Our lab combines mathematical modeling and quantitative experiments to understand the biological computations that enable organisms to sense and navigate their chemical environments. Chemical navigation involves many non-trivial computations and therefore provides a quantitative framework for discovering how biological systems compute, and how computations are implemented in molecular and cellular mechanisms. As model systems, we use the well characterized bacterial chemotaxis and fly olfaction systems. The dual perspective of microbiology and neuroscience helps reveal general principles while fostering innovation by cross-pollinating ideas.

We focus on the following three area:

  1. Sensing and processing chemical signals: We investigate how cells and groups of cells detect the intensity and identity of chemical signals and the role of fluctuations in this process.
  2. Integrating sensation and behavior to navigate: We investigate how organisms integrate new information captured by their sensors with past evidences to make decisions and navigate the world. Central to this problem is the realization that past decisions influence the stimuli experienced next.
  3. From individuals to emerging group composition, structure and function: In biology, functions are typically carried by groups of cells that express similar genes, yet exhibit phenotypic diversity. A central focus of our lab is to discover basic rules by which phenotypic diversity modulates isogenic populations’ performance, and how function and spatial organization at the scale of the group (microbial population, developing tissue) emerges from interactions and coordinated behavior of individual cells

We address these questions at the molecular, cellular, and behavioral levels by combining molecular and biophysical experimental methods with predictions from theory and simulations. Our lab is interdisciplinary. We have open positions for postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students with training/interests in microbiology, neuroscience, molecular biology, physics, mathematics and engineering.

The Emonet Lab is gratefull for funding from: The National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, The Whitehall Foundation,  The James S. McDonnell Foundation, The National Science Foundation, The National Academies Keck Futures Initiative, and The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.


February 18, 2021
The K99 Pathway to independence award supports outstanding postdoctoral researchers’ transition to an independent tenure-track faculty position. Well done Nirag! So proud of...
When there is no signal, uncertainty about what signal may come next is high and the population edges its bets by exhibiting strong diversity in the sensitivity of the individual cells (broad distribution in K1/2) to many different signals. But once a given signal L exceeded a threshold (L0 predicted by the mathematical model), the sensory diversity collapsed, enabling the entire population to 'focus' on that particular signal.
November 17, 2020
Keita’s paper in Science Advances is out: he discovered a mechanism that allows an isogenic population of bacteria to rapidly adjust its phenotypic diversity when...
November 3, 2020
Mahmut’s and Nirag’s paper reveals how walking flies use the timing of their encounters with odor packets swept by the wind to navigate to the source of the odor...