Marta Costa

Marta Costa
Marta Costa

Position: Senior Research Associate

Department: Zoology and Lucy Cavendish College

Keywords: neuroscience, connectomics, brain mapping, fruit flies, olfaction

I am a Senior Research Associate and Project Lead for the Drosophila Connectomics group in the Department of Zoology. I am interested in how animal behaviour is encoded in circuits, with a particular focus on olfaction,

and what mechanisms are used to generate both flexibility and redundancy, allowing animals to adapt to their environments. I am using connectomics to do this, mapping neurons and their connections in a whole fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) brain electron microscopy volume. The fly brain, with 100,000 neurons is small enough to allow us to comprehensively map it, while still exhibiting a broad and complex behavioural repertoire that can be functionally tested. This project is an international consortium between groups in the UK and the US and funded by the Wellcome Trust.

I have been interested in pursuing neuroscience research since my undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Lisbon, Portugal. After completing a MSc Neuroscience at UCL with Jon Clarke, using real-time imaging to analyse zebrafish neurulation, I moved to Cambridge for a PhD. Working in the lab of Pat Simpson, I focused on describing the pathways responsible for the patterning of thoracic bristles in different species of flies.

In 2011, looking to contribute to community resources, I started my first postdoc with the Virtual Fly Brain project (VFB) and later on, also joined FlyBase. Both projects are large research collaborations that collect and integrate Drosophila data (neuronal or genetic, respectively), making it available to the community via a web-based resource. I focused on image analysis and neuroanatomy curation, and in a collaboration with Greg Jefferis (MRC-LMB, University of Cambridge), developed the neuronal similarity algorithm NBLAST, now used by many groups.

Get in touch: mmc46 [at] cam.ac.uk, twitter @martamcosta2