxicology, honey bee physiology, reproduction and development, focuses her research on identifying how stressors impact honey bee behavior, health and fecundity. She uses both established and novel laboratory techniques. Her previous projects involved investigating how agrochemical and viral stressors interact to affect the development and survival of honey bee brood and how nutritional stress affects honey bee queen fecundity. In engaging with beekeepers and growers, Fine is researching how realistic biotic and abiotic stressors affect honey bee reproduction, longevity and pollination services, and she is identifying techniques and strategies to overcome these effects.
The seminar is open to all interested persons. For more information, contact Vannette at email@example.com.