Developmental Biology and Genetics
The broad fields of Developmental Biology and Genetics are highly interdisciplinary with presence in all basic medical-science areas, as well as animal and plant biology. Understanding how organisms develop requires a systems-level understanding of how cells achieve different fates, and what combinations of intercellular signaling and intracellular regulatory circuits generate spatially and temporally encoded patterns along the body axis. With the unprecedented expansion of techniques in genomics, molecular biology, and biochemistry, studies in developmental biology require an integrative perspective, applying a "systems" level approach that combines computational and genomic approaches with cell and molecular biology techniques to study developmental phenomena. In particular, many key insights into development are enabled by genetic approaches to understand how genes control the differentiation of cells and formation of patterns. With regards to our educational mission, we are deeply committed to training outstanding researchers who are well prepared to tackle the exciting challenges that await them in this burgeoning area.
Laboratories that work in this area seek to understand how a multicellular organism arises from a single cell, the fertilized egg. Research in this area spans a broad range of topics, approaches, and experimental systems, including sea urchin development, muscle specification in mice, neural crest development in vertebrates, postembryonic nematode development, Arabidopsis development, mouse T-cell development, Drosophila mesoderm development, Xenopus signaling pathways, stem cell regulatory circuits, genomics and bioinformatics of stem cells, and evolution of development.
Genetics underlies all of biology and much biological inquiry. We build on our rich history in genetics, in which Caltech geneticists such as Morgan, Beadle, Delbruck, Benzer, Wood, Lewis and Hood laid down the foundations of our understanding of genes, gene function, genetic pathways and genome sequences. Current research on Genetics at Caltech includes modern developmental and behavioral genetics using flies, worms, mice, yeast, Arabidopsis, and zebrafish to elucidate the genetic control of development, physiology and behavior.