Areas of Interest
Broadly, I am deeply interested in the way organisms control cell fate and how the flexibility of cell identity seems to be different depending on the animal species. Acquisition and maintenance of cell identity are critical for sustained tissue function and homeostasis in multicellular organisms, yet inflexible cell identity can also burden organisms with damaged or degenerated tissues. In my work, I use Drosophila melanogaster testes as an excellent stem cell system to interrogate the regulatory networks involved in dedifferentiation. Although stem cell populations are primarily responsible for restoring lost, damaged, or spent cells, especially in proliferative tissues, evidence from multiple animal models show that dedifferentiation can provide a naturally occurring, critical fail-safe if stem cell populations dwindle or degenerate. Further, understanding the signaling networks that control dedifferentiation could be key to understanding regeneration, long-term tissue homeostasis, and aging. My goal is use my research to answer longstanding questions about the evolutionary context in which cell identity decisions arise and how these impact processes like regeneration and aging.