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?
A devotion to the small liberal arts college experience led me to Linfield after a lifetime of learning and teaching in the Midwest. I grew up in Chicago and soon traded life in the city for life in rural Minnesota, where I attended Carleton College, a small liberal arts college in Northfield, MN. Early in my college career I became involved in independent research, and soon realized that I was enamored with life in the lab. I love the fact that everyday I get to come to work and do something that no one has ever done before to learn something new. I’m extremely motivated by the desire to share those experiences with the Linfield students I teach and mentor, and to help my students find the activities and passions that inspire their best efforts. My path to becoming a member of Linfield’s faculty has included time as a yeast cell biologist at the University of Chicago, where I learned how to watch proteins move in living cells to better understand how cells work, and time as a fruit fly geneticist at Northwestern University, where I learned how to study how organisms actually use the information in their DNA at the molecular level, which is now the focus of the work in my lab. I think that the study of biology in particular and science in general is equally fascinating and fun, even though I almost decided to pursue graduate studies in English literature instead. When not on campus I avidly pursue any opportunities to enjoy McMinnville’s proximity to the mountains and the ocean, both of which are quite novel to a Midwestern native, and I aspire to learn to kayak or kite surf before long…