Career Path – I completed my B.A. in Biology from small private college in Iowa, USA (where I’m from) called Wartburg College. I then moved to Iowa State University to for my PhD in Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology in Ian Schneider’s lab (Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering). I recently completed my post-doctoral studies at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) in Guy Tanentzapf’s lab and have moved on to open my own lab and teach at the University of North Dakota! At UND I hold an educator scholar position at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences focused on teaching undergraduate anatomy & physiology, so expect some more teaching in STEM coverage.
Scientific Interests – I primarily identify as a cell biologist in the context of my interdisciplinary career, interested in how physical properties of the external environment influence a cell. I started by investigating how cancer cells respond to changes in extra-cellular matrix (ECM) stiffness, looking at matrix metalloproteinase activity and cell migration. For my post-doc I decided I wanted to further this interest by looking at a different side of this process; how cells sense changes in physical properties via cell-ECM adhesion molecules. Here I characterized novel mouse models for functional mutants in Talin-1. This has allowed me to study focal adhesion biology and in vivo cell migration in the context of mammalian development. I have now combined both my graduate and post-graduate work into the new scientific interest of my new lab – the microenvironment regulation of neural crest cells. I plan to use both in vivo & ex vivo techniques to understand how neural crest cells migration and differentiation contributing to mammalian development. I then plan to apply these findings to the treatment of often aggressive neural crest derived cancers, such as neuroblastomas or melanomas.