I received my Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA), Greece, and earned my PhD in Animal Cell Physiology in 2011, also from NKUA. As a next step, I joined the University of Michigan as a postdoctoral fellow, and worked on microfluidic biochips and bio-MEMS (MicroElectroMechanical Systems) to explore neuronal function under oxidative stress. Later, I shifted my focus on the dynamics of biological systems, and in 2015 I began working on learning and aging, and on developing new behavioral assays for small invertebrate animals.
I am currently a Research Faculty in UM Mechanical Engineering Department, in the rank of Associate Research Scientist. I use the nematode C. elegans as a model system, and my research interests lie at the interface of neurobiology, biology of aging, neuromechanics, and behavioral neurogenetics on one side, and new technologies (e.g. 3D printing), mathematical biology, and imaging techniques on the other. In addition, I collaborate with experts in robotics and in control and dynamical systems theory to decipher C. elegans locomotion dynamics, and I explore the impact of artificial microgravity on physiology and behavior. In parallel, I am interested in Arts/Science/Engineering integration, and I am leading a team of artists, designers, scientists, and engineers, who are building the first 3-dimensional, interactive installation of C. elegans’ nervous system.
I am the recipient of a K01 NIH-NIA Career Development Award, to decipher the aging-driven decline of C. elegans spatial learning, and 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. I was one of the selected participants of the 2020 Interstellar Initiative, sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) and the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED).
Here is my full CV (last update: November 2022)
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.