Research and Teaching Interests
Research projects in progress:
Our research examines a diverse range of species and research questions concerning the molecular basis of animal development. The current research projects include:
- Molecular basis of insect sexual differentiation
- Molecular aspects of insect innate immunity
- Biotechnologies to control pest insects
- Role of microRNAs in invertebrate and vertebrate development
- Role of microRNAs in neurodegeneration pathology
- Molecular basis of West Nile virus infection and transmission (collaboration with M. Drebot and R. – Lindsay)
- Host-parasite interactions in frogs (collaboration with J. Koprivnikar)
- Genetic control of sea lampreys (collaboration with M. Docker)
- Environmental DNA detection of invasive species (collaboration with M. Docker)
New students with interests in molecular genetics, gene regulation, and developmental biology in both invertebrate and vertebrate models are welcome to enquire about any of the following projects listed below. The projects will provide training in: current molecular biology techniques (including RNA interference, genetic transformation, analyses of gene expression); cell biology techniques (cell culturing, cell transfections, imaging); protein biochemistry (2D electrophoresis, protein functional analyses); and bioinformatics (structure predictions, phylogenetic analyses; molecular interactions).
- Molecular genetics of mosquito sex determination and sexual differentiation. Insects have a diverse range of molecular mechanisms to determine sex and promote sexual differentiation. Mosquitoes share some components of the sex determination pathway with other insects, but also have unique genetic controls that help establish the remarkable differences between males and females. By identifying the genes involved in mosquito development, we are also considering how to disrupt these genes and their products in an effort to control some of our most serious disease vectors.
- MicroRNAs associated with neurodegenerative processes. Using fruit flies as our initial models, we are identifying which microRNAs are acting as genetic regulators of stress responses in neural tissues. Many of the microRNAs that we’ve identified are conserved across taxa, and may be involved in human neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Using flies in high throughput screening methods, we hope to identify the mechanisms of degeneration and to find ways to prevent or ameliorate the processes.
- Molecular aspects of flavivirus transmission. We are examining the molecular interactions of West Nile virus (WNV) with different hosts to determine why some mosquitoes are more serious vectors of the disease, and why some animals succumb to serious infections while others do not. What we learn from WNV may prove useful in the development of novel therapeutics for WNV and other more serious or newly emerging flaviviruses.