Dennis Mathew

Associate Professor, Co-director of Integrative Neuroscience Graduate Program
Headshot of Dennis Mathew


  • Assistant Professor, University of Nevada, Reno, 2014 - present
  • Associate Research Scientist, Yale University, New Haven, 2012 - 2014
  • Postdoctoral Associate (Lab of Prof. John Carlson), Yale University, New Haven, 2006 - 2012
  • Research Assistant (Lab of Prof. Vivian Budnik), University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2000 - 200

Research summary and ongoing research projects in the Mathew Lab:

The ability of an animal to detect, discriminate, and respond to odors underlies survival in the animal kingdom. Thus, the ability of a set of olfactory neurons to sample the environment and quickly and accurately transform the information into a behavioral response is critical to life. While a considerable amount of information has been generated, in various animal systems, regarding the sensory responses of an animal to various odors, much less is known about the modulation of these sensory responses by the animal's internal state (e.g. hunger, thirst, stress etc.) and the role of individual components of the olfactory circuit in driving behavioral output. Our investigation of an insect olfactory system spans multiple disciplines including neuroscience, behavior, physiology, molecular, and computational biology. Our integrated approach to investigating olfactory circuit function has led to several basic and applied research interests outlined below;

  1. Starved state-dependent modulation of olfactory sensory neurons Collaborator: Dr. Lucia Prieto-Godino (Francis Crick Institute, London, UK) We want to characterize the molecular mechanisms within OSNs that enable them to remain flexible and adapt to a particular internal state. Breakdown in these signaling mechanisms leads to abnormal food-search behavior and feeding habits in animals, which in turn lead to disease states such as obesity. Funding Support: This project is partially supported by NIH COBRE award P20 GM103650. Seeking additional funding
  2. Differential contributions of larval olfactory sensory neuron to navigational behavior Collaborator: Dr. Deena Schmidt, Asst. Professor, Dept. of Math & Statistics, UNR The overall objective of this project is to determine precise contributions of every OSN in an animal to olfactory behavior and develop computational models based on weighted integration of these peripheral inputs in odor coding circuits. Funding Support: This project is supported by NIH COBRE award P20 GM103650.
  3. Strategies to target key mosquito host-seeking factors governing human host preference. Collaborator: Dr. Andrew Nuss (ANVS, UNR) The goal of this project is to genetically modify mosquito odorant receptors to create a mosquito strain that ignores or actively avoids humans. Funding Support: This project is supported by a DARPA-YFA awarded to Dr. Andrew Nuss. Dr. Mathew is a supporting PI.
  4. Explore how neonicotinoid pesticides affect the sensory mechanisms underlying wild bee nutrition. Collaborator: Dr. Anne Leonard (Biology, UNR) The goal of this project is to test the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on Bee olfaction and fitness. Funding Support: This project is supported by a USDA-NIFA-AFRI grant awarded to Dr. Anne Leonard (PI) and Dr. Mathew (Co-PI)
  5. Harness insect chemoreceptors to expand plant sensory capabilities for the detection of illicit substances. Collaborators: Dr. Jeffrey Harper (Biochemistry, UNR), Dr. Andrew Nuss (ANVS, UNR), Dr. Won-Gyu-Choi (Biochemistry, UNR) The objective is to engineer plant biosensors based on signaling through olfactory receptors engineered into plants from insects and other non-plant organisms. Reliable and efficient detection of illicit substances such as toxins, explosives, and narcotics has long been a challenge for military and law enforcement agencies. Plan for Grants to apply: DARPA-APT.
  6. Optogenetic control of a Flying Fly’s sense of smell Collaborator: Dr. Floris van Breugel (Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, UNR) The overall goal is to build technology and methodology that will make it possible to separate the olfactory experience from the wind, making it possible to independently control these two stimuli to systematically study how they are integrated in the brain. Plan for Grants to apply: NSF-EAGER in Nov 2019
  7. Neuro based soft robotics Collaborators: Dr. Jennifer Hoy (Asst. Professor, Biology, UNR) The objective for this collaboration is to investigate the effect of infection and diet breadth of herbivorous larvae on the adult insect’s ability to navigate olfactory cues related to oviposition sites. Funding Support: NSF-REU (Dr. Mathew is a supporting PI)
  8. Biophilosophy of Olfaction Collaborators: Dr. Benjamin Young (Asst. Professor, Philosophy) The long term objective of this collaboration is to develop an interdisciplinary research and teaching program devoted to the philosophy and biology of smell as it concerns the perceptible object of olfaction Funding Support: NSE award (UNR micro-grant).


