Developmental Systems and Stem Cell Biology Training Cluster

Developmental biology is an integrative discipline, and pioneering discoveries in this field have transformed the face of modern biological research. Landmark contributions include understanding the genetic basis of embryonic pattern and it conservation from flies to humans (1995 Nobel Prize), the mechanisms and importance of programmed cell death (2002 Nobel Prize), the underpinnings of aging and longevity, and the importance of cell and tissue polarity. It is also the origins of the field of stem cell biology (2007 Nobel Prize). Developmental model organisms have played a key role in dissecting major signaling pathways and uncovering the mechanisms controlling gene regulation, which create a foundation for understanding human health and disease, including cancer, birth defects and obesity. Developmental studies led to the discovery of RNA interference and microRNAs (2006 Nobel Prize), and they have provided fertile ground for the emerging disciplines of genomics and systems biology.

Research in the Developmental Systems and Stem Cell Biology Training Cluster is broadly focused on the complex processes regulating multicellular organisms over developmental time scales. Participating faculty members are drawn from numerous departments across Northwestern and have expertise in experimental biology, cutting edge cell biology, genomics, systems approaches and network modeling. Ongoing efforts are aimed at understanding the conserved mechanisms and principles that govern body patterning, embryonic growth and organ development, how stem cells contribute to regenerative growth, and how the misregulation of developmental processes leads to diseases such as cancer. Cluster faculty have expertise across a broad swath of model systems including planaria, c. elegans, Drosophila, Xenopus, zebrafish, chicken and mouse, all of which provide distinct experimental advantages for addressing developmental questions.

Students in the Developmental Systems and Stem Cell Biology Cluster benefit from specialized training from a highly accomplished faculty. Cluster programmatic activities include formal and informal (“special topics”) course work, journal clubs, and a literature based “technologies” club. A quarterly cluster meeting / mini symposium that includes scientific talks and poster presentations bring faculty and trainees together in a dynamic and interactive forum. The cluster catalyzes interactions between faculty and students that cross both geographic and disciplinary boundaries in order to help trainees pursue research directions that are creative, powerful, and innovative, as well as to nurture interdisciplinary collaborations that enhance research and training.

Cluster Directors
  • Richard Carthew, (Director) Owen L. Coon Professor in Molecular Biology, Department of Molecular Biosciences (Gene regulation of development)
  • Carole LaBonne, (Co-director) Associate Professor, Soretta and Henry Shapiro Research Professor in Molecular Biology, Department of Molecular Biosciences (Neural crest development)

Training Faculty

  • Erik Andersen, Assistant Professor, Molecular Biosciences (Gene identification and disease susceptibility)
  • Luis Amaral, Associate Professor, Chemical and Biological Engineering (Complex Systems)
  • Raj Awatramani, Assistant Professor, Department of Neurology (Mammalian CNS development)
  • Greg Beitel, Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences (Tracheal development)
  • Thomas Bozza, Assistant Professor, Department of Neurobiology (Olfactory development)
  • Jianhua Cang, Assistant Professor, Department of Neurobiology (Functional development of visual cortex)
  • Richard Carthew, Owen L. Coon Professor in Molecular Biology, Department of Molecular Biosciences (Gene regulation of development)
  • Anis Contractor, Associate Professor in Physiology and Neurobiology, (Synaptic plasticity and the mechanisms of learning and memory)
  • John Crispino, Associate Professor, Medicine (modeling genetic disorders in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells)
  • Yuanyi Feng, Assistant Professor, Department of Neurology (Morphogenesis of Organs)
  • Jaime García-Añoveros, PhD, Assistant Professor, Anesthesiology, Neurology
  • Mary Hendrix, President and Scientific Director CMRC, Medical Research Institute Council Professor (Stem cells and cancer biology)
  • Robert Holmgren, Professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences (Cell-fate specification during development)
  • Phil Iannaconne, Deputy Director for Research-Basic Sciences, CMRC; George M. Eisenberg Professor of Pediatrics (Signal transduction and development)
  • Peng Ji, Assistant Professor, Pathology (Mammalian hematopoiesis)
  • John Kessler, Davee Professor of Stem Cell Biology (Regeneration and stem cells)
  • Michael Kluppel, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics CMRC (Signaling and development)
  • Steven Kosak, Assistant Professor, Department of Cell and Molecular Biology (Nuclear Organization and Stem Cell Fate)
  • Tsutomu Kume, PhD, Associate Professor, Medicine (Cardiovascular development and stem cell biology)
  • Carole LaBonne, Associate Professor, Soretta and Henry Shapiro Research Professor in Molecular Biology, Department of Molecular Biosciences (Neural crest development)
  • Yong-Chao Ma, Assistant Professor, Departments of Pediatrics, Physiology and Neurology (Neural stem cell differentiation in development and disease)
  • Danielle Maatouk, Assistant Professor, Ob-Gyn (Chromatin remodeling and gene regulation of sex determination)
  • David McLean, Assistant Professor, Neurobiology (Development and plasticity of motor networks)
  • William M. Miller, PhD, Professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Brian Mitchell, Assistant Professor, Department of Cell and Molecular Biology (Planar cell polarity and embryogenesis)
  • Richard Morimoto, Cook Professor of Biology, Department of Molecular Biosciences (Aging and Proteostasis in C. elegans)
  • Thomas O’Halloran, PhD, Professor, Departments of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences
  • Christian Petersen, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences (Regeneration in Planaria)
  • Gangjian Qin, MD, Assistant Professor, Medicine (Stem cells and cardiovascular regeneration)
  • Hans-Georg Simon, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics CMRC (Development and regenerative repair of vertebrate limbs and heart)
  • Jacek Topczewski, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics CMRC (Embryonic morphogenesis)
  • Warren Tourtellotte, Associate Professor, Department of Pathology (Gene regulation of neural development)
  • Xiaozhong (Alec) Wang, Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences (Development of the CNS)
  • Eric L Weiss, Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences (Signaling pathways in the control of cell architecture)