Research in our department encompasses all levels of genetic analysis, including studies aimed at understanding the structure and organization of the genetic material, how expression of genetic information is regulated throughout development, the forces that affect variation in natural populations and how the genetic composition of populations changes over evolutionary time. A primary focus is on using various experimental systems that range from simple model organisms to mice to humans to elucidate fundamental biological problems.
Researchers in the Laboratory of Genetics and Genetics Training Program combine many technologies and approaches for an integrated view of genetics. Below is a summary of the major research areas, with many lab research programs spanning multiple themes.
Many diseases have a heritable genetic component. For diseases with known genetic causes, valid disease models can be created in model organisms by manipulating the homologous genes, creating powerful tools for studying disease mechanisms and developing treatments. For diseases whose genetic basis remains elusive, research in model organisms and human subjects aims to identify the genes and mutations that underlie disease and to elucidate the mechanism of disease etiology and progression.
Cell biology investigates the physical structure and organization within cells. Researchers in this area often use imaging techniques to follow dynamic changes to cellular organization during division, development, aging, and environmental response.
Organisms are not simply a bag parts, but emerge from complex and dynamic interactions between all genes, proteins, metabolites, etc. Computational and systems biology aims to integrate and understand large-scale datasets with mathematical and computational modeling, whereas synthetic biology uses this information to engineer novel genes, genomes, and traits.
How an organism develops into an adult is hard-wired in its genome. Developmental genetics aims to understand how this information is encoded and expressed, with the goal of elucidating the fundamental process of development and informing on developmental disorders.
Patterns of genetic variation within and between species reveal the mechanisms and history of evolution. Researchers in this area combine molecular, computational, and mathematical approaches to understand how mutation, recombination, gene flow, and natural selection shape the evolution of genomes and ecologically important traits.
How and when genes are expressed into RNA and protein has a dramatic influence on organismal function. Researchers in the area of gene expression study the mechanisms of gene transcription and translation, the modes of expression regulation, and the biology of RNA surveillance and turnover.
Technological advances now allow researchers to study biology on a genome-wide scale, by following all genes, proteins, and genetic features in an organism in a single experiment. Genomic and proteomic research includes large-scale genome sequencing, next-generation analysis of genomic structure and expression, and proteomic quantification of protein abundance, localization, and modification.
Neuro & Behavioral Genetics
Heredity affects neurological function and organismal behavior. Understanding how neurons develop and function informs our understanding of normal and abnormal neuronal processes. Research in neurogenetics focuses on the genes involved in neuronal development and neurodegeneration, mutations that underlie neurological and developmental disabilities, and the genetic basis for various behaviors.