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Anandasankar Ray

Associate Professor of Entomology
Anandasankar 
Ray

Areas of Expertise

Areas of Expertise:
  • Molecular basis of olfaction in insects
  • Vector and pest Insect control
  • Neuronal basis on odor-guided behaviors
College: Department: Press Release / Article: Profile:

Select Honors and Distinctions

  • Recipient of a Research Grant from the Whitehall Foundation (2009)
  • Recipient of Grand Challenges Explorations grant, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2009)
  • Polak Young Investigator Award, Association of Chemoreception Sciences (2006)
  • John Spangler Nicholas Prize, Yale University (2005)

Research Summary

Understanding the molecular, neuronal and physiological basis of insect chemoreception and behavior using an array of powerful molecular, genetic, bioinformatic and physiologic approaches.

Q&A

Q: What 21st century challenges does your research address?
Insects transmit deadly diseases to hundreds of millions of humans and cause billions of dollars in lost agriculture every year. Since most insects use the sense of smell to identify their hosts, we can potentially disrupt host-seeking behavior of insects using cheap, environmentally friendly odors that can be used in small quantities. UCR has incredible strengths in insect chemosensory research ranging from chemical ecology to olfactory and gustatory neurobiology of behavior. The expertise ranges from very basic science to applied areas. Several UCR collaborating laboratories are working to find ways to control insects that transmit diseases like West Nile virus, malaria and citrus greening disease. Our discoveries have the potential to bring about a paradigm shift in controlling these diseases.

Q: How did you get interested in your research field?
As a graduate student at Yale, I started working on olfaction when I realized that the sense of smell is one of the most challenging to understand. My lab tries to understand the mechanisms that underlie insect olfaction. The key research question is: How do insects detect such a wide variety of odors, how does the information get processed and how does it lead to behaviors such as mosquitoes finding human targets?

Q: What is the most common misunderstanding about your research in the general population?
People generally do not realize the importance of studying how insects can smell. Insects have a very strong sense of smell that significantly affects how they interact with humans and crop plants. Understanding and manipulating this system has great potential for controlling their behavior.

Q: What excites you about your work?
What stimulates me most is the intellectual challenge of uncovering fundamental principles in neurobiology, as well as the challenge of translating basic research into applications that can save lives. I also find great satisfaction from helping train the scientists of the future. We’re very excited about our partnership with OlFactor Laboratories, who recently licensed our technology. The company will be developing an inexpensive repellent that inhibits the detection of CO2 using chemicals that are safe and effective at the low concentrations required to control these pests. Our partner shares with us the hope that the new product will have a positive impact on millions of people around the world.

Q: What books and music do you enjoy in your free time?
I’m reading “Our Choice” by Al Gore, and my favorite podcasts are Nature, Science Friday and Prairie Home Companion.
Anandasankar Ray "Insects transmit deadly diseases to hundreds of millions of humans and cause billions of dollars in lost agriculture every year."

—Anandasankar Ray