Our Department

The Cell Biology Department strives to make significant new discoveries in the areas of cell, developmental, and regenerative biology and to train and prepare young scientists to explore these and other areas of biomedical science.

Research topics in the Department are diverse but general themes bind together much of what we do to address current challenges in the fields of cell and developmental biology. As the basic structural and functional unit of all multicellular life, the cell is both complex and highly organized. While continuing to study cell function at higher resolution, we are also driven by a desire to understand how individual cells, often from disparate lineages with unique properties, assemble into tissues with specialized functions. Addressing this fascinating question is fundamental to understanding not only the rules that govern tissue and organ formation and maintenance but also mechanisms of homeostasis, and the progressive disruptions in “order” that accompany senescence and many disease states. Many of our efforts are thus directed at identifying emergent properties of individual cells and cell cohorts that help inform us about the higher-order organization and functions of multi-celled tissues and organ systems. Examples of these properties include the regulation of cell polarity through cell-cell interactions and responses to secreted signaling molecules, and the instructive influence of mechanical forces. These problems require investigation at multiple levels of organization that are reflected in different length scales, from the structure and organization of individual cells, through the formation of multicellular arrays and tissues, to the higher order assembly of tissues into organs and even whole embryos and organisms.

At the individual cell level, we specialize in exploring intracellular transport and motility, organelle dynamics, cell compartmentalization, and cell polarity. At the tissue level, we explore mechanisms of cell migration, cell adhesion, tissue polarity, mechanotransduction, and tissue regeneration. Finally, we have a strong interest in deciphering the principles that guide the development of organs, the nervous system, the urinary and reproductive systems, and whole embryos. In fact, through our emphasis on morphogenesis, we integrate our studies across all these levels of organization, utilizing a combination of advanced imaging, genetic, structural/biochemical, and cellular/molecular approaches. Not only have these studies created opportunities to address fundamental mechanisms of diseases, including cancer, birth defects, cognitive impairment, and tissue degeneration but also they have inspired efforts to translate discovery toward the benefit of human health. Our curiosity driven discoveries lay the foundation for emerging health technologies that have evolved into several patents and start-up companies.

We make broad-reaching efforts to share our discoveries and ideas among and beyond laboratories within the Department through regular research meetings, a regular seminar series, and numerous graduate courses and colloquia. The Department of Cell Biology is undertaking these endeavors with much excitement and an enthusiastic vision for the future. We invite you to take note of our efforts and follow our progress as we explore these areas and make new discoveries.