Navin Pokala’s interests are at the intersections of experiment and computation, and science and engineering. As a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, he developed and experimentally tested algorithms for designing protein molecules. As a postdoctoral researcher at The Rockefeller University, he developed several computational and experimental tools for better understanding how nervous systems generate behaviors.

Pokala and his colleagues have prototyped a diverse set of genetically-encoded light and chemical-activated tools for manipulating and perturbing the activity of individual C. elegans neurons. To comprehensively measure behaviors as they change over time, they have developed a software suite for tracking dozens of animals simultaneously for a spectrum of locomotion behaviors. They are using these tools to experimentally test algorithms for reverse-engineering the nervous system. The team’s goal is that the experimental methods and computational algorithms developed using C. elegans can be applied to more complex nervous systems, including, ultimately, human patients.

Recent Projects and Research

  • Development of synthetic neurotransmission systems
  • Genetic models for neuro-psychiatric diseases, including autism
  • Development of software for automated behavior analysis
  • Design of genetically-encoded fluorescent neuropeptide sensors
  • Neural network modeling of nervous systems
All Research Activities


Gordus AG, Pokala N, Levy S, Flavell SW, and Bargmann CI. Feedback from network states generates variability in a probabilistic olfactory circuit.Cell Apr 9;161(2):215-27 (2015)

Pokala N, Liu Q, Gordus A, Bargmann CI. Inducible and titratable silencing of Caenorhabditis elegans neurons in vivo with histamine-gated chloride channels. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. Feb 18;111(7):2770-5 (2014)

Flavell SW, Pokala N, Macosko EZ, Albrecht DR, Larsch J, Bargmann CI.Serotonin and the neuropeptide PDF initiate and extend opposing behavioral states in C elegans. Cell. Aug 29;154(5):1023-35 (2013)

Garrison JL, Macosko EZ, Bernstein S, Pokala N, Albrecht DR, BargmannCI. Oxytocin/vasopressin-related peptides have an ancient role in reproductive behavior. Science. Oct 26;338(6106):540-3 (2012)

Pokala N, Handel TM. Energy functions for protein design II: adjustment with protein-protein complex affinities, models for the unfolded state, and negative design of solubility & specificity. J Mol Biol. 347(1): 203-227 (2005)

Courses Taught at New York Tech

  • Genetics and Genetics Lab
  • Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology Lab

Contact Info