Modeling the Living Embryo:
Quantitative and Computational Developmental Biology

History:

Developmental biologists aim to understand the process by which a single cell develops into a complex multicellular organism. At NC State, faculty in developmental biology have a common interest in applying quantitative and computational methods to understand complex problems in animal and plant development.  Toward this goal, 49 faculty across 16 diverse departments in the colleges of Veterinary Medicine, Agriculture and Life Sciences, Sciences and Engineering have joined forces through the second round of the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program to recruit four new faculty members. The aim is to build a dynamic group of interdisciplinary faculty who collaboratively address important questions in developmental biology in various animal and plant models by combining cutting-edge experimental, quantitative and computational approaches.


Description:

NC State developmental biologists will recruit candidates whose research addresses four distinct knowledge gaps in developmental biology where forefront progress can be made through use of quantitative and computational approaches: 1) How are individual cell fate decisions made - how does a specific embryonic or undifferentiated cell develop into a particular final cell type? 2) What is the influence of biomechanics on plant and animal morphogenesis? 3) What mechanisms underlie the organization of cell fates in space and time? 4) How do genetic and environmental variation interact with phenotypic plasticity and the evolution of new biological forms? New faculty in the cluster will actively participate in the multi-disciplinary group and have a home in one of the following departments: Molecular Biomedical Sciences, Plant and Microbial Biology, Biological Sciences, Mathematics, Chemical and Biological Engineering, or Biomedical Engineering.

 

Impact:

A common goal for developmental biologists is to comprehend development well enough to be able to manipulate developmental processes and events for human benefit. Developmental research has revealed causes of birth defects, spawned the field of stem cell and regenerative biology, informed cancer biology and efforts to engineer artificial tissues and organs, and illuminated the plasticity of plant morphogenesis, responses to stress and the basis of crop yield and quality. However, it is becoming widely recognized that entirely new experimental and analytical approaches are necessary to understand the staggeringly complex transition from egg to embryo, seed to plant. Identification of the factors that influence animal development, full-term birth and later adult-onset disease will have far reaching socio-economic and policy implications. Likewise in developing plants, mechanisms that control seed number, growth rate and organ identity and size under diverse environmental conditions are highly relevant to food, feed, fiber and fuel production. With our considerable existing strengths in traditional biological, engineering, and quantitative and computational sciences, our new cluster is uniquely poised to become a trailblazer in the emerging field of quantitative and computational developmental biology and to make significant impacts benefiting life on our planet.

 

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