Emily Heckman, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow, Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology
Clowney Lab

Areas of Interest

Insects are the most numerically and behaviorally diverse class of animals in the world, and are thus well-suited to revealing mechanistic, circuit-level explanations for behavioral adaptations. Comparative studies of closely related insect species have been at the forefront of revealing how novel innate behaviors arise during evolution. Just as circuits for innate behaviors face evolutionary pressures, so too must circuits that regulate learned behaviors. We know from decades of studies that insect species exhibit variation in the sophistication of their learned behaviors, but we lack any mechanistic understanding, of any system for how the underlying neural circuits are adapted. The goals of my postdoctoral research program are, therefore, (1) To define the functional and architectural elements of neural circuits supporting learned behavior and (2) To discover how evolution has tinkered with these elements to alter learning performances in divergent species.

Honors & Awards

  • 2023 HHMI Hanna H. Gray Fellow
  • 2023 Hearing, Balance, and Chemical Senses T32
  • 2022 FASEB Early Career BioArt Award


  • B.S. Molecular Biology, Lehigh University
  • Ph.D. Biology, University of Oregon

Published Articles or Reviews

  • Heckman, EL & Doe, CQ. (2022) Presynaptic contact and activity opposingly regulate dendrite outgrowth. eLife. 
  • Heckman, EL & Doe, CQ. (2021) Establishment and maintenance of neural circuit architecture. J Neurosci. 
  • Sales, EC, Heckman, EL, Warren, TL, Doe, CQ. (2019) Regulation of subcellular dendritic synapse specificity by axon guidance cues. eLife. 

Web Sites