Woo Jae Kim


Woo Jae Kim
Assistant Professor

BSc Biology, Yonsei University
MSc Molecular Virology, Pohang University of Science and Technology
PhD Molecular Virology, Pohang University of Science and Technology
Postdoctoral Fellow, Pohang University of Science and Technology, Korea
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Physiology, UCSF, San Francisco, CA

RGN 3157

Office: 613-562-5800 ext. 8385

Work E-mail: woo.jae.kim@uottawa.ca

Dr. Woo Jae Kim


Overview of Research Interests

We are seeking for the fundamental mechanisms how specific neural circuits lead to certain behaviors. We use tiny insect Drosophila melanogaster to answer this question.

  1. Genetics: We are fruit fly behavioural geneticists. We manipulate the genetic components of fly genome to understand their effect on behavioural outcomes. The Drosophila adult is an excellent model system to study circuit mechanisms underlying complex behaviours. The adult Drosophila brain has 1000-fold fewer neurons than mouse brain (~135,000), and those neurons are in stereotyped positions in each animal. This relatively small size of nervous system allows fly geneticists to circuit mapping using powerful genetic tools that enable functional studies of a tiny number of identifiable neurons. The complete set of reagents to manipulate each of the ~14,000 genes in the fly genome for both loss-of-function and gain-of-function are available in the public stock centre with low price. Targeted manipulation of circuits with tight spatial and temporal control is feasible because there exist ~15,000 tissue-specific drivers, RNAi lines that cover ~98% of fly genes, CRISPR resources, and various markers which can visualize the expression pattern and subcellular localization of proteins without antibodies. Using these tools, we can explore the core mechanisms that governs any types of behaviours that are obscured in the more complicated vertebrate brain.
  2. Behaviour: We study the behaviours of fruit fly. The first behaviour we are investigating is ‘interval timing’. Time is the fundamental dimension for animal’s survival. The animal brain is the result of evolution to orchestrate temporal information across a wide spectrum of time scales. Especially, interval timing is a pivotal function of the human brain to support our cognitive ability such as memory, attention, and decision-making. Interval timing refers to the discrimination of durations in the seconds-to-minutes ranges. The genetic aspects of interval timing have not been vigorously investigated because of the lack of a genetically-traceable model organism. We tackle this question with two novel behavioural paradigms of male Drosophila that fits the current ‘internal clock model’ of interval timing.
  3. Disease: We are interested in establishing human neuronal disease model using fly system. We established glial-mediated ALS/FTD model and actively investigated the effects of human C9orf72 on fly behaviour and neuron-glia interaction. We are active member of ALS Canada. We are pursuing the effect of neuropeptide receptors on neuron-glia interactions, which are related to many neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. My undergraduate students are seeking for the genes that are associated with human rare diseases and will establish the rare disease model in fruit fly.
  4. Evolution: We will establish genetic model organisms beyond Drosophila. With the help of RNAi technology and CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, many researchers started to create new genetic model organisms including ants, honey bees, and many other uninvestigated species. We are interested in eusocial insects to study the genetic basis of their highly organized social structure. We have strong collaborators who are working on eusocial insects in Ottawa region and try building genetic platform with eusocial insects that had never investigated with a genetic toolbox.
  5. Entrepreneurship: We created a strong interdisciplinary collaboration network with many neuroscientists, clinicians, engineers, computer scientists, physicists, and industrial designers. We have several ideas to initiate startup company with our experiences building our original behavioural platforms. We have company partner (Creatrix Design Group) and Biotown (Ottawa Biohacker’s group). Students who want to study and create startup are strongly welcome to apply. We don’t care about your major. You don’t have to be a biologist.


Scientific Breakthroughs/Impact

Dr. Kim established two behavioral paradigms.

  • LMD (Longer-Mating-Duration): males previously exposed to rivals extend their mating duration.
  • SMD (Shorter-Mating-Duration): sexually satiated males invest less on mating duration.

Dr. Kim finely mapped the functional neural circuits and genetic components for LMD. The Kim lab will try to linearize the whole functional circuits for this unique behavior. There are no labs working with this behavioral paradigm. Identifying whole circuitry for certain behavior and reconstructing that with reverse genetics will be breakthrough in neuroscience filed and to understand our Brain&Mind.


Grant Support

The lab is supported by NSERC Discovery, uOBMRI Open call grant, Interdisciplinary Research Group Funding Opportunity (IRGFO) Stream 2, and BWF Collaborative Grant. We applied and are applying ALS Project Grant, CIHR Project Grant, NSERC RTI and HFSP grants.



We welcome students from various fields who want to study neuroscience in broader sense. If you are motivated to learn genetic technologies, team player, good at oral and written communication, please apply neuroscience program of uOttawa. We will meet there. https://www.uottawa.ca/graduate-studies/subject/neuroscience/

Fields of Interest

  • Neural circuits
  • Fly Model of Human Neuronal Diseases (ALS/FTD
  • ADHD
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Autism
  • Depression)
  • Genetics of Timing Behaviour
  • Reverse-Engineering of Social Behavior using Bumble Bee Genetics Model
  • Interdisciplinary Research Group Established (Engineers
  • Computer Scientists
  • and Non-biological science major students welcome): Designing and Building Novel Behavioural Platform and Automated It.
  • Educational Entrepreneurship Collaborating Partner with Creatrix Design Group
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