Research in my laboratory focuses on the biology of epithelia, the fundamental cell type of animal species. Using forward genetic screens in Drosophila as entry points, we study the molecules and mechanisms that govern epithelial polarity, cell shape, and tissue morphogenesis. Our work has been instrumental in defining the conserved hierarchy that establishes cell polarity across many tissues and animals. We also seek to understand how epithelial organization promotes control of organ growth, a surprising connection uncovered by our analysis of fly tumor suppressor genes that represents a general principle relevant to human cancer. Our recent work utilizes the fly to study general aspects of tumor-host interactions, as well as novel morphogenetic mechanisms that shape animal organs.
I trained with prominent geneticists, developmental, and molecular biologists (Norbert Perrimon, Matt Scott, and Walter Gilbert) before starting my own lab at UC-Berkeley in 2002. My graduate work applied genome-wide forward genetic screens to the developmental patterning of internal organs. As a postdoc, I pioneered the use of genetic mosaic approaches to cell biological questions, specifically the polarity and organization of epithelia. My independent research has been recognized by a Searle Scholar, a Burroughs-Wellcome Career Award, and the Mossman Developmental Biologist Award.
Overall, our research demonstrates a track record of establishing new experimental paradigms in the fly and exploiting them to make high-impact discoveries of general relevance including to human biology and medicine.