The Department is delighted to announce that Dr Armin Lak has been appointed to the APTF in integrative neuroscience in association with St John's College, commencing 1 October 2023.
Dr Lak joined DPAG in July 2019 after being awarded a prestigious Wellcome Trust Henry Dale Fellowship to start a new research group studying the circuit mechanisms of learning and decision making. Prior to this, he held postdoctoral positions at University College London (UCL) and The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. Dr Lak also holds a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Cambridge.
Dr Lak's research has significantly contributed to our understanding of neural underpinning of learning and decision through devising experiments to gain quantitative insights into abstract concepts such as learning and decision confidence, and revealing the roles that dopaminergic and prefrontal neural circuits play in these processes. In 2021, the Lak Lab investigated the part dopamine signals arriving at the striatum play in visual decisions, revealing a novel fact of dopamine signalling in data published in The Journal of Neuroscience. In 2022, Dr Lak and his team examined midbrain dopamine neuron signals in navigation-based decisions in a study published in Cell Reports. Current Lak Lab research expands on this research both technically and conceptually using new circuit, behavioural and computational tools.
Reflecting on his time at the Department so far, Dr Lak said: "I am fortunate and proud to work with a team of curious, rigorous, hard-working, collaborative and fun students and postdocs in my lab, some of which have now moved to excellent positions inside and outside academia. I am also immensely grateful to my previous mentors, my colleagues and senior mentors at DPAG and across the University, and DPAG’s professional services teams. I am fortunate to have support from Wellcome Trust, Royal Society, ERC/UKRI, John Fell, MRC, HFSP and Lundbeck foundation, allowing us to focus on basic discovery science."
In the coming year, Lak Lab research will further expand in a number of directions; one objective will be to understand the neural bases of long-term learning from naïve to expert level, and the team have set up a variety of new behavioural and computational tools to examine their key research questions. Dr Lak said: "We plan to use a wide range of tools such as multi-photon imaging to monitor neural signals across days of learning. Besides research, as a tutorial fellow at St John’s college, I am very excited to contribute to undergraduate teaching both in the college and in our department, hoping to make a difference by training the next generation of scientists and physicians.
"I will have some big shoes to fill. It is a major milestone in my career: I have worked for almost two decades towards a single aim: understanding neural bases of learning and decision making. This post will allow me to take things one step further; making long-term research plans in the department, contributing to Oxford’s world-class teaching, and working to enhance DPAG’s amazing research and educational portfolio and culture."
For more information on Armin Lak’s research:
How the brain learns from making difficult decisions
The brain’s one-sided teaching signals
Armin Lak set to reveal neural code for learning under uncertainty with ERC Starting Grant
Collaborative MRC grant paves the way to new therapeutic targets for stress and anxiety disorders