Ph.D. Northwestern University, Neuroscience
B.A. Lawrence University, Biology & Neuroscience
My laboratory investigates how individual neurons wire themselves together into a precisely interconnected and functional nervous system.
Specifically, the lab is interested in how growth factors direct axon extension and innervation, growth cone dynamics, and the elaboration of axonal and dendritic arbors. Our neuron of choice is the retinal ganglion cell (RGC), the only neuron that connects the eye to the brain. These connections must be formed with extreme precision in order for an organism to see. RGC cell bodies and dendrites reside in the retina, while their axons follow a stereotypic pathway to synapse in the brain. We can manipulate and observe developing RGCs particularly well in the South African claw-toed frog (Xenopus laevis) both in vitro and in vivo. My laboratory also investigates the role of the cholinergic signaling in developing spinal neurons. We use transgenic zebrafish embryos to understand how pesticides influence neurogenesis and axon guidance. Another project in collaboration with the Round Lab examines the role of Stitrks, a novel family of genes, in zebrafish nervous system development. Finally, we are also examining the influence of estrogen mimicking plasticizers such as BPA on tyrosine hydroxylase expression in the developing tadpole brain.