Liz Ronan

Shawn Xu Lab

210 Washtenaw Ave., 6239 LSI
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2216



My work seeks to uncover mechanisms by which organisms detect, perceive, and respond to sensory cues in order to adapt and survive in an ever-changing environment. To address these questions, my research in the Shawn Xu lab primarily uses the model organism C. elegans, as these roundworms have a simple nervous system, tractable genetics, and a rich repertoire of behaviors. Our laboratory takes a multidisciplinary approach to understand sensory biology by combining functional imaging, molecular genetics, optogenetics, behavioral analysis, and electrophysiology. My research utilizes these tools to discover basic mechanisms of sensation that are conserved in higher organisms.

My research interests are driven by my curiosity to discover the underlying mechanisms of sensory biology. Basic science research provides the starting platform for understanding the more complex mechanisms that mediate all aspects of physiology, health, and life. I chose to pursue my PhD in MIP at the University of Michigan because of how incredibly supportive and collaborative the environment is for the graduate students.

My long term career interests are to pursue an academic career driving discovery of sensory biology using invertebrate models. This field allows me to apply the scientific method to explore my innate philosophical curiosity of understanding the fundamental mechanisms underlying the nature of sense and perception. This research will also significantly contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge and human health. I hope to advance public interest and engagement in biomedical research, especially with respect to basic science research.

Published Articles or Reviews

+co-first authors

  • Gong, J.+, Liu, J.+, Ronan, E.A.+, He, F.+, Cai, W., Fatima, M., Zhang, W., Lee, H., Li, Z., Kim, G.-H., et al. (2019). A Cold-Sensing Receptor Encoded by a Glutamate Receptor Gene. Cell, (174) 1–12.
  • Wescott, S. A., Ronan, E. A., Xu, X.Z.S. (2016). Insulin signaling genes modulate nicotine-induced behavioral responses in Caenorhabditis elegans. Behavioural Pharmacology, 26(7):627-705.
  • Zhang, B., Xiao, R., Ronan, E.A., He, Y., Hsu, A.L., Liu, J., Xu, X.Z.S. (2015). Environmental temperature differentially modulates C. elegans longevity through a thermosensitive TRP channel. Cell Reports, 11(9):1414-1424.
  • Xiao, R., Chun, L., Ronan, E.A., Friedman, D.I., Liu, J., Xu, X.Z.S. (2015). RNAi interrogation of diet modulation of development, metabolism, behavior, and aging in C. elegans. Cell Reports, 11(7):1123-1133.