Saket Navlakha, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Integrative Biology Lab
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
10010 N. Torrey Pines Road
City, State, Zip
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 453-4100
Research Field
Neuroscience; Computational Biology
Award Year


My lab will focus on studying “algorithms in nature”—i.e., how collections of molecules, cells, and organisms process information to solve computational problems that are central to survival. I will explore how animals “search” their olfactory memories to recognize and respond to odors based on previously learned experiences. As a young faculty member, I discovered that fruit flies learn to recognize odors using an approach akin to the similarity search algorithms that allow online databases to recommend videos or music similar to those a user enjoyed in the past. Now, using sophisticated techniques in computer science, machine learning, and neurobiology, my lab will extend this investigation to the olfactory system of mice and identify the computational strategies these animals use to recognize—and to discriminate between—odors that are similar. The same strategies are likely deployed by other brain regions, so our findings could lead to insights into a variety of neurological disorders in which information processing is disrupted. At the same time, we will apply a computational perspective to investigate how plants “solve” the problem of optimizing their growth to most effectively capture and distribute nutrients, work that could lead to the breeding of crops with enhanced yields.

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