Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology  

A.B. Biology, Univ. of California Berkeley
M.S. Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder
Ph.D. Environmental, Population and Organismal Biology, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder

Office Hours

Office: Bioscience 2016 D
Phone: (540) 568-5434

Courses: 

Contemporary Biology (Bio 103)
Organisms Lab (Bio 114 Lab)

Research Interests:  Evolution of Morphogenesis, Biomechanics of Morphogenesis

I study the mechanisms by which integrated cell behaviors (Morphogenic Machines), shape the early embryo during gastrulation and neurulation, in a variety of amphibians, using Xenopus laevis as my primary model organism.  I take advantage of the fact that tissue can be explanted from amphibian embryos and will undergo most the cell behaviors and morphogenic movements that would normally occur in the embryo.  Because of their large size, amphibian embryos are especially suited for embryological manipulation, imaging and biomechanical measurement.  Using a biomechanical measuring device of my own design, I can determine which tissues are generating morphogenic forces. By perturbing molecular pathways thought to be involved in morphogenic movements, I can determine their role in directing morphogenic machines and generating morphogenic forces.

I am also interested in how different amphibian embryos have evolved to use different combinations, strengths or timing of morphogenic machines to shape their embryos, dependent on the reproductive strategies they use.  Amphibians have an especially diverse set of reproductive strategies and consequently very diverse embryonic structure and development, reflecting adaptation to diverse environmental niches. I hope to extrapolate my understanding of the ‘rules’ of morphogenesis in amphibians (what kind of morphogenic machines work in which kinds of embryos), to morphogenesis in other animals, based on their particular developmental strategies and embryonic structures.  I expect that this research will help to explain how morphogenesis has evolved in metazoans generally, and will allow research on model organisms to be extrapolated to explain morphogenic diseases in Humans, such as birth defects and cancer.

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