Adrian Rothenfluh Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

Background: I have worked with Drosophila for over 25 years.  First, studying the bicoid morphogen at the University of Basel in Switzerland, and then as a graduate student, investigating the circadian clock at Rockefeller University in New York City.  Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated with flies’ behavior.  For my postdoc I switched coasts, to study responses to drugs of abuse in Drosophila at UCSF.

After that, I ran a lab for 9 years at UTSW, in Dallas, and then moved here to the U in the fall of 2016.  My primary appointment is in Psychiatry, but I’m also an adjunct in Human Genetics and Neurobiology & Anatomy.  I’m part of the Molecular Medicine Program, and the Neuroscience Graduate Program.

Projects: The molecular and neural mechanisms of behavior, and how it goes wrong. But see the individuals below for some specifics.

IN-takes I like include research seminars, binge-worthy Netflix offerings, home-made potato gnocchi with butter and Gruyere cheese (a lot of work, but worth it), and I ike a martini, the dirtier, the better.

OUT of the lab, I like to enjoy the mountain views, and getting beaten by my kids at Clue and backyard badminton.

Alexandra Seguin Ph.D.

Research Associate

Collin Merrill Ph.D.

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Background: Ever since taking undergraduate anatomy and physiology, I have been fascinated with neurons and how they work. Following that interest, I earned a Ph.D. in Physiology and Developmental Biology at Brigham Young University, where I studied gene expression within single neurons in the hippocampus and ventral tegmental area. From there, I did a postdoc at University of California, Irvine, where I studied lipid metabolism in single neurons. During that time, I developed a novel lipidomic assay using single-neuron patch clamp electrophysiology coupled with UPLC-MS/MS to study the lipid composition of single neurons before and after physiological stimulation. After that, I came back to Utah to pursue a second postdoc with Adrian Rothenfluh. I am currently working on single-cell ATAC-seq in Drosophila, with particular focus on dopamine neurons. 

Interests: Single-neuron physiology and gene expression, dopamine reward systems, and effects of drug abuse in the brain 

IN-takes: I really enjoy cast-iron cooking and trying new foods. Omelets are a particular weakness—I could eat one every day. For mental intakes, I love Jim Butcher and Brandon Sanderson novels, Star Trek, and nostalgic ‘80s movies. 

OUT of the lab: Golf, skiing, cooking (but not baking), playing with my kids, and making them listen to the music I grew up with (my daughter loves it; everyone else not so much). 

Diana Woller B.S.

Lab Specialist

Travis Philyaw B.S.

Ph.D. Student

Background: I studied molecular biology at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia before moving to Salt Lake City for the UoU’s Bioscience PhD program. Currently, I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy.

Project: I’m actually trying to get my flies addicted to cocaine.  While genetic factors account for ~50% of the risk related to the development of addiction, the identity of genes specific to cocaine abuse disorder is unknown.  Flies are an efficient model for identifying the role of individual genes in complex behaviors, and allow dexterous genetic manipulation at the organismal, circuit, and cellular level.  My goal is to establish Drosophila as a genetic model of cocaine use disorder and identify how individual genes and specific neural pathways influence cocaine addiction.

In-Takes: sweet lake biscuits and limeadexenolinguistics, and Andrew’s (tough) love.

Out of the lab I enjoy searching the desert for energy vortexes to assist in astral projection and contact with extradimensional entities from beyond the third density.

Daniel Lathen B.S.

Ph.D. Student

I am a graduate student in the University’s Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program. While obtaining a B.S. in Neuroscience at Brigham Young University, I discovered my passion for unraveling the mysteries of addiction, which I now pursue in the Rothenfluh lab. Our relatively minuscule understanding of this disease is grossly disproportionate to the enormous devastating effects it has on the world and humanity. My projects revolve around the role of histone demethylases KDM3 and NO66 (epigenetic modifiers) in alcoholism susceptibility. I am attempting to uncover the specific mechanisms that allow these enzymes to modulate alcohol sensitivity and tolerance, including possible modulation of amino acid metabolic pathways. Fascinatingly, I found that simply feeding flies different concentrations of amino acids is enough to change alcohol sensitivity and tolerance. I am also developing novel Drosophila behavioral assays to test anxiety and alcohol withdrawal.

