Ahna Skop

Position title: Professor

Email: skop@wisc.edu

Phone: 608-262-1593

Genetics, Medical Genetics and Life Science Communications
Asymmetric cell division, cytokinesis, cell polarity & cell cycle genomics and proteomics

2426 Genetics/Biotech
Ph.D. (2000) University of Wisconsin-Madison, Postdoctoral Research: HHMI, UC-Berkeley, 2000-2004
Lab Website
Genetics and Life Science Communications
Research Interests
Asymmetric cell division, cytokinesis, cell polarity & cell cycle genomics and proteomics
Research Fields
Cell Biology, Genomics & Proteomics, Genetics, Development, & Mammalian Cells, Science Communication, Scientific Art
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Ahna Skop is a geneticist, artist, authors, and a winner of the prestigious Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Her lab seeks to understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie asymmetric cell division. The last step in cell division, abscission, relies on a transient electron-dense structure called the midbody, which resides inside the intercellular bridge between newly forming daughter cells. Long conceptualized as a structural remnant subject to degradation following cell division, emerging data suggest that midbodies play instructive post-mitotic roles in establishing cell fate, proliferation state, tissue polarity, cilia formation, neuron function, and oncogenesis. Midbody dysregulation leads to birth defects, cancer, and age-related neurodegenerative diseases. In 2004, Ahna pioneered proteomic and genomic approaches to identify novel cell division proteins by utilizing biochemically purified midbodies, which was published in Science. More recently, the lab has discovered that the midbody is a translationally active RNA containing organelle. The Skop lab’s focus now is to determine how this signaling organelle behaves as novel form of intercellular communication in mammalian cancer and stem cells.

Understanding how cells divide is highly dependent on in vivo microscopy and large amounts of visual data, which dovetails perfectly with one of her other passions, art. The combination of scientist and artist inspires her to think differently and maintain an open mind. Some of her work can be seen in the main entrance of the Genetics/Biotechnology Center building on the UW-Madison campus with a 40ft-scientific art piece called “Genetic Reflections”.  She has also curated and contributed to a traveling exhibition of scientific art called “TINY: Art from microscopes” from the UW-Madison campus, and she has organized the bi-annual Worm Art Show for the International C. elegans Meeting for over 26 years. Ahna is also passionate about increasing the numbers of underrepresented students in STE(A)M fields. In 2016, she was awarded the very first of two, Chancellor’s Inclusive Excellence Award for her outreach and inclusive teaching efforts. She has served as a board member for SACNAS (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science) and currently serves on the ASCB (American Association for Cell Biologists) Minority Affairs Committee where she has broadened her impact on underrepresented students in science nationally. Her recent book, “Genetic Reflections”, showcases the beauty of genetics, model organism biology, and DNA.

Ahna is the child of artists. Her father, Michael Skop, was a bit of a Renaissance man and was a classically trained fine artist who studied with Mestrovic (a pupil of Rodin) and also taught college-level anatomy. Her father operated an art school at their home studio for over 30 years and attracted artists, musicians, and philosophers from all over the world. Her mother was a high school art educator, ceramicist, and has dabbled in fiber art, sculpture and painting. Her two sisters and brother are also graphic and industrial designers. She has embraced her parents’ love of creativity in everything she does. She majored in biology and minored in ceramics at Syracuse University (1990-1994), where her father had played football and studied with Mestrovic. She received her Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1994-2000) and conducted her post-doctoral work at UC-Berkeley (2000-2003).

Ahna is a Professor in the Department of Genetics and an affiliate faculty member in Life Sciences Communication and the UW-Madison Arts Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She mentors both scientists and art students in her lab, and also serves on the board of the Wisconsin Science Museum, where many of her art-science collaborations are on display. In 2008, she was awarded an honorary doctorate of science from the College of St. Benedicts and was named a Remarkable Women in Science from the AAAS. In 2015, she was honored as a Kavli Fellow from the National Academy of Sciences. In 2018, she was awarded the first ever Inclusive Excellence Award by the ASCB and HHMI. She currently serves as an advisor to the chief diversity officer at the NIH, and is a diversity consultant to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI). In 2019, she was honored as one of 125 Women in STEM with an AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadorship. In 2020, she published a book with her two talented undergraduates called “Genetic Reflections: A Coloring Book”. Her science and art have been featured by Apple, The Scientist, USA Today, Smithsonian, PBS.org, NPR and Science magazine. She has recently started an online science art home décor store with her family called skopology.com. One of her great hobbies is cooking/baking (including scientific cakes!) and she manages a foodblog, foodskop.com, and her AAAS IF/THEN funded labculturerecipes.com in her free time.

