Jakub Ziak

Regulation of directed axon guidance and branching during development is essential for the generation of neuronal networks. My research in the Kolodkin laboratory aims to uncover molecular principles of interstitial axon branching, fundamental phenomena allowing central nervous system neurons to connect to multiple targets that are spatially distinct. We use novel in vivo single cell labeling approaches that enable sparse and robust visualization of individual cortical excitatory neurons, along with the capacity to perform genetic manipulations. These new techniques allow for quantitative assessment of axonal morphologies at the single cell resolution.

We have found that balancing cytoskeletal dynamics through action of microtubule-binding proteins and tubulin posttranslational modifications is an important regulatory element of collateral axon elaboration in cortical projection neurons in vivo. Our data describe one of the very first initial intracellular signaling pathways known to cell-autonomously regulate interstitial axon branching in the developing neocortex

Questions & Answers

Why did you choose Johns Hopkins for your work?

Dr. Alex Kolodkin has tremendous knowledge about neurodevelopment and is an expert writer and fantastic mentor (he also has a good sense of humor). The people I met at the 10th floor while I was interviewing here seemed well guided on their scientific paths, and were enthusiastic and curious. I truly feel honored to be part of Alex’s group, and to be part of the neuroscience department.


What does receiving this award mean to you personally and professionally? Do you have any connection with the particular award you received?

Being awarded means that other people recognize the importance of our research, and I feel grateful for this, as well as feeling responsible for continuing our investigations. I am also inspired by some aspects of the person this award is named for — there is an adventurous component in Dr. Barry Wood’s life story during the tough time of the world war, and I see some similarities with the present.


What contributed to your project’s success?

The essential component for our investigations is the labeling method that was developed by former lab members Joelle Dorskind and Randal Hand — without their work, it would be difficult to achieve such precise spatial resolution when investigating cortical development. Another key element was numerous discussions with Alex, who has helped me to navigate through the problematics of axon collateral development. Finally, financial support from the EMBO fellowship was greatly appreciated.


What thoughts do you have about Young Investigators’ Day itself, as a celebration of the roles students and fellows play in research at Johns Hopkins?

I would like to thank to the YIPD committee for their effort and for organizing this very kind event. Having our research appreciated by the community gives me a lot of motivation for the near future.


What has been your best/most memorable experience while at Johns Hopkins?

Well, there are several, in fact almost every day is a memorable experience, I like friends and colleagues in the lab and at the 10th floor, and I think the neuroscience community here is fantastic, allowing everyone to grow and cultivate their skills. A retreat in 2022 at the Pearlstone Center was memorable as well. Getting lightsheet imaging work is also worth mentioning.


What are your plans over the next year or so? Graduating, looking for faculty positions, etc.?

I don’t really know; we will set up some new experiments, perhaps broaden a little a focus of our research. And who knows, maybe there will be interesting faculty positions to apply for.


Tell me something interesting about yourself that makes you unique. Do you have any special hobbies, interests or life experiences?

I like to combine science and art, I like playing music with my wife and I like to hike with family and friends, that’s always refreshing. And chess is so much fun!