The cells within most multicellular organisms are typically highly specialized. How cells adopt their specialized roles and take their proper place in the adult organism is far from being fully understood. What is clear however, is that alterations in the pathways that determine cell fate are a major cause of human disease. With the arrival of complete genome sequences for all the major model organisms over the last ten years or so, we have learned just how similar these models systems are to us. This underscores the value of studying development in simpler organisms.
My laboratory uses a combination of genetics and cellular/molecular biology to understand the cellular pathways involved in development of the eye and wing in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Both tissues are dispensible, and there is a unique set of genetic tools in Drosophila that make it an ideal model in which to study development. Much of our work has been on the phospholipase C gamma encoded by the gene small wing, but more recently we have been extending our studies to other genes that operate in in concert with PLC-gamma.
I am also interested in genome evolution. A curious aspect of most genes in eukaryotes is the presence of introns that split the protein coding sequence into sometimes dozens of pieces. There has been considerable debate about how and when introns appeared; I am investigating this question by tracking the emergence of introns within the PLC gene family among plants, fungi and animals.
My current teaching includes Introductory Biology, Genetics, Biochemistry, Biological Clocks and the graduate level course Seminar in Genetics.