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Pocock Lab research

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About Professor Roger Pocock

Professor Roger Pocock is an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute. Roger leads the Brain Development, Neuroplasticity and Stem Cells Laboratory in the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology. His research group studies the genetic control of brain development and function.

Roger grew up on the south coast of England where he entered the banking sector as a teenager. During his mid-twenties, Roger decided to completely change his career path and studied Genetics and Biochemistry at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth and at Washington State University in the USA.

Roger trained as a doctoral student at the University of Oxford from 2000-2004, where he was first introduced to his favourite model organism - the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. During this period, Roger worked on the transcriptional control of embryonic development before moving into the neuroscience field.

Upon completion of his doctorate, Roger commenced his postdoctoral work at Columbia University Medical Centre in New York City. Here, he again used C. elegans but now to study how the nervous system senses and responds to environmental stress. This work produced groundbreaking studies in the field of hypoxia (low oxygen), insights into which are now being used to design drugs to prevent brain defects in premature newborn babies.

In 2010, Roger started his own research group at the University of Copenhagen. The focus of his research during the early phase of his laboratory was to delineate functions of microRNAs in neuronal development and function, in addition to the control of neuronal fate programming by transcription factors. The Pocock laboratory has already yielded important insights into the genetic control of such decisions. Roger's laboratory continues to decipher mechanisms that control brain development, function and determinants of brain-intestinal communication.

In January 2015, Roger received a Biomedicine Discovery Fellowship and a veski innovation fellowship to relocate his laboratory from Denmark to the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology at Monash University. In 2017, Roger was awarded a NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship for his work on brain-intestinal communication.

curriculum vitae

2020 - Present    Professor, Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Monash University

2015 - 2020        Associate Professor, Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Monash University

2010 - 2015        Associate Professor, Biotech Research and Innovation Centre, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

2004 - 2010        Postdoctoral Fellow, Columbia University Medical Centre, New York, USA

2000 - 2004        D. Phil in Biochemistry, University of Oxford

1998 - 1999        Exchange student, Washington State University, USA

1996 - 2000        B. Sc in Genetics and Biochemistry, University of Wales, Aberystwyth


Our research

Current Projects

1. Control of metabolism through brain-intestinal communication
2. Transcriptional control of stem cell development
3. Elucidating molecular mechanisms that control axon outgrowth and guidance

Visit Professor Pocock’s Monash research profile to see a full listing of current projects.

Research activities

Nervous systems are incredibly complex and contain an astounding diversity of cell types and functions. We use the Caenorhabditis elegans nervous system as a model to dissect gene regulatory pathways that control brain development and function. The C. elegans nervous system uses similar developmental mechanisms and communication systems as the human brain; therefore, is an appropriate model to study the function of conserved genes.

The transparency of C. elegans enables us to study the nervous system in live animals - and with just 302 neurons in the C. elegans hermaphrodite this simplifies the task. We are able to study the nervous system at single-neuron resolution and can manipulate the development and activity of specific neurons using sophisticated molecular techniques.

1. Neuronal cell fate specification
In both the vertebrate and invertebrate nervous systems different neural types can be distinguished based on position, gene expression, connectivity and function. During acquisition of a specific identity, a neuron interprets spatial, temporal and lineage information. We are particularly interested in understanding how the function of specific neurons are programmed during development and reprogrammed during stress.

2. Wiring of the brain
The correct formation of brain architecture requires that neurons migrate to their correct position and then extend axons and dendrites to their specific targets. During development, neurons navigate through a complex environment where they receive signals from the extracellular matrix and guidance molecules. We study the molecular mechanisms that control these complex events during development that often go awry in disease states.

3. Brain-intestinal communication
The nervous system is essential for regulating of food intake and metabolism.  In turn, feedback signals from metabolic tissues to the nervous system are important modulators of appetite, motor activity and sleep. Communication between the nervous system and metabolic tissue is therefore fundamental for maintaining physiological homeostasis. We study the function of the ETS-5 transcription factor, which controls intestinal fat levels from specific neurons in the brain of C. elegans. Understanding the molecular basis of this communication axis will not only contribute to advances in behavioural neuroscience, but will also inform areas such as eating disorders, obesity, and sleep.

4. Stem cell development
The Pocock laboratory uses the germline of C. elegans to gain insight into following aspects of stem cell development.

A. What are the roles for cell surface receptors during stem cell development?
Interactions between extracellular ligands and cell surface receptors are essential during stem cell development. We study how cell surface receptors control conserved signalling pathways to communicate extracellular cues.

b. How do the extracellular forces affect stem cell development?
Extracellular tension at the stem cell niche is a known factor in stem cell fate decisions. We ask how stem cell niche in C. elegans is affected by these forces.

Techniques/expertise

Molecular genetics
Forward and reverse genetics
CRISPR-Cas9
Animal behaviour models
Microscopy

Disease models

Parkinson’s Disease
Obesity
Epilepsy


Collaborations

We collaborate with many scientists and research organisations around the world.  Some of our more significant national and international collaborators are listed below. Click on the map below for details for each of these collaborators (dive into specific publications and outputs by clicking on the dots).

Professor John Christodoulou, Murdoch Children’s Hospital
Professor John Couchman, University of Copenhagen
Professor Oliver Griesbeck, Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology
Professor Oliver Hobert, Columbia University
Professor David Rubinsztein, University of Cambridge
Professor Zhicheng Xiao, Monash University
Associate Professor Alex de Marco, Monash University
Dr Jie Liu, Monash University
Dr Brent Neumann, Monash University


Student Research Projects

The Pocock Lab offers a variety of Honours, Masters and PhD projects for students interested in joining our group. There are also a number of short term research opportunities available.

Please visit Supervisor Connect to explore the projects currently available in the Pocock Lab.