Q&A with CNLM Co-Director Dr. Sunil Gandhi

In March 2021, the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (CNLM) announced that Sunil Gandhi, associate professor of neurobiology and behavior in the School of Biological Sciences will serve alongside Michael Yassa as co-director. Sunil has served as CNLM’s first-ever associate director since 2018. In that short time, he has made a big impact in the CNLM community by supporting cutting-edge research, connecting students with job opportunities, and by designing online events that have engaged the broader community in brain-related topics.

In his role as co-director, Sunil will focus on the CNLM’s technology, entrepreneurial innovation, student training through the NeuroScholars program, and our growing conference and annual meetings. I will continue to direct graduate student training, external relations, and will take a leading role in positioning the CNLM locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. We sat down with Sunil to find out more about him and his new role in the Center.


What brought you to UC Irvine?

I had heard stories about UC Irvine as one of the major nodes for global research in neuroscience ever since I was an undergraduate. People mentioned the great conversations and rich history of neuroscience at the CNLM and I was very excited to have the opportunity to become a part of that history.


Explain your research and implications for the field of learning and memory.

I am a visual neuroscientist, I study how circuits of the visual system are laid out and how experience, particularly early-life experience, guides that wiring. Historically, there has been a dialogue between visual neuroscience and learning and memory, but I would say the tools and the questions were more distinct, and now they are starting to meet. I wanted to get to that meeting place, and in the last few years, I’ve really been able to do that. In particular, I’ve been able to do that through collaborations with colleagues in the CNLM.


What are you passionate about outside UCI?

Outside of UCI, I have a passion for cooking. The pandemic has been a boon for my cooking since my family has been in captivity and forced to eat what I make. I’ve refined my paella. I have enjoyed learning about Sichuan cuisine. And I figured out how to make a decent baguette in my home oven.


What are you most excited about in your new role and why?

I am very excited for three things: helping assemble interdisciplinary teams among the Center faculty to tackle big questions, enhancing dissemination of new neurotechnology through innovative research training programs, and fostering new opportunities for entrepreneurship around the research tools and therapeutics Center fellows are creating in their labs.


If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

That would definitely be to stop time. I have so much I want to do and (time) is really the key limited resource.