  • Ph.D., (Molecular & Cellular Biology), University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2006
  • M.Sc., (Biotechnology), M.S. University, Vadodara, India, 1998
  • B.Sc., (Microbiology & Biochemistry) SIES College, Mumbai, India, 1996


Google Scholar Profile


  • Young B, Escalon J, and Mathew D. “Odors: from chemical structures to gaseous plumes”. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews (Accepted for publication, Jan 2020)


  • Slankster E, Kollala S, Baria D, Dailey-Krempel B, Jain R, Odell SR and Mathew D. “Mechanism underlying Starvation-dependent modulation of olfactory behavior in Drosophila”. (2019) (Deposited in the preprint server bioRxiv).
  • Slankster E, Lee C, Hess K, Odell SR, Mathew D. “Effect of gut microbes on olfactory behavior of Drosophila melanogaster larva”. (2019) BIOS 90 (4), 227-238.
  • Slankster E, Odell SR, Mathew D. “Strength in diversity: functional diversity among olfactory neurons of the same type”. (2019) Journal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes 51(1):65-75


  • Clark DA, Odell SR, Armstrong JM, Turcotte M, Kohler D, Mathis A, Schmidt DR, Mathew D. “Behavior Responses to Chemical and Optogenetic Stimuli in Drosophila Larvae”. (2018) Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience 12:324.
  • Clark, D. A., Kohler, D., Mathis, A., Slankster, E., Kafle, S., Odell, S. R., Mathew D. “Tracking Drosophila Larval Behavior in Response to Optogenetic Stimulation of Olfactory Neurons”. (2018) J. Vis. Exp. (133), (2018).


  • Newquist G, Novenschi A, Kohler D, Mathew D. “Differential contributions of Olfactory Receptor Neurons in a Drosophila olfactory circuit”. (2016) eNeuro 2016; 3(4)

Other Select Publications

  • Mathew D, Martelli C, Kelley-Swift E, Brusalis C, Gershow M, Samuel, A.D.T, Emonet T, Carlson JR. “Functional diversity among sensory receptors in a Drosophila olfactory circuit”, (2013) Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. June 4; 110(23):E2134-43
  • Gershow M, Berck M, Mathew D, Luo L, Kane EA, Carlson JR, Samuel ADT. “Controlling airborne chemical cues for studying navigation in small animals”, (2012) Nature Methods, Jan 15; 9(3):290-6
  • Kreher SA, Mathew D, Kim J, Carlson JR. “Translation of sensory input into behavioral output via an olfactory system” (2008) Neuron July 10; 59(1): 110-24
  • Mathew D, Ataman B, Chen J, Zhang Y, Cumberledge S and Budnik V. “Novel mechanism of wingless signaling at synapses via DFrizzled2 cleavage and nuclear import” (2005) Science Nov 25; 310 (5752): 1344-7.
  • Mathew D, Popescu A and Budnik V. “Drosophila amphiphysin functions during synaptic Fasciclin II membrane cycling” (2003) J Neurosci. Nov 19; 23(33): 10710-6.
  • Mathew D, Gramates LS, Packard M, Thomas U, Bilder D, Perrimon N, Gorczyca M, and Budnik V. “Recruitment of scribble to the synaptic scaffolding complex requires GUK-holder, a novel DLG binding protein” (2002) Curr Biol Apr 2; 12(7): 531-9.

Classes taught

  • BIOL-475/675 (Neurobiology)
  • BIOL-395 (Laboratory in Genetics and Cell biology)
  • BIOL-601 (Neuro Journal Club)