Pelin Cayirlioglu Volkan

Assistant Professor of Biology

4313 French Family Science Center, Durham, NC 27708
Campus Box: 
Box 90338, Durham, NC 27708-0338
(919) 684-1150
The long-term goal in the lab is to understand the developmental processes that establish the basic organizational and functional principles of the neuronal circuits in the brain. We investigate how the neuronal circuits assemble, functionally mature, remodel in developmental and evolutionary time scales. To understand these processes the Volkan lab uses the olfactory system of the genetically tractable Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism and apply molecular, developmental and systems level approaches. Our research aims to answer three fundamental questions in developmental and evolutionary neurobiology using the Drosophila olfactory system: 1- What are the transcriptional and epigenetic networks that regulate cellular specification and diversity of olfactory receptor neurons? 2- How is sensory neuron function established during development and modulated with experience? 3- What are the molecular, developmental and functional changes underlying evolution of species-specific differences in odor-guided behaviors?


  • Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 2003

  • M.S., Bogazici University (Turkey) 1997

  • B.S., Bogazici University (Turkey) 1995

Barish, S, and Volkan, PC. "Preparing Developing Peripheral Olfactory Tissue for Molecular and Immunohistochemical Analysis in Drosophila." Journal of Visualized Experiments : Jove, no. 136 (June 13, 2018). Full Text

Pan, JW, McLaughlin, J, Yang, H, Leo, C, Rambarat, P, Okuwa, S, Monroy-Eklund, A, Clark, S, Jones, CD, and Volkan, PC. "Comparative analysis of behavioral and transcriptional variation underlying CO2 sensory neuron function and development in Drosophila." Fly 11, no. 4 (October 2017): 239-252. Full Text

Pan, JW, Li, Q, Barish, S, Okuwa, S, Zhao, S, Soeder, C, Kanke, M, Jones, CD, and Volkan, PC. "Patterns of transcriptional parallelism and variation in the developing olfactory system of Drosophila species." Scientific reports 7, no. 1 (August 18, 2017): 8804-. Full Text

Barish, S, Li, Q, Pan, JW, Soeder, C, Jones, C, and Volkan, PC. "Transcriptional profiling of olfactory system development identifies distal antenna as a regulator of subset of neuronal fates." Scientific Reports 7 (January 19, 2017): 40873-null. Full Text

Hueston, CE, Olsen, D, Li, Q, Okuwa, S, Peng, B, Wu, J, and Volkan, PC. "Chromatin Modulatory Proteins and Olfactory Receptor Signaling in the Refinement and Maintenance of Fruitless Expression in Olfactory Receptor Neurons." Plos Biology 14, no. 4 (April 19, 2016): e1002443-null. Full Text Open Access Copy

Li, Q, Barish, S, Okuwa, S, Maciejewski, A, Brandt, AT, Reinhold, D, Jones, CD, and Volkan, PC. "A Functionally Conserved Gene Regulatory Network Module Governing Olfactory Neuron Diversity." PLoS genetics 12, no. 1 (January 14, 2016): e1005780-. Full Text Open Access Copy

Barish, S, and Volkan, PC. "Mechanisms of olfactory receptor neuron specification in Drosophila." Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews. Developmental Biology 4, no. 6 (November 2015): 609-621. (Review) Full Text

Barish, S, and Volkan, PC. "Mechanisms of olfactory receptor neuron specification in Drosophila." Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Developmental Biology 4, no. 6 (2015): 609-621. Full Text


Pan, JW, Barish, S, Li, T, Hueston, C, Olsen, D, Zhao, S, Mukherjee, S, Jones, CD, and Volkan, PC. "Stability and plasticity in the Drosophila olfactory system across timescales." 26th Annual Meeting of the European-Chemoreception-Research-Organization (ECRO). Athens, GREECE. September 7, 2016 - September 10, 2016.: OXFORD UNIV PRESS, February 1, 2017.

Selected Grants

Epigenetic reprogramming of behaviors with sensory experience awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2018 to 2023

Training Program in Developmental and Stem Cell Biology awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 2001 to 2022

Genetics Training Grant awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 1979 to 2020

Collaborative Research: The impacts of the distribution of phenotypic effects and distribution awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2015 to 2019

Basic predoctoral training in neuroscience awarded by National Institutes of Health (Training Faculty). 1992 to 2018

Chromatin modulation in structural and functional refinement of olfactory circuits awarded by Whitehall Foundation, Inc. (Principal Investigator). 2014 to 2016