November 10, 2020
Biology faculty member earns NSF award to study cell movement during development
Jocelyn McDonald, associate professor in the Division of Biology, received a $938,885 award from the National Science Foundation to support her research on the "Coordination of collective cell migration in complex tissues." Brad Olson, also an associate professor of biology, is a co-principal investigator on the award that will be active through 2024.
The research project will explore how cells move during development to shape tissues and organs that make up an embryo. McDonald's previous work has shown that cells often coordinate and move in groups during this process, but it remains unknown how such coordinated movements actually happen. Using fruit flies, a model organism used to study how animals develop, McDonald and her team will work to uncover how cells communicate with each other when coming together and moving as a group. To do so, they will use genetic manipulations and microscopic techniques that allow them to observe living cells as they move.
The award will also support workshops for junior high and high school girls to learn about nature and science. Participants will build their own simple microscope that will allow them to explore the natural world. In addition, McDonald's team will work with engineering students will design and make a device to alter the tissue and find out the impact on how cell groups move.
The project was supported through NSF's Rules of Life program, an interdisciplinary initiative that explores the rules that predict an organism's observable characteristics.