Arpiar Saunders receives a Helen Hay Whitney Fellowship.

Arpy Saunders has received a three-year post-doctoral fellowship from the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation (HHW), marking another step on his scientific journey that started in a cabin in the New Hampshire woods. Having grown up there, it is no surprise that, before coming to our lab, he studied outdoorsy science such as bird behavior in Alaska and the genetics of wildflowers in Montana. Yet, he has a strong interest in language as well: he knows German and Armenian, studied quantitative linguistic phylogenetics at the Max Planck Institute, and taught English to children on a Micronesian island (though he may have been referring to the day our coffee machine broke and the entire lab resorted to grunting at each other).

Arpy’s fellowship proposal focused on using Drop-seq to study brain development in mice. He plans to analyze massive single-cell data together with human genetics data to understand how development of particular neural circuits may affect psychiatric illness. In addition to using single-cell transcriptomics to describe the global process of brain development, he will also build an experimental framework to study those changes functionally.

Despite the challenges, Arpy says he is excited about the research and the fellowship, which hosts yearly scientific retreats where he can meet and mingle with the other fellows. If he’s lucky, perhaps one will be held in a cabin in the New Hampshire woods.

By Christina Usher