Cephalopods and humans independently evolved camera-like eyes, a high-pressure cardiovascular system and a complex nervous system. This evolutionary convergence makes cephalopods an ideal comparative model to vertebrates for understanding the complexity of their systems. As a researcher, I am interested in cephalopod novel and convergent traits, and more particularly in the evolutionary processes behind their complex neural system and behaviour.
I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Marine Ecology and Organismal Biology at the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis. As a requirement for my graduation I did a 5-month internship in the Edsinger Lab at the Marine Biological Laboratory, USA, working on the development of genetic tools in Pygmy Squid (Idiosepius paradoxus). Now, I am PhD student at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Germany, in Laurent Department, which focuses on the behaviour, dynamics and emergent properties of neural systems.
Publication of the first sequenced cephalopod genome in 2015 has provided researchers with an immense amount of data. Focus is now shifting to the development of powerful gene editing tools, such as the CRISPR/Cas9 system, to functionally explore and edit the genomes of diverse cephalopod species. My PhD will be devoted to the creation and culture of cephalopods genetically expressing calcium/voltage indicators or optogenetic actuators. The end goal being to couple quantification of dynamic body patterning with imaging/control of neural circuits in species with a wide behavioural repertoire, like the Common Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis).
In order to develop genetic tools, I will start with a 'simpler' species: because of its small size, short generation time, already closed life cycle, and recently published genome, the Hawaiian Bobtail Squid (Euprymna scolopes) is emerging as new model for genetics. This species is being cultured by the MBL Cephalopod Program, which I will be collaborating with in 2019. My project will involve culturing of embryos and adults, design of constructs (transposons, CRISPR/Cas9 cocktails), microinjection in early embryos, imaging techniques and behavioral testing.