Ed is the George Packer Berry Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. He is a graduate of the City College of New York (BS in Biology and Chemistry) and The University of Michigan (Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry). His post-doctoral studies were at NIH with Drs. Earl Stadtman and P. Roy Vagelos. Thereafter he went to Harvard Medical School in 1961, rising rapidly to the rank of professor in 1969. Ed’s research interests, have centered on neurotransmitters and neuromodulators, and now focus on the role of such substances in aggression. In 2002 the laboratory shifted to the study of fighting behavior using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as a model organism from the previous lobster model.
In earlier studies, Kravitz and his colleagues (Kuffler, Potter, Otsuka, Iversen and Hall) were the first to demonstrate that GABA was a neurotransmitter, and with Tony Stretton was the first to demonstrate that an intracellular fluorescent dye could be successfully used to determine neuronal geometry.
In addition to being a member of many professional societies including the Society for Neuroscience and the International Society for Neuroethology (where he became President in August 2004), Dr Kravitz is a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine where he served on the Governing Council, is a Fellow of the AAAS, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among his awards and honors, Dr. Kravitz is most proud of his "Lifetime Achievement in Mentoring" award from Harvard Medical School in December of 1998, and the "Education" Award from the Association of Neuroscience Departments and Programs that was awarded in November 2001 and shared with his long-time colleagues Drs. Edwin Furshpan and David Potter.
Ed has long-standing interests in education. He teaches a graduate course on The Neurobiology of Disease and participates in ethics discussion groups for graduate students at Harvard Medical School. He has served as the director of the Neurobiology Course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, was the co-founder and first chairman of the Neurobiology of Disease Teaching Workshops at the Society for Neuroscience, and the founder and first director of the highly successful graduate Program in Neuroscience at Harvard University. He is committed to the education of minorities in the sciences and medicine, and has worked with Native American, Black and Hispanic students and student groups at Harvard, at the Marine Biological Laboratory, and at his alma mater, City College of New York. Dr Kravitz has lectured to high school students at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting, and works with Project Success (for minority high school students) at Harvard Medical School. Until recently he served as a Chair of: an NIH-funded Center of Biological Research Excellence (COBRE) External Advisory Committee (EAC) at the University of Puerto Rico; the EAC for a Specialized Neuroscience Research Program (SNRP) grant from NIH at The University of Texas at San Antonio; and the EAC for the Keck Foundation Center in Behavioral Biology Program at North Carolina State University.
Ed's memoir about Neurobiology in the 60s
Yick Bun Chan
I am currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the laboratory of Dr. Edward Kravitz at Harvard Medical School where I have used Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism to study the molecular and neuronal basis of innate behaviors.
As a graduate student at the University of Oxford, I successfully performed a mutagenesis screen to establish a Drosophila model of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a neurodegenerative disease in humans, and subsequently characterized its molecular and cellular mechanisms. Then, as a postdoctoral fellow, I focused on the neural mechanisms that underlie sexually dimorphic behaviors in Drosophila. Using different transgenic and imaging techniques, I identified the neural circuit that mediates male patterns of aggression. More recently, I initiated and developed a intersectional genetic screen that laid out the foundation of several projects, in which I collaborate with several postdoctoral fellows in my current laboratory to study the neuronal basis of aggression.
I attended college at Mount Holyoke in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where I first fell in love with scientific research and Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. While there, I studied how tissue-specific gene expression directs growth and cell death during metamorphosis. I went on to receive my Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in the lab of Thomas Jongens, where I wrote my thesis on the role of insulin signaling in abnormal memory and circadian behavior in a fly model of fragile X syndrome.
In July of 2017, I joined the Kravitz Lab at Harvard Medical School. My current project is examining the neurological basis for differences in male and female fighting patterns seen in Drosophila. Previous work in the lab has shown that masculinization of some regions in the brain can causes females to fight like males. I plan to expand on this work by identifying small groups of neurons that promote male-like fighting behavior when masculinized. I will then determine how these neurons differ morphologically and transcriptionally between males and females.
