Arpiar Saunders named 2022 Sloan Research Fellow

Arpiar Saunders, Vollum Institute, OHSU

Vollum Institute assistant scientist recognized as early career trailblazer in neuroscience.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has announced that Arpiar “Arpy” Saunders, Ph.D., is among the winners of the 2022 Sloan Research Fellowships. The fellowships recognize early-career scholars who represent the most promising scientific researchers working today.

Arpiar Saunders with research team in front of OHSU's Vollum Institute.
From left, Saunders, with members of his research team Emily Tiedemann, Karl Young, Lamya Ben Ameur, Ph.D., and Elizabeth Dolbeck outside OHSU’s Vollum Institute where the Saunders lab is located. (OHSU/Christine Torres Hicks)

Saunders, assistant scientist at the Vollum Institute, works to understand how genetic variation — within and across species — controls the function and organization of brain cells and neural circuits. His lab has develops molecular technologies to study the brain in new types of ways that are both high-throughput and systematic.

Specifically, Saunders and his lab develop single-cell, single-virion genomic approaches to track molecules from nuclear and viral genomes across many thousands of individual cells, studying how viral dynamics are affected by brain cell types and using viral infection properties to teach us about the cellular organization of the brain. These approaches may lead to both new insights into psychiatric disorders as well as describe interactions between neurotropic viruses and their host brain cells at cellular resolution.

“Two hallmarks of Arpy’s research program are big ideas and innovative approaches,” said Marc Freeman, director of the Vollum Institute. “He is a wonderfully creative scientist seeking to answer a very hard problem, and this fellowship is a testament to the high promise of Arpy’s research program.  I expect the Saunders group will have enormous impact on our understanding of the wiring and function of complex brain circuits, and how they are altered in human disease.”

Saunders joined the Vollum Institute as an assistant scientist in 2020.  He earned his Ph.D. in neuroscience at Harvard Medical School in the lab of Bernardo Sabatini, studying the synaptic organization of the mouse brain. As a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellow in Steve McCarroll’s lab, also at Harvard Medical School, he used single-cell genomics to describe molecular diversity of brain cells.

In November 2021, Saunders was awarded a Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Genetic Therapies grant from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative for his work in autism variant phenotyping in vivo using single-cell, single-virion genomic technologies.