I am an independently funded research faculty. I collaborate with faculty and students in the U-M College of Engineering, the Department of Mathematics, and the Medical School (see People and Research sections).
My research focuses on the neuronal basis of behavior. I use the one and only C. elegans nematode as a model system. In addition to the experimental work, which is conducted at the Mechanical Engineering Dept and at the Institute of Gerontology (Medical School), I integrate mathematical models, computer vision, and custom 3D-printing in my effort to dissect behavior, and its interplay with aging. In addition, I collaborate with experts in robotics and in control and dynamical systems theory to decipher the charming C. elegans locomotion.
A hallmark event was receiving my K01 NIH-NIA Career Development Award, to decipher the aging-driven decline of C. elegans spatial learning. I am also the recipient of the 2021 Willie Hobbs Moore Aspire, Advance and Achieve Award, UM Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), which recognizes individuals who have served as an outstanding formal or informal mentor to students, and I was one of the selected participants of the 2020 Interstellar Initiative, New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) and the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED).
Here is my full CV: (last update: November 2021)
As an undergraduate biology student in Athens, Greece –my hometown– for my senior year project I studied lizards’ tail autotomy and regeneration, working with Greek species of the genus Podarcis. It was then when I discovered the value of scientific method and the tremendous effect environment can have on organisms’ physiology. My mentors were Drs Stratis Valakos and Panayiotis Pafilis (then a PhD student).
For my PhD research, I worked on animal cell physiology, emphasis on cell signaling pathways, gene expression regulation, and apoptotic/anti-apoptotic mechanisms, using the marine bivalve Mytilus galloprovicialis (Mediterranean mussel) as my experimental system. A fascinating finding of this research was the tissue-specificity of stress response. It struck me how the various systems can work together in harmony and at the same time display distinct sensitivity to a number of environmental factors. This was my first contact with the concept of model systems. My advisor was Dr Catherine Gaitanaki; I was mentored also by Dr Ioanna Aggeli.
For my postdoctoral research, I moved to the University of Michigan (U-M) Mechanical Engineering Department to work on C. elegans neuronal physiology and microfluidics technology, under the supervision of Dr Nikos Chronis. I showed that chemically induced oxidative stress can modulate neuronal function, as manifested by altered intracellular calcium dynamics, in young and older nematodes. I also demonstrated how modified calcium dynamics of a single neuron was sufficient to trigger behavioral changes. During my term in Chronis lab, every day interaction with engineers enhanced my understanding of the endless capabilities of applying state-of-the-art technology to solve biological problems. This experience forged my interest in interdisciplinary research.
Before I joined the research faculty in U-M Mechanical Engineering Department, I was working with Epureanu group on neuronal network dynamics, microbial population dynamics, and single neuron calcium dynamics (ME Dept), and with Dr Ao-Lin Hsu on C. elegans learning and aging (Medical School). My work on learning and memory in the context of aging began during my time in Hsu lab.