The Section of Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado is committed to research that improves child health. Specifically, we have five main objectives:

  • Understand the genetic, molecular and cellular mechanisms that guide normal development
  • Determine how normal developmental processes are altered to result in developmental disease and disability
  • Identify new diagnostic strategies and molecular and cellular therapies targeted at treatment of childhood disease
  • Train the next generation of leaders in developmental and stem cell biology and pediatric disease research
  • Serve as a hub for basic and translational child health research that spans the Anschutz Medical Campus research community

To accomplish these objectives the faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral trainees and research staff who comprise the Section of Developmental Biology perform research using stem cell, organoid and animal experimental models, including Drosophila, zebrafish and mice. Our investigations focus on several major tissue and organ systems such as the brain, heart, intestine, face and vascular, olfactory and immune systems. Our work is leading to a better understanding of childhood disabilities associated with neuropsychiatric disease, Down syndrome, the congenital basis of cardiovascular and facial malformations and the impact of maternal health on fetal development.

Julia Derk, PhD, was awarded the Society for Developmental Biology Trainee Science Communication Award for her outstanding work on Clear Direction Mentoring, a long-term and immersive mentorship program for Underrepresented Minority (URM) high school students interested in learning more about careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine. Julia pioneered this program as part of her graduate training at NYU School of Medicine and now runs two chapters (New York City and Aurora/Denver) with 28 mentor and fellow pairs. Clear Direction Mentoring trains and supports mentors for how to positively impact their students' lives and also coordinates large-group "academies" teaching the students concepts and career options ranging from developmental biology to circuit building, botany to microbiology and vaccine development, as well as leadership skills and building confidence. Julia does this work in addition to being a postdoctoral research fellow in the Siegenthaler Laboratory where she studies the development and breakdown of the arachnoid barrier of the meninges.