Research Interests

My lab and I use brewer's yeast as a model organism to uncover the mechanistic details underlying curious biological phenomena. Initially we focused on our discovery of "telomere position effect", where genes located in proximity to chromosome ends produce a phenotype that is heritable for many generations, but at some frequency, reversible. Applying a combination of genetic and biochemical approaches we developed a mechanistic understanding of this type of "epigenetic" regulation of gene expression, identifying molecules that switch a gene to the heritable "off" state, as well as explaining how the state can be switched back "on". These studies also took us into unexpected directions, including the discovery and characterization of the telomerase RNA in yeast, the critical template component for replicating the ends of chromosomes. More recently, I am interested in the process of cellular aging, which is defined in yeast by the finite number of divisions a "mother" cell goes through. To facilitate these studies, we developed technologies to more easily identify and characterize aging phenotypes. Applying this, we have identified a series of causally-linked events that define the aging process, and defining how they are impacted by environment and genetics.

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Section 26: Genetics