Education: B.A., Biology and English, Carleton College; Ph.D., Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, University of Chicago
I am interested in how cells use their genomes. Specifically, my lab is interested in furthering our understanding of the cellular mechanisms and developmental roles of microRNAs, one class of small, non-coding ribonucleic acid (RNA) essential to plants and animals. I am also interested in facilitating public understanding and appreciation of science and scientific research.
My lab is trying to determine exactly how cells silence genes through the process of RNA interference (RNAi). Specifically, we investigate microRNAs (miRNAs), a class of small, non-coding RNA molecules that silence gene expression. miRNAs and RNAi are of great interest to those at the interface of basic research and medicine, in part because aberrant miRNA profiles are emblematic of numerous disease states, and RNAi-based therapeutics are currently being developed. Determining the fundamental principles of miRNA-mediated gene silencing in biological pathways is essential to the success of RNAi-based therapeutics, which employ the common machinery of gene silencing.
At present, key molecules in the miRNA pathway have been discovered, but identification and characterization of downstream and regulatory factors is lacking. My lab is carrying out genetic and biochemical studies in Drosophila melanogaster to identify and characterize requirements for miRNA activity, in order to elucidate the mechanism of miRNA activity in vivo. My goal is to conduct research that furthers our understanding of biology while engaging and inspiring students.
Specifically, the work of my lab members is guided by two broad questions: 1. How do organisms orchestrate miRNA function and regulation in vivo? and 2. What are the roles of specific miRNAs in the Drosophila visual system?