Congratulations to Alexis Lanza of the Elaine Seaver Laboratory for successfully completing her PhD!
Published: Thursday, November 7, 2019
Alexis graduated with a PhD in Zoology from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and defended her dissertation on Halloween Day. The title of Alexis’s dissertation is ‘Insights into the role of TGF-beta superfamily signaling in annelid dorsal-ventral axis formation’. Her research was completed in the laboratory of Dr. Elaine Seaver, Professor of Biology, located at the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience.
Alexis's research was a mechanistic investigation of how the dorsal ventral axis of the body plan is established during the embryonic period of the life cycle. Alexis studied this question in the embryos of two segmented worms, Capitella teleta and Chaetopterus pergamentaceous. Alexis sought to answer questions such as: what is the critical molecular signal that is utilized by the embryo to pattern the dorsal-ventral axis of the body? When does the signaling occur? Using newly developed functional genomic methods, Alexis was able to demonstrate that the Activin/Nodal signaling pathway is the critical signal in both Capitella and Chaetopterus. This was a surprising finding since this is different from the signal used by other animals, and hints at an example of having the same developmental outcome resulting from the action of a different molecular signaling pathway.