A.B., Bowdoin College; Ph.D., Duke University
Associate Professor of Biological Sciences
Evolutionary development (Evo-devo); Developmental genetics; Insect physiology
My research interests are in insect evo-devo and developmental physiology. I take a multidisciplinary approach to understand how the genes and environment interact to regulate the development of complex phenotypes. My current research focuses on postembryonic development, with a particular emphasis on understanding: 1) the regulation and evolution of phenotypic plasticity and 2) the evolutionary origin of insect metamorphosis. The lab is currently working on the regulation underlying phenotypic plasticity of body coloration and larval growth. The lab is also using the beetle, Tribolium castaneum, to understand how insect metamorphosis evolved and the role of cellular plasticity in evolution. Student research is an integral part of my research, and I encourage participation at scientific meetings and co-authorships in peer-reviewed journals.
I teach several courses at all levels of the curriculum, including introductory cell and molecular biology, developmental biology and evo-devo. In my Seminar in Evolutionary Developmental Biology course, I try to give students a taste of what it might be like to be at a graduate school. Students design semester-long independent research projects involving functional analysis of a gene of their choice using a molecular technique called RNA interference. We also read original papers and discuss topics such as the Urbilateria, convergent evolution, evolution of novelties, developmental constraints and heterochrony. These papers deal with issues such as the evolution of snakes, development of butterfly eyespots and evolution of human speech.
Aside from my work in the lab, I am also involved in several insect development projects with researchers at Harvard University, Northeastern University and Tufts University. I am also starting a collaborative project with Dr. Heather Mattila in the Biological Sciences department to examine the metamorphosis of the nervous system in the honey bees. I have also reviewed papers for journals in insect development and evolution.
In my spare time, I enjoy biking, running, hiking and reading novels. I also love to go cross-country and downhill skiing in the winter. I am also part of the Wellesley College composers' group and enjoy composing music that depicts the lives of insects.