Stephen Devoto, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Biology Department and the Neuroscience and Behavior Program at Wesleyan University. His lab studies the development of muscle and muscle stem cells as part of a broader goal of understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that lead to the development of specific identities during development. They use zebrafish as a model for all vertebrates, including humans, because zebrafish are readily accessible for experimental manipulations throughout development and because a genetic approach to studying development is feasible. Muscle is a very abundant and easily accessible tissue, and diseases of muscle development are debilitating and common childhood diseases. Vertebrate muscle precursors derive from a transient embryonic tissue known as the dermomyotome. The development of the dermomyotome and the morphogenesis of the myotome take place within the somites, epithelial segments of the paraxial mesoderm. They have recently identified a transcription factor, Tbx6, as an important regulator of dermomyotome development. Tbx6 also regulates somite formation, and they are now examining other genes that regulate somite formation and interact with Tbx6. They hope to understand the gene regulatory network that regulates muscle and muscle stem cell development in the early embryo.