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Mirna Mihovilovic Skanata

Mirna Mihovilovic Skanata

Mirna Mihovilovic Skanata

Assistant Professor of Physics


221 Physics Building




  • Ph.D. in Physics, Brown University (2014)
  • M.Sc. in Physics, Brown University (2009)
  • B.Sc. in Physics, University of Zagreb, Faculty of Natural Sciences (2008)

Social/Academic Links

Biographic Overview

Prof. Skanata joined the Physics Department at Syracuse University in 2021, following postdoctoral work at the New York University. She obtained her Ph.D. in Physics from Brown University and B.Sc. in Physics from University of Zagreb, Croatia.

Research Interests

How do neural circuits orchestrate behavior? To achieve a circuit-wide understanding of how brains compute, one needs a relatively simple brain, genetic access to individual neurons, and technology that allows measuring neural activity during behavior. I am using a simple model organism Drosophila larva with advanced imaging technology and optophysiology techniques to read out and manipulate the neuronal activity while the animal freely behaves. My aim is to elucidate the mechanisms how correlated neural activity generates behaviors, including where and how are decisions formed in a brain, how are neural correlates modified during learning, or when impacted by a neurological disease, and detail the neural underpinnings of rhythmical patterns in locomotion. We are an interdisciplinary lab that brings together physics, neuroscience, molecular biology, engineering, and computer science.

Larval trajectories 1-01

Research spotlight: Individual trajectories of Drosophila larvae navigating their sensory environments

Professional Appointments

Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY
Assistant Professor of Physics (2021-present)
Assistant Professor of Biology, by courtesy (2022-present)
Interdisciplinary Graduate Neuroscience Concentration (I-GNC) faculty affiliate (2022-present)
BioInspired Institute, member (2021-present)

Honors and Awards

Physics Department Social Justice and Community Building Award, Syracuse University (2024)

NIH Maximizing Investigators’ Research (MIRA) Award (2023)

Physics Department Faculty Teaching Award, PHYS 102, Syracuse University (2023)

McKnight Technological Innovations in Neuroscience Award (2022)

Helmsley Fellowship for CSHL Drosophila Neurobiology: Genes, Circuits and Behavior course (2016)

Sigma Xi Award for Excellence in Research in Physics, Brown University (2014)

CERN Summer Student Scholarship (2007)

Croatian National Scholarship for Talented Students (2003-2007)


"Devices and methods for containing molecules",
Derek Stein, Xu Liu, Mirna Mihovilovic Skanata, US Patent 9810663; 2017

Selected Publications

Book Chapters

"Passive and Electrically Actuated Solid-State Nanopores for Sensing and Manipulating DNA",
Zhijun Jiang, Mirna Mihovilovic, Erin Teich and Derek Stein, in:
Nanopore-based technology: Single molecule characterization and DNA sequencing, M.E. Gracheva, Ed., Humana Press, Springer, New York; 2012. PubMed PMID: 22528268


Leaders Redefining the Future of STEM
(Jan 30, 2024)

Peek Into the Hidden World Inside of Cells
(March 28, 2023)
Featuring bioimaging research technologies & Blatt Bioimaging Center at Syracuse University

Mihovilovic Skanata Awarded McKnight Neuroscience Grant
(Oct 1 2022 and McKnight Foundation feature Aug 1, 2022)
This award will fund development of novel technology to image and manipulate neural activity.

New Faculty Spotlight
(Dec 14, 2021)

The New York Academy of Sciences Magazine cover story
(Spring 2016)