Steve is a graduate student at MIT’s Brain and Cognitive Sciences department pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience. His work focuses on finding where single memories are located throughout the brain, genetically tricking the brain cells that house these memories to respond to brief pulses of light, and then using these same flickers of light to reactivate, erase and implant memories. The goals of his research are twofold: to figure out how the brain gives rise to the seemingly ephemeral process of memory, and to predict what happens when specific brain pieces breakdown to impair cognition. His work has been published in Science and covered by New Scientist, Discover, Scientific American, and Gizmodo.
Ramirez aims to be a professor who runs a lab that plucks questions from the tree of science fiction to ground them in experimental reality. He believes that a team-oriented approach to science makes research and teaching far more exciting. When he’s not tinkering with memories in the lab, Ramirez also enjoys running and cheering on every sports team in the city of Boston.
During his PhD, Xu Liu studied the mechanisms of learning and memory, using fruit flies as a model system. By changing the expression of certain genes in the fly brain, he generated smart flies that can learn many times faster than their peers. Using live imaging, he also detected learning-induced changes in the brain cells and observed memory formation inside the brain with light.
After graduation, he moved to MIT and joined Dr. Susumu Tonegawa's lab as a postdoctoral associate. He continued his pursuit of memory with light there. Instead of just watching memory formation, he developed a system in mice where one can not only identify and label cells in the brain for a particular memory, but also turn these cells on and off with light to activate this memory at will. This work was published in Science and has been covered by the media worldwide. Liu passed away in February 2015.