A fundamental problem in biology is how the complex set of multicellular structures that characterize an adult animal is generated from the fertilized egg. Recent advances at the molecular level, particularly with respect to the genetic control of development, have been explosive. These advances represent the beginning of a major movement in the biological sciences toward the understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying developmental decisions and the resulting morphogenetic processes. This new thrust in developmental biology derives from the extraordinary methodological advances of the past decade in molecular genetics, immunology, and biochemistry. However, it also derives from groundwork laid by the classical developmental studies, the rapid advances in cell biology and animal virology, and from models borrowed from prokaryotic systems. Increasingly, the work is directly related to human diseases, including oncogene function and inherited genetic disease.
The Department of Developmental Biology includes a critical mass of scientists who are leading the thrust in developmental biology and who can train new leaders in the attack on the fundamental problems of development. Department labs work on a wide variety of organisms from microbes to worms, flies, and mice. The dramatic evolutionary conservation of genes that regulate development makes the comparative approach of the research particularly effective. Scientists in the department labs have a very high level of interaction and collaboration. The discipline of developmental biology draws on biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, molecular biology, and genomics. People in the department have a major interest in regenerative medicine and stem cell biology.
The department is located in the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine within the Stanford University Medical Center.
Course and lab instruction in the Department of Developmental Biology conforms to the “Policy on the Use of Vertebrate Animals in Teaching Activities,” the text of which is available at http://www.stanford.edu/dept/DoR/rph/8-2.html.