The Visitor Program is unparalleled; no other program in a traditional research setting is likely to dedicate laboratory space and significant research support to a group of visiting scientists to conduct research of their own design.
Professor Ulrike Gaul and graduate student Malte Kremer, from the Gene Center of the LMU Munich, study the role of glial cells in the development and function of the fruit fly brain. As visiting scientists in the Visitor Program, they collaborated with scientists at Janelia Farm to characterize glial-cell specific expression in fruit flies.
The morphology of glia in the adult Drosophila nervous system
The glia in the Drosophila adult brain have only partially been described, and while glial-specific drivers had been found within the Janelia collection of nervous system GAL4 drivers, they were not fully annotated or characterized. In this visitor project, Dr. Ulrike Gaul and graduate student Malte Kremer sought to use the drivers in the Janelia collection to identify all glial cell types present in the adult brain and characterize them with regard to their number, morphology, and intercellular interaction. Screening the entire collection of 7,000 GAL4 lines, they found 800 with glial expression, and 250 that are expressed specifically in glia. Among these 250, they identified not only lines that are generally expressed in all cells of a given glial cell type, but also lines with regionally restricted expression, especially in the optic lobes and the ventral nerve cord. This project will contribute to the understanding of the diversity and complexity of glial cell anatomy and provide important tools for future studies of glial function.
Dr. William Schafer and graduate student, Victoria Butler, from the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge, are collaborating with scientists at Janelia Farm through the Visitor Program to understand how patterns of neuromuscular activity generate C. elegans locomotor behavior.
The coordination of complex body movements uses sensory feedback to detect forces associated with body movements. The molecules involved in the sensory feedback as well as the mechanism by which the neural circuits regulate locomotion are not well understood. In collaboration with Drs. Dmitri Chklovskii and Rex Kerr at Janelia Farm, Dr. William Schafer and graduate student, Victoria Butler, have developed a tracking microscope that allows simultaneous recording of nematode behavior and neuromuscular calcium transients. They have generated transgenic lines expressing the fluorescent calcium indicator GCaMP3 in body wall muscle and sub-classes of motor neurons. The aim now is to use these lines to observe the muscle and neuron activity in behaving worms under different environmental conditions and in different mutant backgrounds. They hope to use the data collected to develop mechanistic models for C. elegans locomotion behaviors.
In addition to supporting the individual research programs of Janelia lab heads, a significant fraction of the resources at Janelia Farm support the Visitor Program, a research program that brings together resident scientists and visiting scientists from all over the world to carry out research at Janelia Farm. Visitors are expected to participate fully in the ongoing intellectual life of the campus.
Visitors range in career stage from graduate students to postdoctoral fellows to very senior, established investigators and represent multiple disciplines: biologists, chemists, computer scientists, engineers, theorists, and physicists, to name a few. To date, 156 visiting scientists from 16 countries have participated in the Visitor Program.
In general, the visitors' research must be collaborative with that of the Janelia lab heads who act as their official hosts.
Individual visitor: One visiting scientist, perhaps with one or two members of his or her research team, is closely allied with the laboratory of an individual Janelia lab head or is part of a collaborative effort between a small number of lab heads.
Short-term visitors: To extend the availability of cutting-edge technology and state-of-the art facilities at Janelia to the larger biomedical research community, we also accommodate short-term visitors of two types:
- HHMI investigators, members of their laboratories, HHMI international scholars, and other members of the scientific community (as capacity allows) who may come to Janelia for periods of a few days to a few weeks to make use of specific equipment or facilities not available to them at their home institution.
- Scientists who may come for a week or two to interact informally with our research community.
For both individual visitors and project teams, various time-sharing arrangements are possible - for example, a full-time sabbatical by the visiting scientist or an arrangement in which the visiting scientist spends one week a month at Janelia but has a person or two in residence full time. The visitor should propose a specific arrangement as part of the proposal. Arrangements extending beyond a year are reviewed on an annual basis.
Available resources may include: laboratory and office space for the visiting scientist while in residence, access to shared resource labs, funds for supplies, travel to and from Janelia, residential housing, and salary support for the visitor or for dedicated staff.
A visitor is hosted by a Janelia lab head. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis. If you are interested in applying to the Janelia Farm Visitor Program, please begin by writing a statement of research interest; include a brief description of the project, requested staff and costs, and a list of potential Janelia lab head collaborators. Send your curriculum vitae and research statement to Dr. Zarixia Zavala-Ruiz.