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Dr. Seth Taylor: Making Crucial Connections

Seth Taylor. A light skinned, dark brown haired man wearing a black suit and metallic blue tie, with a gray background, is smiling in a portrait style photo.
Photo by BYU Photo

The College of Life Sciences extends a warm welcome to Dr. Seth Taylor, a new assistant professor of cell biology and physiology. As a developmental neuroscientist, Taylor is on a mission to connect the dots about how and why cells in the nervous system choose to pair up. Taylor is eager to understand more about the complex and awe-inspiring networks that comprise our nervous system.

Imagine for a moment you accidentally touch a hot stove. Instead of quickly pulling your hand away from the heat, your leg jerks up and your hand remains on the red-hot stove. Taylor admits this is both an outrageous and extreme hypothetical, but he uses the point to illustrate how neurons “need to make connections to the right partners” to make a functional circuit.

To study these cell-to-cell connections, Taylor uses an array of methods, including microscopy, single-cell RNA sequencing, and more. His lab focuses these methods on studying the nervous system of the nematode, C. Elegans. The worm’s well-documented nervous system allows Taylor and his lab to more readily discover the molecules that are involved in forming synapses, which are the sites of connection between neurons.

In Taylor’s own experience, faith has been the connecting force between his professional and spiritual endeavors. "My faith in the Savior and belief in God have influenced everything that I do,” Taylor says. That faith helped him persevere when research was frustrating, or graduate school challenged him.

In addition to his faith, enjoying a bowl of ice cream or reading books helps Taylor bear the stress of life. With five boys and four girls, ages ranging from 14 years to 7 months, Taylor has plenty to keep him busy off campus. He enjoys sports with his family, particularly soccer, and when he gets the chance, summiting mountains in the local area.

Taylor lived underneath the shadow of the same mountains not too long ago. As an undergraduate at BYU, he researched the effects of cocaine and alcohol on midbrain dopamine neurons with neuroscience professor Dr. Scott Steffensen, who recently retired. Taylor appreciates how Steffensen has continued to provide support and mentorship even beyond his years as an undergraduate. Taylor hopes to carry on the legacy of caring and committed mentorship to the next generation of scientists. Whether between neurons or people, Taylor understands that connections are what make life happen.