RIFFELLLab | Jeff Riffell Biography
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Jeff Riffell

I was born in Springfield, Virginia, but grew up in Walnut Creek, California. Growing up and hiking in the hills around Mt. Diablo, as well as surfing on the northern CA coast, I grew to have an extreme interest in biology, particularly insects and plants, and by the time I graduated from high school in 1992 and entered UC Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, CA, I had developed a life-long passion in biology. At UCSC I had the good fortune to work with John Pearse, Baldo Marinovich, and other faculty members in the EEB department, which gave me an unlimited opportunity to immerse myself in laboratory research and aided my scientific development. Furthermore, exposure to the work of Phil Crews in the Chemistry Department caused me to become fascinated by the role of chemistry in controlling behavioral and ecological interactions. This interest led me to the work of Dick Zimmer, at UC Los Angeles, who was pioneering work at the interface of community ecology, chemical ecology, neurobiology, and behavior. I was lucky enough to convince Dick to accept me into his lab, and after receiving the B.A. degree in 1996 and a hiatus working as a technician for a couple years, I began graduate studies in Dick Zimmer’s laboratory at UC Los Angeles, in Los Angeles CA. During my dissertation I also had the opportunity to conduct research at Scripps, in San Diego, working with Paul Dayton, Mia Tegner, Kristin Riser and Ygnacio Vilchis. In 2004 I completed a dissertation in the realm of olfactory receptors, chemical ecology, and cell behavior.


By the time I received the Ph.D. degree, I had decided to join the Department of Neurobiology at University of Arizona for postdoctoral research training. I was extremely fortunate to receive a NIH postdoctoral fellowship to work with John Hildebrand and benefitted tremendously by the fantastic postdocs and graduate students in his laboratory (Carolina Reisenman, Hong Lei, Andrew Dacks), as well as other researchers, including Leif Abrell (former student of Phil Crews), Ruben Alarcon, Nick Strausfeld, Wulfi Gronenberg, Dan Papaj, Judie Bronstein, and Goggy Davidowitz. My years as a postdoc were exhilarating, and allowed me to combine ecological and neuroscientific approaches into a single framework I call “neuroecology”.


In 2010, I accepted an appointment as an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington, in the Department of Biology, established my independent lab, and launched a program of research on the neuroecological basis of behavior. UW’s collaborative environment permits members of my laboratory to work with faculty in diverse departments and colleges, from Atmospheric Chemistry to Physiology&Biophysics to Applied Mathematics to Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. At UW my appointment is in the Department of Biology, and I am a member of the Neuroscience Graduate program. I was promoted to Associate Professor in 2015.