Departments: Biology, Biochemistry
Teaching: Genetics, Development and Evolution; Genetics
Research: Genetics, Developmental Biology
Degrees: B.A., Kenyon College; Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Office Location: Steffee Hall B.311
Office Hours: M 1:30-3:30 pm; W 1:30-3:30 pm; F 10 am – 12 pm
Though virtually all cells in an animal contain the same DNA sequences, different cell types (for example, muscle cells and nerve cells) have distinct physical properties. These differences are achieved during growth and development of the organism by switching on and off specific sets of genes within the common DNA sequence. Research in my lab encompasses two main areas:
1) Identifying and characterizing the DNA sequences that control when, where, and at what level gene expression is switched on and off in the developing animal body. The long term goal of this research is to understand the mechanisms by which Hox proteins, involved in shaping the head-to-tail patterning of all animals, regulate their target genes. We use the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to examine the DNA sequences that respond to the Hox protein Ultrabithorax and either activate or repress gene expression in the fly hindwing. We are also interested in identifying the genes, possibly targets of Hox proteins, that are important for differences between insect species to understand how evolutionary changes occur in the developmental processes that produce animal shape.
2) Characterizing the role of gap junction proteins in the immune response of the fly to various pathogens. The long-term goal of this research is to understand how cell-cell communication influences the innate immune response. The fly has genes for eight gap junction subunits, and we use molecular techniques to increase or decrease their activity and determine the effect on survival of flies exposed to bacterial pathogens or parasitoid wasps.