Addison Reed B.S.

Lab Technician

Background: I received my B.S. in Biology at Colorado State University in 2013. After graduation, I worked for the USDA for 2 years researching the genetic mechanisms of resistance to Rhizoctonia solani and Fusarium oxysporum in Beta vulgaris (sugar beets). I have since moved to Utah where I am currently in the Medical Laboratory Science program in addition to working in the Rothenfluh lab.
Projects: I currently work on a project in which our goal is to better understand the actin cytoskeletal pathway’s role in innate aversion to alcohol in the Fan-Shaped body of the Drosophila melanogaster.
In-takes I like are a good IPA (hard to find in Utah), things I cook on my smoker, zoning out to just about anything on tv, and beating Andrew in NHL19.
OUT of the lab, I like to ride my motorcycle, go skiing/snowboarding, and play/ref hockey.

Andrew Butts B.S.

Lab Technician

Background: I am a bachelor’s trained biologist with a wide-range of scientific interests.  I did my undergraduate work at the University of New Hampshire focusing on developmental biology, genetics, and molecular biology.  During my training, I studied predator induced phenotypes in Ambystoma mexicanum, the Mexican Axolotl.  We found that axolotl embryos raised in the presence of predators inhibit growth and have a wider variation of pigmentation. Upon graduation in May of 2017, I moved to Salt Lake City and joined the Rothenfluh Lab.
Project(s): Currently I am investigating the role of the Whir gene in the Drosophila central nervous system in response to ethanol intoxication.  Mutations in Whir alleles lead to ethanol induced sedation resistance, and humans who are resistant to the intoxicating affects of alcohol have a higher propensity for developing addiction.  Therefore, understanding the link between mutations to Whir and their resistance to ethanol intoxication may help inform studies investigating human alcohol addiction. I also work closely with Travis on our cocaine project. The goals of this project are to establish a model of cocaine addiction in Drosophila, and develop a transgenic fly that will self administer cocaine.
IN-takes: I enjoy keeping up-to-date on scientific advancements; specifically in the fields of neuroscience, theoretical physics, and personalized genomic medicine.  Beyond the science, I’m a sucker for a good superhero show/movie, a book that makes you think, and a cold beer or warm bourbon.  I am also a proponent of mindfulness meditation, being aware of your attention can change your life.
OUT: Outside of the lab and my intakes, I love being outdoors and taking full advantage of this great state.  Whether it be rock/ice climbing, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, or snowboarding; there is always something to do outside in every season.

Masa Miscevic B.S.

Lab Technician

Background: Intrigued by a molecular biology and genetics class which I took my senior year of high school, I decided to start a journey in the fascinating world of scientific research by moving from my home town of Nis, Serbia, to The University of Mississippi, where I obtained my Honors Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with Emphasis in Biochemistry degree in May 2018. Amongst taking a variety of classes in chemistry, biology, and neuroscience, I also did research work in Dr. Susan Pedigo’s biochemistry research lab. My research and Honors senior thesis focused on developing analytical methods for milk protein analysis to propose in vitro models for stomach and intestinal processing of milk products in adults and infants. I found my way to Rothenfluh lab and a position as a lab technician as I was looking for a way to have more practical experience in molecular biology and genetics research. I hit the jackpot as I have always been interested in brain and behavior, and working in this lab has been allowing me to experience both molecular and behavioral sides associated with it.  

Projects: I am currently working on the role of phospholipase D (PLD) in insulin receptor pathway associated with alcohol responses, and effects of cocaine and methamphetamine on sleep patterns of dopamine active transporter (DAT) knock-out flies, both accompanied by learning how to maintain my own fly stocks 🙂 

IN-takes I like include cuddling with my aunt and uncle’s dogs Lexy and Cookie (sometimes even with the cat appropriately named Kitty!), singing the biggest Broadway hits in the shower, and reading international classics.  

OUT of the lab, I enjoy hiking, ice skating, admiring the view of the mountains during the morning commute, and discovering the theatrical and musical repertoire of Salt Lake City.  

Puskar Mishra

Undergraduate Researcher