Representative Publications:
Search PubMed for more publications by Ahna Skop

Del Castillo U, Gnazzo MM, Sorensen Turpin CG, Nguyen KCQ, Semaya E, Lam Y, de Cruz MA, Bembenek JN, Hall DH, Riggs B, Gelfand VI, Skop AR. Conserved role for Ataxin-2 in mediating endoplasmic reticulum dynamics. Traffic. 2019 Jun;20(6):436-447. doi: 10.1111/tra.12647. Epub 2019 May 8. PMID: 30989774; PMCID: PMC6553494.

Konopka CA, Schleede JB, Skop AR, Bednarek SY. Dynamin and cytokinesis. Traffic. 2006 Mar;7(3):239-47. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0854.2006.00385.x. PMID: 16497219; PMCID: PMC3654675.

Billmyre KK, Doebley AL, Spichal M, Heestand B, Belicard T, Sato-Carlton A, Flibotte S, Simon M, Gnazzo M, Skop A, Moerman D, Carlton PM, Sarkies P, Ahmed S. The meiotic phosphatase GSP-2/PP1 promotes germline immortality and small RNA-mediated genome silencing. PLoS Genet. 2019 Mar 28;15(3):e1008004. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1008004. PMID: 30921322; PMCID: PMC6456222.

Shivas JM, Morrison HA, Bilder D, Skop AR. Polarity and endocytosis: reciprocal regulation. Trends Cell Biol. 2010 Aug;20(8):445-52. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2010.04.003. Epub 2010 May 20. PMID: 20493706; PMCID: PMC2917511.

Bonner MK, Skop AR. Cell division screens and dynamin. Biochem Soc Trans. 2008 Jun;36(Pt 3):431-5. doi: 10.1042/BST0360431. PMID: 18481974; PMCID: PMC3660067.

Skop AR. The entrance: how life experience shaped my passion for diversity and inclusion. Mol Biol Cell. 2018 Nov 1;29(22):2608-2610. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E18-07-0431. PMID: 30376436; PMCID: PMC6249843.

Otegui MS, Verbrugghe KJ, Skop AR. Midbodies and phragmoplasts: analogous structures involved in cytokinesis. Trends Cell Biol. 2005 Aug;15(8):404-13. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2005.06.003. Erratum in: Trends Cell Biol. 2005 Oct;15(10):517. PMID: 16009554; PMCID: PMC3677513.

Gnazzo MM, Skop AR (2014). Spindlegate: the biological consequences of disrupting traffic.
Dev Cell. 2014 Mar 10;28(5):480-2. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2014.02.014. PMID: 24636255

Bonner MK, Han BH, Skop A (2013). Profiling of the mammalian mitotic spindle proteome reveals an ER protein, OSTD-1, as being necessary for cell division and ER morphology. PLoS One. 2013 Oct 10;8(10):e77051. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077051. PMID: 24130834

Pittmann, KJ & Skop, AR (2012). Anterior PAR proteins function during cytokinesis and maintain DYN-1 at the cleavage furrow in Caenorhabditis elegans. Cytoskeleton. Aug 6 2012 doi: 10.1002/cm.21053. PMID: 22887994

Shivas, JM & Skop, AR (2012). C. elegans Arp2/3 mediates early endosomal dynamics and recycling of anterior polarity cues to promote PAR maintenance. MBoC. 2012 Mar 28. PMID: 22456506

Bonner MK, Poole DS, Xu T, Sarkeshik A, Yates III JR, Skop AR (2011). Mitotic spindle proteomics in Chinese Hamster Ovary cells. PLoS ONE 6(5): e20489. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020489. PMID: 21647379

Nakayama Y*, Shivas JM*, Poole DS, Squirrell JM, Kulkoski JM, Schleede JB, Skop AR. (2009). Dynamin participates in the maintenance of anterior polarity in the Caenorhabditis elegans embryo. Developmental Cell. Jun; 16(6): 889-900. PMID: 19531359 *authors contributed equally

Otegui MS, Verbrugghe KJ, Skop AR (2005). Midbodies and phragmoplasts: analogous structures involved in cytokinesis. Trends in Cell Biology. Aug; 15(8): 404-13. PMID: 16009554

Skop AR, Liu H, Yates J 3rd, Meyer BJ, Heald R (2004). Dissection of the mammalian midbody proteome reveals conserved cytokinesis mechanisms. Science. Jul 2; 305(5680): 61-6. PMID: 15166316