My goal as a teacher is to help my students become confident, creative, and critical thinkers. I believe that the way biology is taught and learned should reflect the way it is done. This means that I teach biology as a method for recognizing interesting phenomena, generating hypotheses, proposing experiments that test hypotheses, and critically evaluating data. Consequently, my courses emphasize the ideas, experiments, results, and reasoning that have led to a currently accepted model.
Over the past twenty years the field of developmental biology has undergone a striking transformation due to the application of modern cellular, biochemical, genetic, and molecular approaches to the study of how body form originates during embryonic development. This revolutionary work has uncovered the mechanisms that regulate many events during early development, such as, establishment of the primary body axes and the specification of cell fate. I am interested in the events that immediately follow these developmental processes. Once a group of cells become specified to become part of a specific organ, what are the events that lead to the formation of an organ? Studies in my lab focus on two aspects of organogenesis: apoptosis and cellular differentiation of a specialized organelle. We are studying these processes during formation of the intestine in the soil nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. We have chosen this system for a number of reasons. First, the intestine of C. elegans is simple, consisting of only twenty cells, however the processes that occur during its formation are representative of processes that occur during the formation of more complex organs. Second, C. elegans is a an excellent system for the study of development; its entire embryonic cell lineage is known, its genome is sequenced, it is optically clear, it develops rapidly, and it is amenable to sophisticated genetic and molecular techniques.