A leading neuroscientist at Florida Atlantic University has been named a Kavli Fellow by The National Academy of Sciences. Alex Keene, Ph.D., an associate professor of biological sciences in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, recently participated in the 30th Annual U.S. Kavli Frontiers of Science symposium (KFoS), which took place at the Academy’s Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center in Irvine, California.
Keene’s research is focused on understanding the neural mechanisms of sleep loss in Mexican cavefish, and he and his team are investigating the neural circuitry regulating taste memory in fruit flies. He is only the second FAU faculty member to be named a Kavli Fellow. Robert McCarthy, Ph.D., a former assistant professor of anthropology in FAU’s Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, was selected in 2007 and 2008.
“I am honored to have been selected as a Kavli Fellow by The National Academy of Sciences, and I am excited to be in the company of outstanding young scientists who are making important contributions in their fields,” said Keene.
Attendance at the KFoS symposium is by invitation only and attendees are selected from among award winners for early career scientists in the United States and abroad. KFoS attendees include Sloan Fellows, Packard Fellows, MacArthur Genius Grantees, Pew Fellows, Searle Scholars, and Presidential Early Career Awardees for Scientists and Engineers.
The KFoS alumni network now contains more than 5,800 past participants designated as Kavli Fellows, and 14 of them have won Nobel Prizes.
“Alex Keene is one of our most talented and innovative neuroscientists at Florida Atlantic University and his appointment as a Kavli Fellow is a testament to his cutting-edge research, which has important implications for improving quality of life globally,” said Rod Murphey, Ph.D., chair and professor, Department of Biological Sciences in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.
The Academy’s Kavli Frontiers of Science symposia brings together outstanding young scientists to discuss exciting advances and opportunities in a broad range of disciplines. The format encourages both one-on-one conversations and informal group discussions where participants continue to communicate about insights gained from formal presentations as well as the excitement of learning about cutting-edge research in other fields. By doing so, Frontiers of Science helps to remove communication barriers between fields and encourages collaborations among some of the world’s best and brightest young scientists.
The Keene Laboratory is aimed at addressing a central challenge in neuroscience to understand how genes and neural circuits regulate behavior. Keene’s research focuses on the molecular basis for sleep and memory formation using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, and the Mexican blind Cavefish. Powerful genetic tools in the fruit fly allow for precise manipulation of neural circuits, large-scale genetic screens and temporal regulation of gene expression. His research team has used these approaches to identify novel genes regulating sleep-metabolism interactions and map neural circuitry regulating of memory formation. They are currently seeking to build upon these studies by examining the neural basis for memory impairment following sleep deprivation.
In addition, Keene and his research team are interested in understanding how sleep evolves in response to environmental challenge. They are addressing this through experimental evolution studies in fruit flies selected for starvation resistance and through studies investigating the genetic basis for sleep loss in the blind Mexican cavefish.