Rajyashree Sen


Rajyashree Sen

Host Institution

Janelia Farm Research Campus
Contact details

Dickson Lab

Janelia Farm Research Campus

19700 Helix Drive, Ashburn, VA-20147

email: senr@janelia.hhmi.org













Background and previous research experience

I completed my BSc. in Microbiology from St. Xavier's College (Kolkata) in India in 2010. During this time I worked on two projects:

1. "Statistical Analysis of Incidence of Respiratory Tract Infections in Adults in an Urban Scenario" [Selected for poster presentation in the 97th Indian Science Congress held at University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram]
2. "Antiglycemic and Antioxidant Property of Mushroom Diet" [Selected for poster presentation in the International Symposium on "Plant Biology and Environment: Changing Scenario" held at the Indian Botanical Society in Allahabad (2008)]
I completed my MSc. in Biotechnology from the University of Hyderabad, India in 2012. I was selected for the IASc-INSA-NASI Summer Research Fellowship (Summer fellowship offered by three renowned national Science Academies) and worked on a project entitled "Expression and Purification of FAAL10 from Mycobacterium tuberculosis" 
My MSc project was on "The Role of Hsp82 in the DNA damage response pathway". Using Sacharomyces cerevisiae as a model system, the objective of this study was to establish if either or both of the transducer kinases –Chk1 and Rad53 – is/are the clients of Hsp82. From our results, we could infer that Hsp82 regulates Rad53 but not Chk1 levels, probably by selectively chaperoning the former. 

Main areas of interest

I am interested in neuroscience and evolutionary biology. My main interest lies in understanding how information is processed in the central nervous system, how decisions are made in the brain and conveyed to the respective motor output systems.

We find several examples throughout the animal kingdom where evolutionarily distant organisms evolve similar behavioral solutions to problems faced in nature (convergent evolution). I am interested to explore whether such convergence at the behavioral level extends to the level of functioning of the underlying neural circuitry. Cracking and comparing neural circuits for the same behaviour in evolutionarily removed species can give us valuable insight about which components of the circuits are fundamental and which are specializations. 

FLiACT project

I will investigate the neuronal basis of directed locomotion using  Drosophila melanogaster as a model system. The objective of my project is to map and characterize the higher order neuronal centers that control directed walking in Drosophila melanogaster.

Recently, a doctorate in the Dickson lab, Salil Bidaye, identified two clusters of higher order neurons, encompassing brain cells and ventral nerve cord cells, which when activated induce the fly to walk backwards (Bidaye SS et al, unpublished). He conducted screens in which he activated or silenced several subpopulations of neurons looking for locomotion defects. This screen uncovered additional lines that show numerous other deviations from the naturally observed directed locomotion in flies. I aim to identify the underlying neuronal components that explain the alterations in locomotion and further incorporate them into the rudimentary circuit that Salil Bidaye has delineated. 
Using intersectional genetic tools (split-GAL4) that enable expression in the overlapping sets of neurons between two lines, the relevant neurons can be effectively parsed from the non-specific neurons. The lab has expertise in calcium imaging and electrophysiology. This will enable me to take my anatomically characterized neurons and incorporate them into a functional map of the circuit for directed locomotion in Drosophila.