The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has appointed Assistant Professor Seth Tomchik as a laboratory head on the Florida campus. Previously, Tomchik was a senior research associate and a member of the Ron Davis laboratory at Scripps Florida.
“It is a genuine pleasure to welcome Seth to our faculty,” said Ronald Davis, chair of the Department of Neuroscience. “I have known Seth for many years, and his work has never been less than outstanding. His contributions to the science of memory and learning have enriched Scripps Florida. I fully expect that those contributions will continue to grow.”
“I’m honored to become a principal investigator at Scripps Florida,” Tomchik said. “I want to thank Ron Davis, who has been an exceptional mentor and advisor, for his support and his thoughtful guidance over the years. I look forward to many more years of friendship and collaboration with him, and all the members of the neuroscience department. It’s a great place to do science.”
Tomchik, who received a prestigious National Institute of Mental Health Pathway to Independence award in 2010, is focusing his research on how the brain influences both innate and learned behaviors. Like many scientists who study memory, he uses the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as a model system to study and decipher the intricacies of neural circuits. Genetic techniques, coupled with in vivo imaging and precise manipulation of neuronal activity, enable him to study how various neurotransmitter pathways are involved in shaping normal behavior and disease.
“When I was at the University of Miami, I looked into sensory coding,” Tomchik said, “that is, how sensory input is processed, sent to brain and then returned to the sensory organs to modulate their sensitivity. That’s how I became interested in studying learning and memory, to examine how learning modifies the way sensory information flows through neuronal circuits. I want to see how this information gets modified in the fruit fly brain and how it gets disrupted in models of human disease. My ultimate goal is to uncover the pathophysiology of diseases such as fragile X and neurofibromatosis type 1.”
Neurofibromatosis type 1 is a tumor disorder that produces tumors within the nervous system, and often results in learning difficulties.
Tomchik received an Honors Program BA cum laude in psychology from the University of Miami in 2001, and a PhD in biology from the same institution in 2005. From 2006 to 2007, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Miller School of Medicine (University of Miami) and later, from 2007 to 2009, at Baylor College of Medicine. Tomchik received a Robert E. Maytag fellowship in 2002 and a National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Biomedical Discovery Training fellowship in 2007. He joined TSRI in 2009.