I am working as an independent researcher. I collaborate with faculty, researchers and students in the U-M College of Engineering, the Medical School, and the Dept of Mathematics (see People and Research sections).
A hallmark in my research life was receiving my K01 NIH-NIA Career Development Award, to decipher the aging-driven decline of C. elegans spatial learning. I thank NIA for trusting me and my research.
Here is my full CV: GourgouCV (last update: March 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, with 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 also 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. We showed that chemically induced oxidative stress can alter neuronal function, as manifested by altered intracellular calcium dynamics, in nematodes of various ages. We also demonstrated how changed 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 also forged my strong trust in interdisciplinary research.
At the time when I joined the research faculty in U-M Mechanical Engineering Department, I was collaborating with Epureanu group on neuronal network dynamics and single neuron calcium dynamics (ME Dept), and with Dr Ao-Lin Allen Hsu on C. elegans learning and aging (Medical School).
I continue as an independently funded investigator. My research focuses on the neuronal mechanisms of spatial learning. I always use the one and only C. elegans nematode as a model system. In addition to the experimental work, which is mostly conducted at the Institute of Gerontology (Med School), I strive to integrate mathematical models, computer vision and 3D-printing in my research approach (College of Engineering and Math Dept). In addition, I collaborate with experts in robotics theory and control theory (EECS Dept and NJIT), to decipher the charming C. elegans locomotion.