I’m a microscopy enthusiast completing my Postdoc at the Stowers Institute in Kansas City, MO, where you’ll find me diving into the world of planaria, exploring the biological question of regeneration, the related questions of data organization and visualization in the Sánchez Alvarado Lab.
As a Ph.D. student in the Peifer Lab, I was interested in how cells coordinate adhesion among neighbors with individual cytoskeletal rearrangements to allow highly dynamic tissue rearrangements required in normal development and homeostasis. Specifically, I worked in Drosophila embryos using light microscopy to understand regulation of the actin cytoskeleton by a suite of proteins which modulate actin filament assembly and architecture to produce both cell movement and protrusions required by the cell for probing the local environment. It sounds interesting, but is even more interesting to look at though live confocal microscopy. Check it out here.
After spending time looking at how cells interact in the context of large developmental events with light microscopy, I naturally became interested in wound healing and regeneration and the other side of microscopy, electron microscopy. Planaria are excellent models for regeneration, as they are able to regrow missing organs and reestablish their full body plan in two weeks after being cut in any orientation and in many pieces*. From a new gut to a new brain, to new skin, planarians are incredibly competent at regrowing themselves. This regeneration process is carried out by stem cells, called neoblasts. I’m interested in where these neoblasts are, who their neighbors are, and how we can identify and visualize them using 3D electron microscopy (3D EM).