Spencer Smith, PhD

Spencer Smith, PhD

Associate Professor
UNC-Chapel Hill 

5109C Neuroscience Research Building
Campus Box 7545
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7545


Education and Training

University of Iowa, BS, 1998
University of California Los Angeles, PhD, 2004
University of California Los Angeles, Postdoctoral, 2006
University College London, Postdoctoral, 2011

Areas of Interest

The overarching goal of my lab is to better understand how parts of the brain work in concert to encode stimuli, perform computations, and drive adaptive behavior. All of our work is focused on this overarching goal, and includes studies on behavior, population-level neuronal activity, and cellular mechanisms including dendritic integration. We are currently focused on the visual cortex, where sophisticated computational problems are solved efficiently by the mammalian brain. Many of my studies run up against technological limitations, and so a portion of my lab’s work is in neuroengineering. Recently, we built a breakthrough multiphoton imaging system with a completely custom objective and scan engine which provides a field of view 50-100 times larger in area than conventional two-photon imaging systems. We are using this new system to examine inter cortical area interactions during sensory coding and behavior. Ultimately, we hope the basic science advances we make in elucidating the molecular, cellular, and circuit mechanisms underlying cortical development and function will serve our long-term goals of elucidating principles of brain function and identifying potential therapeutic targets and strategies for treating complex neurological disorders.

Awards and Honors

2006-2009    HFSP Long-Term Fellowship

2012-2015    HFSP Career Development Award

2013-2016    Esther A. & Joseph Klingenstein Foundation Fellow

2015-2017    McKnight Technological Innovations in Neuroscience Award

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Curriculum in Cell Biology and Physiology
Neuroscience Center