While a good portion of the research conducted in the biological sciences is dedicated to understanding why animals do the things they do, assistant professor John Layne is more concerned with understanding how they do the things they do.
While a good portion of the research conducted in the biological sciences is dedicated to understanding why animals do the things they do, assistant professor John Layne is more concerned with understanding how they do the things they do. Trained as a neuroethologist, Layne studies animal behavior from a neurological perspective. “My work,” he explains, “focuses on a combination of sensory physiology and behavioral algorithms,” all designed to help foster a better understanding of exactly how animals go about their daily activities.
Born in Redlands, California, Layne grew up in St. Cloud Minnesota, approximately an hour and a half northwest of the Twin Cities. He also spent part of his high school years on the north shore of the Hawaiian island of Oahu. He characterizes the experience as nothing short of life changing, adding that the island was the closest he’s come to finding “paradise” on earth.
While majoring in biology at Macalester, a small liberal arts college in St. Paul, Minnesota, Layne came to the realization that he “wanted to understand individual animals and how they accomplish what they do.” He pursued this interest in his subsequent graduate studies at Duke University and in postdoctoral work in Glasgow, Scotland.
Layne credits an immersive, one-on-one experience as an undergraduate with cultivating his initial interest in biological sciences. This is an atmosphere he hopes to bring to his classes at UC as well. In such an engrossing setting, he strives to encourage “genuine mental involvement.” “My ideal would be to allow students to come to the correct conclusions themselves,” he explains, characterizing this process as a scientific “Socratic method.”
While Layne has been a resident of Cincinnati for only a short period of time, he has already fallen in love with the eclectic offerings of his Over the Rhine neighborhood. “I’m really impressed with how vibrant the local arts scene is,” he explains. “I’ve already met people who have shown me galleries and introduced me to artists. It’s very exciting and inspiring, not to mention a welcome respite from the all-science-all-the-time lifestyle that we assistant professors usually experience.” Not to stray too far from the profession, however, he also admits to a newfound and rapidly growing interest in his terrarium, which currently supports a small population of turtles, frogs, newts, salamanders, and plants.
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