B.Sc., Molecular Cell Biology, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK, 1994-1997
M.Sc., Applied Molecular Microbiology, University of Nottingham, UK, 1997-1998
Ph.D., Genetics, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, USA, 1999-2004
Post-Doc, Harvard University, USA, 2005-2007
Post-Doc, University of Arizona, USA, 2008-2012
Post-Doc, Stowers Institute for Medical Research, USA, 2012-2018
Our lab is interested in the processes that drive cell organization into polarized layers during animal development. To explore and elucidate these processes, we use live sea anemone embryos (Nematostella vectensis) that organize into monolayers within their first few cell cleavages after fertilization. We have found that the Nematostella monolayer is polarized and is faithfully maintained during subsequent cell cleavages and embryonic development. The two specific questions we want to answer are: 1) How do cells first assemble into a polarized monolayer? 2) How is the polarized monolayer maintained as new cells are being added during subsequent cell divisions? To answer these questions, we exploit the accessibility and abundance of Nematostella embryos and use genetic, cell biological, and imaging techniques to study the dynamics and errors of monolayer organization in real time. We are currently testing a working hypothesis whereupon embryonic cells couple the cell cycle machinery to the cell polarity and adhesion apparatus to achieve tissue homeostasis. Perturbations to such coupling are expected to lead to cell cycle and cell organization defects often detected in over-proliferative conditions like in certain tumors.
“Every cell comes from a cell” (F.V. Raspail, 1825) is a deeply rooted concept that has shaped our understanding of tissue organization and animal development in a profound manner. Through studies using experimental embryology, cell biology and genetics we have reached an unprecedented understanding of how cells divide, organize and differentiate during the formation of an animal. Yet, a lot remains to be explained and many case studies contradict potential organizing rules we are tempted to formulate. I teach animal development through the lens of cellular biology and genetics, and I aim to review experiments and observations that have led to current theories.