I completed my doctoral degree with honors from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and New Jersey Medical School at Rutgers University. . As a predoctoral student, I developed the novel hypothesis that antipsychotics can induce weight gain by direct action on the intestine rather than through indirect central nervous system mechanisms. It was highly praised by the National Institute of Mental Health for its novelty and potential to alter clinical use of antipsychotics by patients and minimize weight gain and its associated co-morbidities, thereby improving the lives of those suffering from mental illnesses. I was awarded the Mental Health Dissertation Research Grant (R36), an NIH predoctoral award, to support this research project. In 2010, I was also awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship and Rutgers University Foundation Honor Society Fellowship for Research Scholars.
In 2016, I came to Harvard Medical School (HMS) to pursue my postdoctoral training under the mentorship of Dr. Edward Kravitz. My research interests focus on how changes in gene expression in amine neurons and amine neuron-containing circuits produce changes in social behaviors, especially aggression. My current project is to determine the localization and function of proteins whose corresponding genes are responsible for the hyper-aggressive “bullies” phenotype in Drosophila melanogaster. These findings will eventually lead to a better understanding of a wide range of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia. In addition, my work will further elucidate the role gene expression plays in determining human behavior. My overall career aspirations involve understanding key mechanisms underlying aggression in neuropsychiatric disorders and using this knowledge to improve existing treatments and advance neuropsychiatric research.
Since the beginning my fellowship at HMS, I have also been profoundly committed to mentoring young scientists. I am currently a member of the Executive Committee of the Health Professions Recruitment & Exposure Program (HPREP) at HMS and I serve as one of the Mentoring Directors. A major purpose of HPREP is to equip underrepresented high school students with the proper skill sets and knowledge to succeed in STEM fields, especially the biosciences. In addition to mentoring, I’ve been engaged in diplomacy work to strengthen the relationships of American and Cuban scientists through collaborative idea sharing and hosting symposiums at Harvard on Cuban public health and epidemiology. These efforts have culminated in promising collaborations with officials from the academic and government sectors. Maxim Throne from Yale University, Chief Political Officer Justin Davis from the Obama Administration, Dr. Gregory Petsko and Elsie Spencer at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Dr. Kravitz have been actively involved in my diplomacy work. Through these concerted efforts, we have established successful partnerships focused on student exchanges between American and Cuban academic research institutions, with HMS being the host institution.
I am also currently on the Editorial Board of the Harvard Medical Postdoc Association’s volunteer Review Group. We recently established this program to help fellow scientists succeed throughout the publication process by providing constructive criticism on their manuscripts prior to the first submission and for the revision submissions.
I am a Post-doctoral research fellow in Kravitz lab since June 2017. I received my Bachelors and Masters degrees from University of Calcutta, India and my Ph.D. (in Biochemistry) from Iowa State University under the guidance of Prof. Kristen Johansen. In my Ph.D, I studied the genetic control of animal development. In my post-doctoral fellowship, I am studying the genetic control of animal behaviors, specifically, aggression. I am currently engaged in delineating a specific-neural circuitry behind regulation of aggression. In addition, I am also interested in studying the link between sleep and aggression and understanding how one may influence the other.
I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Dr. Kravitz lab.
Following my undergraduate studies in Biological Sciences at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece, I did a Masters in Neuroscience at the University College London, UK, where I studied the molecular underpinnings of the hyperactive phenotype in the NK1 mouse model of ADHD in Dr. Stephen Hunt's lab. As a doctoral researcher at the University of Pittsburgh in Dr. Donald DeFranco's lab, I studied the effects of the synthetic glucocorticoid, Dexamethasone, on the biology of neural stem/progenitors of the developing mouse telencephalon. Then, as a postdoctoral researcher at Brown University in Dr. Erica Larschan’s lab, I have been working on the molecular and transcriptional regulation of neurogenesis and brain development in Drosophila melanogaster.
I have recently expanded my research on this topic by joining Dr. Kravitz’s lab in July 2017, where I have been awarded a Fix Fund Postdoctoral Fellowship by the HMS Neurobiology Department, to study the development of aggression-selective serotonergic neurons in Drosophila. Previous work in the lab has shown that these cells specifically control the transition to higher levels of aggression. I am interested in studying the development of this serotonergic circuitry in normal and aberrant conditions, in order to gain more insight into how changes in the function of the seretonin transmission lead to higher levels of aggression. The ultimate goal of this project is to better understand the mechanisms of aberrant aggressive behavior as seen in neuropsychiatric disorders or as in the extreme case, of the self-inflicted aggressive act of suicide.