There are so many big questions that inspire a developmental biologist. How does an entire organism develop from a single cell? How are the correct number and types of cells generated? How does a group of cells organize into a complex organ with a specific size, shape, and function?
My research studies cell biological processes during development using the model system Caenorhabditis elegans. C. elegans is a non-parasitic soil nematode that measures about 1.0 mm as an adult and has less than 1000 somatic cells. The life cycle of C. elegans is only 3 days which makes them a great system for doing genetics, and these "worms" are transparent so we can see individual cells under the microscope. In fact, researchers in the field have watched C. elegans develop under the microscope and documented this information, so we know where every cell comes from at all stages of development (Sulston and Horvitz, 1977; Kimble and Hirsh, 1979; Sulston et al., 1983). The C. elegans genome was the first genome of a multicellular organism to be completely sequenced and this advancement has truly revolutionized the field (The C. elegans Sequencing Consortium, 1998). Despite the simplicity of these worms, they are remarkably similar to humans both in the processes that they undergo and the sequence of their DNA.
C. elegans is an excellent system for undergraduate or graduate research. They are easy to manipulate and they live quite simply on agar-filled petri dishes that have some E. coli for food. Student researchers in my lab would gain experience in genetics, microscopy, molecular biology (like cloning), and bioinformatics. Most importantly, you would learn what "doing science" is really all about! Many of my students have traveled to attend national and international conferences and presented their work (see images below).
I have many exciting research projects ongoing in my lab. Please contact me if you would like more information.
Click here for more on C. elegans and the worm community.
Kimble, J. and Hirsh, D. (1979). The postembryonic cell lineages of the hermaphrodite and male gonads in Caenorhabditis elegans. Dev. Biol. 70, 396-417.
Sulston J.E. and Horvitz, H.R. (1977). Post-embryonic cell lineages of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Dev. Biol.56, 110-156.
Suston, J.E., Schierenberg, E., White, J.G., and Thomson, J.N. (1983). The embryonic cell lineage of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Dev. Biol. 100, 64-119.
The C. Elegans Sequencing Consortium (1998). Genome Sequencing of the Nematode C. elegans: A Platform for Investigating Biology. Science282, 2012-2017.
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Last modified 7/21/06