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Welcome to the Coffin Lab!


We are recruiting undergraduate researchers for Fall 2018.  Please contact Dr. Coffin to discuss opportunities at allison.coffin [at]

Allison Coffin and Joe Sisneros search for midshipman fish. Photo courtesy of Cassandra Profita, OPB Radio.

Our midshipman fish research was featured on NPR! Learn more about our collaborative research with Dr. Joe Sisneros at the University of Washington. Thanks Cassandra Profita at Oregon Public Broadcasting for the coverage, and for a fun day in the field.

Our work was also featured by comedian Shane Mauss on an episode of his Here We Are podcast. Listen to the interview with Dr. Coffin to learn more about our research on hearing loss, and her interests in science communication.

Our recent Scientific Reports article has gotten some press! Working with Jenifer McIntyre and John Stark at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center, we show that stormwater runoff negatively impacts the lateral line in both zebrafish and coho salmon embryos. Check out our interview on Jefferson Public Radio and write-up in The Columbian.

Welcome to the Coffin Lab!  We study hair cells – not the hair cells on your head, but the hair cells in your inner ears. Hearing is one of our basic senses – it allows us to communicate and to perceive the world around us. At the heart of hearing is the sensory hair cell: a polarized epithelial-type cell that converts acoustic signals in the environment to electrochemical signals in the nervous system. These cells are exquisitely sensitive to sound and unfortunately to damage from a variety of sources including noise and some classes of medications. This damage causes hearing loss, cutting us off from the outside world.  Research in the Coffin Lab seeks to understand the cellular events underlying hearing loss so that we may prevent these events and preserve hearing. We primary study zebrafish, but also use other fishes as model systems for this research. We have recently begun using mice in our drug development efforts.

Our research examines several inter-related questions:

1)   What cellular and molecular events trigger hair cell death following a toxic insult?

2)   How can we develop pharmacological therapies to prevent hair cell death and preserve hearing?

3)   How do environmental toxins influence lateral line development and function?

4)   How do differences in protein structure and function affect hair cell regeneration?

In addition, we are interested in more fisheries-related questions, specifically the way the hatchery rearing environment affects development and function of the lateral line in juvenile salmonids, and how underwater sound affects fish ears.

Check out the videos on the Lab Members page to meet the team and learn about our current work.



Our research is supported by the National Institutes of Health (R21DC015636) and Washington State University.


Science Communication

Save the date for Science Talk 2019!