Summary: My research goal is to understand the physiological mechanisms of behavioral plasticity in organisms. I study a sexually plastic marine fish, the bluebanded goby, that displays adult sex change.  Its sex is determined by the social group it lives in and can transform from male to female or from female to male.  In our lab, we use an integrative approach that includes molecular, subcellular, and systemic levels of biological organization. We investigate endocrinological mechanisms by which neural, sensory and motor systems adapt to a changing external environment.  We use in vitro and in vivo biochemical manipulations, molecular assays, hormone measurements, in-depth behavioral analyses, morphometrics, and measures of reproductive success to assess the hormonal regulation (in both long-term and short-term) of reproductive phenotypes of free-living and captive species fish.  While I am trained as a neuroendocrinologist and most of my work involves neural mechanisms in the context of regulation of social behavior, I have developed interests in other local signaling mechanisms in specific tissues (e.g. reproductive tissues, muscle, spinal cord) that either undergo dramatic changes associated with life history or functional specialization. I plan to further my research in studying how the social or physical environment can regulate neural, muscle, and reproductive physiology in males and females.

Minimum classes: Introductory Biology at a minimum, Physiology is a bonus


  1. Role of brain hormones in regulating social behavior and sex change in a marine fish. This project will entail analyzing changes in dominance behavior in fish living in small social groups. You will also learn how to homogenize tissue samples, extract hormones using solid phase extraction technique and detect hormones using enzymeimmunoassays.
  2. mRNA expression of steroid synthesizing enzymes and growth factors in muscles during parenting. Male gobies care for developing eggs by fanning and rubbing them until hatch.  These behaviors entail intense whole-body movement including their pectoral, dorsal and caudal fins.  Males also have higher levels of the androgen, ketotestosterone, in the muscles attached to the dorsal fin compared to females.  In this project, you will learn to use molecular biology approaches such as RNA extraction, cDNA synthesis and PCR.
  3. Histological analysis of gonads and brain during sex change. Sex change involves gonadal rearrangement and rewiring of the nervous system during that process.  In this project, you will learn to prepare slices of tissues using a cryostat and then using immunocytochemistry to identify enzymes, hormones, and receptors that are localized in different regions of the gonad and brain.
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