Assistant Professor, Biology
B.S., Cornell University
Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin
Communication of nutritional need during infancy is our very first social interaction, laying the foundation for a healthy life by acquiring nutrition for growth and establishing strong social bonds with caregivers. The O’Connell Lab uses a unique biological model—translucent social tadpoles—to uncover how neonates evaluate their nutritional state, recognize their caregivers, and communicate to their caregivers that they need food. We will carry out this research by mapping the molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate neonate feeding behavior and social communication of hunger. These studies have implications for informing preventative strategies and treatments for childhood eating disorders and autism spectrum disorders—two of the most prevalent diseases afflicting the youngest members of our society.