Personal profile

Research Interests

Research Topics

Development, Genomics, Imaging, Molecular Evolution, Pattern Formation, Signal Transduction

Disease Research Interests



B.S., Lehigh University (Biology)
Ph.D., University of Texas-Austin (Zoology)
Postdoc., University of Virginia-Charlottesville
Postdoc., Indiana University

Professional Information

Mechanisms of cell determination; development and regeneration of the vertebrate lens; cornea stem cell biology; developmental basis for evolutionary change

The process of vertebrate lens induction

Our research efforts are aimed at understanding processes which lead to the determination of cell fate during embryogenesis. In particular, this work examines the role of cell-cell or inductive interactions, one of the most important modes of cell determination in vertebrate embryos. The developing lens represents a model system for studying this process. While the cell/tissue interactions involved in lens formation have been well characterized, relatively little is known of the molecular events responsible for lens formation. Some vertebrates are also able to regenerate the lens, including the frog Xenopus. We have identified a large suite of genes that are involved in lens cell determination in Xenopus. Using novel approaches, we are examining changes in gene expression, which are associated with the process of lens formation. In vivo functional assays are also being carried out to examine the role of specific transcripts in the context of both lens development and regeneration.

We are also interested in identifying inducer substances which control lens development and regeneration. Recent studies have shown that various growth factors may be active in these processes. We are developing transgenic frogs with inducible, dominant negative and active receptors to examine the roles of various signaling factors. The combination of molecular level studies, together with those involving transgenesis, tissue culture and transplantation, provide a powerful means to understanding the process of vertebrate lens formation, and those of embryonic cell determination, in general.

Developmental basis for evolutionary change

We have also been examining developmental events leading to the formation of diverse larval and adult body plans in different marine invertebrates, including a group of protostome phyla collectively referred to as the "Spiralia" The "Spiralia" represent a large group of closely related invertebrate phyla (members of the protostome, "Lophotrochozoa"). Studies point to significant levels of conservation in the functions of a number of regulatory and cell signaling pathways during development in the Metazoa, but most developmental/molecular studies have been carried out in a relatively small number of model systems. Therefore, the generality of so-called "fundamental" developmental processes within the Spiralia, and the Metazoa in general, is uncertain. Studies in our lab are being carried out to compare embryonic cell lineages and the mechanisms employed in cell and axis specification between representatives of these different groups. The molecular control of cell determination and embryonic axis formation is also being examined in these phyla. Together with modern molecular phylogeny data obtained by other labs, we are deciphering evolutionary change in developmental processes that lead to the construction of diverse larval and adult body plans.

Honors & Awards

Marcus Singer Medal for Regeneration Research, Singer Society

Office Address

Dept. of Cell and Developmental Biology
University of Illinois
601 S. Goodwin Avenue
Urbana, IL 61801

Office Phone

(217) 333-4449


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