In July, 2003, I began working for the Indiana School of Medicine, as an Associate Professor, in the Department of Pediatrics, at the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research. In July, 2009, I was promoted to Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, Medical and Molecular Genetics, Anatomy & Cell Biology/Biochemistry.
Beginning in January, 2014, I was awarded the title of Carleton Buehl McCulloch Professor of Pediatrics.
For well over 20 years, my independent career focus has been on gaining an understanding of the role that the bHLH Hand/Twist-family of proteins plays during heart development. My group has established that these factors have broad dimerization characteristics and that phosphoregulation of these proteins helps define bHLH partner choice. We have gone on to show that Hand/Twist-family gene dosage within a cell defines a bHLH code, which orchestrates cell specification, differentiation, and morphological patterning. This mechanism is directly involved in causing the human disease. We have recently discovered that bHLH partner choice pays a key role in the patterning of the face during embryonic development. Hand1 expression within the distal cap of the 1st pharyngeal arch is not necessary for normal craniofacial morphogenesis; however when Hand1 dimer mutant knock in alleles are activated within the endogenous Hand1 expression domain, there is a pronounced mid face clefting that results from disruption of FGF and SHH signaling and causes wide spread non-cell autonomous cell death within forming 1st pharyngeal arch.
In more recent studies, we have discovered the minimal Hand1 transcriptional enhancer necessary and sufficient for recapitulating 1st pharyngeal arch expression. Regulation of this enhancer by BMP, HAND2, and DLX5 and 6 shows that Hand1 expression defines the distal cap of the 1st pharyngeal arch and provides a powerful tool to interrogate the role this distal most portion of the forming jaw has on craniofacial patterning and morphogenesis.
I am very pleased and dedicated to participate in our student research programs, being a member of graduate thesis committees, postdoctoral and graduate advisor. My professional activities also include being invited to internal, national and international meetings to speak about my research.