Mei Zhen, a professor at the University of Toronto and senior investigator at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, is fascinated by how specific movement patterns are generated by animals. In her recent work, through an elegant combination of optogenetics and physiology tools, she has begun to dissect how animals generate and regulate their movements through a network of neurons and their connections.
How do animals generate distinct patterns of movement? Zhen’s goal during her fellowship is to determine precisely how each neuron—and its connection with other cells—contributes to each motor pattern. She is working on the reconstruction of a developing animal’s nervous system at nanometer resolution by electron microscopy. By assessing the effect of perturbing the activity of each component of the nervous system, she hopes to determine precisely how each neuron functionally contributes.
Zhen received her PhD from the University of British Columbia. She received a Human Frontier Science Program postdoctoral fellowship and has become a leading Canadian neuroscientist with several honors, including an Early Researcher Award from the Ontario government, a two-term Canadian Research Chair in Brain and Behaviour, and the Lawrence and Judy Tanenbaum Research Chair in Developmental Neuroscience at the Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation.