The project is called LuCelegans (Luce: light in latin; Light–up C. elegans), or the Interactive Worm Project. It is about building the first interactive, physical, 3–dimensional prototype of C. elegans nervous system. Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) is a tiny transparent roundworm, a very broadly used model organism in experimental biology, especially biology of aging, developmental biology, and neurobiology. Moreover, it is the only living organism with a fully mapped nervous system. Although it has only 302 neurons (and >5,000 synapses), this small invertebrate is capable of foraging, mating, decision–making, and learning. The idea is to build a physical medium scale prototype, which will include realistic representations of key neurons (sensory, inter–and motor neurons) and neuronal circuits. The viewer will be able to use proxies to stimulate targeted circuits, which will light up, illustrating neuronal pathways along the worm’s body. The first iteration is planned to include a selected number of neurons and neuronal connections, showcasing key circuits which underly major sensations (chemosensation, mechanosensation, thermosensation) in young adult hermaphrodites. We envision future iterations to include:
- a more complete set of neurons and circuits
- learning circuits
- the effect of aging
- the male nervous system
- behavioral output (evoked locomotion) of neuronal activation
- simultaneous stimulation of >1 circuits, etc.
In addition to applying neuroscience knowledge into building LuCelegans, we aspire to explore:
- interactions with art and design which relate to science–based installations of organismal models
- educational applications (middle–school, high–school, undergraduate students)
- artistic representations interplay with scientific fidelity in neurobiology–inspired installations
- audience interactions with a scientific specimen
- research priorities meeting artistic installations restrictions
The UARTS Faculty Engineering/Arts Student Team (FEAST) will be engaged in achieving the following goals:
- polish the first working prototype, the LuCelegans 1.0
- enrich the sensory modalities included in the model and enhance the ways a viewer can interact with it (LuCelegans 1.1 and 1.2)
- find a home for LuCelegans (e.g. museum, exhibit site in UoM)
- make LuCelegans available and accesible to the broader public
- set the stage for adding the effect of learning (work on LuCelegans 2.0)
We envision our prototype worm to ultimately grow into:
- an adventurous LuCelegans, that will travel to many places and visit many cities
- a friendly LuCelegans, that will invite researchers, students of all ages, and the broader public, to learn more about neuroscience and how the nervous system works
- an arty LuCelegans, that will be aesthetically beautiful and artistically intriguing
- a scientific LuCelegans, that will instigate discussions about the capabilities of nervous systems
- an evolving LuCelegans, that will continuously integrate new traits
- a playful LuCelegans, that will welcome people to play with it and learn from it
- a multifacetedLuCelegans, accompanied by special animations for the viewer to explore
- a responsive LuCelegans, that would actually move because of neuronal stimulation instigated by the viewer
Thursdays, 6:00-7:00pm, Design Lab 1, Duderstadt Media Center
Modality: In-person (interested in the project but unable to be on campus? Contact us to inquire!)
Students apply to a specific role on team as follows:
Electronics, Sensors & 3D Visualization (1 Student)
Preferred Skills: Experience with Arduinos, GitHub, basic circuitry, soldering, and coding;
prerequisites: EECS 183 or equivalent.
Likely Majors/Minors: ARCH, CE, CS, EE, IOE, ME
Sound Engineer & Audio Guide Producer (1 Student)
Preferred Skills: Experience with sound editing and sound engineering is required. Successful candidate will work on the sonic component of the installation, and on an audio guide with scientific content.
Likely Majors/Minors: CE, CS, EE, PAT
Prototype Fabrication (2 Students)
Preferred Skills: Experience with CAD, 3D printing, and laser cutting. Basic carpentry skills will be an advantage. Tasks will include work with vinyl, wood, and acrylic, and integrating electrical circuits, sensors, LED strips, EL wires, etc., to the model.
Likely Majors/Minors: ARCH, ARTDES, BIO, CS, COGSCI, EE, ME, MSE, NEUROSCI, ROB
Neuroscience Relevance (1 Student)
Preferred Skills: Experience with neurobiology, and the structure of neurons and the nervous system. The successful candidate will need to make sure that the prototype adheres to the principles of C. elegans neurobiology and will be responsible for fine-tuning and scientific fidelity. They will prepare the grounds for exhibiting the sculpture to a museum and collaborate with the audio guide producer.
Likely Majors/Minors: BIO, COGSCI, NEUROSCI
Faculty Project Lead
Eleni Gourgou received her BS in Biology from National & Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA), Greece, in 2003 and earned her PhD in Animal Cell Physiology also fromNKUA in 2010. She joined University of Michigan in 2011 as a postdoctoral fellow, working with microfluidic biochips and bio–MEMS. Later, she shifted her focus on the dynamics of biological systems and in 2015 she began working on memory and learning in invertebrate animals. She is currently a Research Faculty, in the rank of Assistant Research Scientist, splitting her time between Mechanical Engineering Department and the Institute of Gerontology, Medical School. Her research interests lie at the interface of neurobiology, dynamics of biological systems, and behavioral neurogenetics on one side, and emerging technologies (e.g. 3D printing), mathematical biology, and imaging techniques on the other. To answer exciting neurobiology and aging–related questions, she uses the nematode C. elegans as a model system. She is the recipient of a NIH–NIA K01 Career Development Award.
Likely Majors/Minors: ARCH, ARTDES, BIO, CE, COGSCI, CS, EE, IOE, ME, MSE, NEUROSCI, PAT, ROB
Meeting Details: Thursdays, 6:00-7:00pm, Design Lab 1, Duderstadt Media Center
Application: Consider including a link to your portfolio or other websites in the personal statement portion of your application to share work you would like considered as part of your submission.
Summer Opportunity: Summer research fellowships may be available for qualifying students.
Citizenship Requirements: This project is open to all students on campus.
IP/NDA: Students who successfully match to this project team will be required to sign an Intellectual Property (IP) Agreement prior to participation.
Course Substitutions: CoE Honors