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Featured Scientist: Shawn Lockery (University of Oregon, NemaMetrix)



Shawn Lockery (farthest left) with his old-time music band, the Eugene City Barnstormers. Their motto is, “more harmless than trustworthy!”

My academic research at the University of Oregon concerns the neuronal basis of behavior in one of the smallest brains known to science, that of the nematode C. elegans. This work was founded on developing methodology for recording the tiny electrical signals from individual C. elegans neurons (Figure 1). My contributions to our efforts at NemaMetrix include development of the basic technology underlying our signature instrumentation product, the ScreenChip System (Figure 2).

Figure 1. Patch-clamp recording from single identified neurons in C. elegans. (A) A photograph showing neuronal cell bodies exposed through a slit in the worm’s head, and a patch-clamp recording pipette sealed to a chemosensory neuron. The material above and below the worm is glue, which fixes the worm to the substate. (B) A fluorescence image of same field as in A. The recorded neuron is filled with a green fluorescent protein by which the neuron is identified for recording.
Figure 2. The ScreenChip System.


When asked what his greatest scientific discovery so far was, Dr. Lockery did not hesitate to point us towards this paper.  The paper details how Shawn and his colleagues discovered a simple neuronal circuit that serves as an autopilot for directing nematodes toward their preferred food. As if that wasn’t cool enough, this circuit provides a starting point for goal-directed behaviors in higher organisms as well.

Fun facts about Shawn

Q: If you had a pet worm, what would you name it?

A: Sydney, after Sydney Brenner the founder of C. elegans  research

Q: What is your favorite thing about the ScreenChip System?

A: There’s every reason it shouldn’t have worked…but it did!

Q: Where is your favorite place to travel?

A: Glaciers and snow fields above tree line.


Do you have someone you would like to nominate to be a future Featured Scientist? Let us know by emailing us at [email protected]

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