Genetic and developmental mechanisms underlying phenotypic evolution
Mentor: Professor Patricia Wittkopp
The formation of a complex, multi-cellular organism from a single cell is a remarkable biological process. Every cell within an individual contains the same DNA, yet hundreds of distinct cell types are produced. At a molecular level, this cellular diversity is created by differences in gene expression as well as interactions among the RNA and protein products of expressed genes. Genetic mutations that alter the expression and/or activity of a gene provide raw material for evolution. A subset of these mutations persists within populations, contributing to intraspecific variation, and even fewer ultimately become fixed between species, contributing to interspecific divergence. Research in my laboratory investigates the evolution of a specific trait (i.e., pigmentation in fruit flies) as well as gene expression in general. Specific projects will be developed in consultation with individual students, taking into consideration both the student's interests and the current needs of the lab. This work would be done on the Ann Arbor campus in the Wittkopp Laboratory.