“The Sloan Research Fellowship Program recognizes and rewards outstanding early-career faculty who have the potential to revolutionize their fields of study,” according to the foundation, which provides $75,000 of funding with the prestigious fellowship.
Flavell said the award will help him conduct experiments that uncover the basis of how organisms neurally represent needs and desires, such as hunger, and then act upon them in their environments, such as by roaming around in search of food.
“Over the course of each day, an animal’s nervous system may transition between a wide range of internal states that influence how sensory information is processed and how behaviors are generated,” he said. “These states of arousal, motivation, and mood can persist for hours, play a central role in organizing human behavior, and are commonly disrupted in psychiatric disease. However, the fundamental neural mechanisms that generate these states remain poorly understood.”
Flavell’s lab plans to use a multidisciplinary experimental approach in their studies, which employthe simple model of the C. elegans worm whose nervous system contains only 302 neurons. Though simple, the model has proven to produce important insights across many areas of biology.
“We envision that these studies will ultimately reveal fundamental principles of neural circuit function that may generalize across animals.” Flavell said.
Flavell joins six other Picower Institute faculty members (Bear, Choi, Littleton, Miller, Nedivi and Wilson) in earning a Sloan Research Fellowship.
“I'm honored to be included among so many talented current and previous Sloan Fellows, and I'm deeply appreciative of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for supporting our work,” he said.