Mala Murthy, Ph.D.Professor, Princeton University
Mala Murthy is a professor of neuroscience at Princeton University and leads a lab in the Princeton Neuroscience Institute. The lab’s work focuses on the neural mechanisms that underlie social communication, using the fruit fly Drosophila as a model system. Murthy received her B.S. in biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Stanford University; her thesis research centered on mechanisms of vesicle trafficking to synaptic and other cell membranes. She did postdoctoral work in systems neuroscience at the California Institute of Technology as a Helen Hay Whitney fellow. Her postdoctoral work initiated a new area of investigation into stereotypy in the central brain of Drosophila, in a region of the brain important for learning in memory. In 2010, she joined the faculty at Princeton in the departments of molecular biology and neuroscience. Her research group consists of computational neuroscientists and experimentalists, who collectively study the many neural processes that underlie animal communication, including detection and recognition of multisensory cues, decision-making, and execution and patterning of motor actions. She is also involved in an effort to generate a whole-brain connectome of Drosophila. Her work has led to the discovery that sensory feedback cues and brain internal state dynamically modulate song patterning in flies, which has opened up the study of how the brain mediates the back-and-forth exchange of information between individuals, leveraging the tools of the fly model system. Her team has also developed new methods for quantifying animal behavior that have been widely used in neuroscience research. Murthy has received a number of honors, including an NSF career award, an NIH New Innovator award, an Alfred P. Sloan fellowship, a Klingenstein fellowship, a McKnight Scholar award, a NINDS Research Program award, several awards through the NIH BRAIN Initiative, and an HHMI Faculty Scholar award. In 2021, she joined the Multi-Council Working Group that oversees the long-term scientific vision of the BRAIN Initiative.