I’ve had a longstanding interest in the signaling events that drive organogenesis and tissue homeostasis. In mammals, the neurosensory cells of the inner ear that detect sound, gravity and acceleration have extremely low regenerative capacity, making the developmental processes that control their number, location, and function incredibly important. As a graduate student this lead me to study how inner ear progenitor cells are specified in response to Hedgehog and Wnt signaling pathways. Both the Hedgehog and Wnt cell signaling pathways are used iteratively during development to pattern many tissues and damage to either pathway frequently results in birth defects or cancer. Since the same signals are used repeated for different outcomes in a context dependent manner, my postdoctoral studies initially focused on determining how Hedgehog target genes are selected in a developmental system, the postnatal proliferation of cerebellar granule neuron progenitor cells. Later in my postdoc my research interests shifted and I focused on the function of the Hedgehog target gene Missing-in-Metastasis (Mtss1) in coupling the cell membrane and cytoskeleton on neurons. Mtss1 can function as a docking site for regulatory kinases and phosphatases to control the local actin cytoskeleton and regulate the localization of membrane proteins. This process is key for cerebellar Purkinje neuron function and survival and may underlie several distinct neurodegenerative diseases.
Education & Certifications
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Cell and Molecular Biology (2012)
BA, University of Colorado, Boulder, Biochemistry, MCD Biology (2005)