Professor Gaspar Jekely

Professor Gaspar Jekely

Professor of Neuroscience, Living Systems Institute

‘It is exciting to consider the possibility of having a coffee with a physicist discussing the hydrodynamics of ciliary swimmers and life at low Reynolds numbers.’


I undertook my PhD in Genetics at the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest in 1999 and moved to the EMBL, Heidelberg, Germany as a Postdoctoral Fellow in 2000. I come to the Living Systems Institute from my position as Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Germany.

Highlights of my career to date:

We work on a marine annelid called Platynereis. Our aim is to develop Platynereis into a 'marine C. elegans' where we can study the neuronal bases of behaviour at a single-neuron resolution in a fully mapped nervous system. One of the highlights of our work has been the systems-level description of larval phototaxis, the spectacular behaviour of directional swimming towards light. In the early larva, phototaxis is mediated by a single-neuron eyespot, representing the simplest neuronal circuit in the animal world. In older larvae, phototaxis is mediated by visual eyes. We reconstructed the synaptic-level map or 'connectome' of the visual circuit, from eyes to muscles, representing the first complete visual circuit that has been mapped in any animal.

What excites me most about joining the LSI?

It is the unique opportunity of being involved in the establishment of a new institute with its own culture that hopefully will be very open and interactive. I think institutions that don't have such a collaborative spirit miss out on a lot of ideas.

The research work I will be undertaking in the LSI:

We will continue to develop Platynereis as a model for systems neuroscience. We are particularly interested in analyzing circuits, behaviour, and their modulation by chemical signaling at a single neuron resolution. We will have to develop several new genetic and imaging tools to allow for the precise control of genetically identified neurons in fully mapped circuits. We also look forward to interacting with marine biologists in Exeter and in the South West, exploring a diversity of topics, including chemical ecology, marine pollution, and the establishment of new marine invertebrate lab animals.  

Something about me that you can’t google!

But then it will be possible to Google it! So let's meet at tea break in the LSI.