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Paul M

- Research Program Mentor

PhD candidate at New York University


experimental physics, optics, neuroscience, decision making


For research, my group studies how living brains process information about their environments and use that information to make beneficial behavioral choices. I am part of a team of five people working together on this question, and for my part I have built a microscope that looks in a fruit-fly larva's brain as it crawls around just living its life (no dissection needed!). I have also been mentoring one undergraduate student on a related research project for two years and previously mentored a high school student on a separate project. For teaching, I mostly instruct undergraduate, introductory physics courses and labs of around twenty 18-20 year old students. My hobbies include many nature activities that allow me to explore an area's ecosystem (e.g. hiking/camping, bird watching, fishing) as well as tinkering (primarily with Raspberry Pi single-board computers). I enjoy crafting small things that incorporate electronics, optics, programming, and artistic design that I can then share with my friends.

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Simulated phototaxis

Light is bad news for larvae: It puts them at risk of desiccation and increases their chance of predation. As a result, larvae move away from light, down light gradients from brighter areas to darker areas in some probabilistic way. The underlying computation is unknown, but by modeling this dynamic and comparing simulated paths to actual paths, it may be possible to tease out details of how a larva computes whether it is more beneficial to turn or keep going straight when faced with an increase or decrease of light intensity.

Coding skills

python, matlab

Teaching experience

Taught undergraduate physics courses at George Mason University and NYU. Mentored a high school student on a research project involving robotics. Mentored an undergraduate student on a research project involving convolutional neural networks.



George Mason University
BS Bachelor of Science (2016)
Physics, Applied mathematics
New York University
MPhil Master of Philosophy (2019)
Experimental neurophysics
New York University
PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Experimental neurophysics

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