Manu Prakash, Ph.D.

We are a curiosity-driven lab, broadly interested in developing precision measurements tools for biological systems at ecological scales. A simple bite from an insect is the transmission mechanism for many deadly diseases worldwide–including malaria, yellow fever, dengue, and Lyme disease. Very little is known about how populations of numerous insect species and disease-causing parasites interact in their natural habitats due to a lack of measurement techniques. Our current work enables high-throughput field ecology to unravel insect-parasite interactions in field conditions. Combining techniques from engineering and field ecology, we will create microfluidic tools to measure infection rates for West Nile, malaria, and dengue in mosquito populations in field conditions. We will further develop citizen science approaches for vector identification for mosquitoes. Finally, turning our focus on micro-ecology, we will develop in vivo imaging techniques to track live parasites in mosquito populations. These innovations will not only bring quantitative measurement principles from physics to the study of field parasitology, but they will also have wide-ranging applications in medical entomology and insecticide resistance. Ultimately our research may inform government policy via surveillance and may protect the public from deadly vector-borne diseases such as malaria.
Keywords: High-throughput ecology, Vector-parasite interactions, Field surveillance, Mosquitoes