Yehuda Ben-Shahar promoted to professor of biology

Yehuda Ben-Shahar joined the biology department in 2008. The Ben-Shahar lab uses behavioral, genetic, genomic, biochemical, and molecular approaches to decipher the genetic architectures that drive specific behaviors by using the powerful genetic tractability of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster.  Specifically, members of the Ben-Shahar lab investigate how the action of specific genes in distinct neuronal circuits give rise to behaviors such as feeding and mating decisions. The Lab also conducts research projects about the evolution and genetics of honey bee social behaviors at the Tyson Research Center, and on developing genetically-encoded tools for studying neural functions and behavior in non-Drosophila insect species such as the honey bee and the American grasshopper.


 “My research interests have always been broad. Joining a biology department with so many smart people who are experts in different areas of modern biological research, and the amazingly supportive research environment at WashU in general, resulted in many new projects. For example, I never imagined I would be working on projects in collaboration with developmental biologists, biomedical engineers, microbiologists, and clinicians in neurology and psychiatry. This is a great example of the unique the research environment at WashU in general, and our biology department in particular.

Since I can remember, I always wanted to be an explorer who would discover new animal species in a remote jungle. At some point the idea that “exploring” is something I could do professionally seemed more like a naïve dream than anything real. However, after exploring several different majors in college, at the “old age” of 22 I decided to give biology a try. It was then that I realized that becoming a university professor would be my dream job that would pay me to discover. To be honest, when I finally achieved my goal of becoming an assistant professor at a top institution, I thought that teaching was something that had to be done, but that research is what would give me a true satisfaction of being faculty at WashU. However, I have to admit that I discovered that teaching, especially the amazingly smart and eager WashU undergrads, is extremely satisfying, and an integral part of what makes WashU such a wonderful place for both the faculty and the students.”     

To learn more about Yehuda Ben-Shahar’s research, visit