The Lab of Gene Network Evolution in Animal Development


Our lab uses a range of echinoderm species as model systems to study these problems.  These organisms are especially well suited to high throughput analyses as their embryos are easily reared and injected with a range of perturbation reagents.  Their overall simple development also allows us to achieve a systems level understanding of development. Also, as echinoderms  are the phylogentically closest invertebrate phylum to vertebrate animals (which includes humans) our findings have direct relevance to human health. We work with the sea urchins, Stronglyocentrotus purpuratus, Lytechinus variegatus, the sea sea star Patiria miniata and the sea cucumber Parastichopus parvimensis

These larvae also show a remarkable ability to regenerate.  This is allowing us unravel the mechanisms of regeneration.

We use a utilize many approaches and technologies, including molecular biology, genomics, biochemistry, microscopy, embryology and computational biology and frequently collaborate with other groups.


  1. Our lab protocol for microinjections is now published in JOVE - contact us if you have any problems making it work. We hope it spread the beauty of this system!!

  1. Congratulations to Lazar and Sowyma! Now CMU Alumni.  Lazar headed to Australia for Med School, Sowyma working in Ireland

  1. Brenna’s paper is out in Development!

  1. Visit from Chris Amemiya -very nice to find out more about his work

  1. Great News!  Our MBE paper was selected as Editors Choice in Science.  See here

  1. Our paper on how transcription factors evolve is out in MBE!! Congrats to all of the authors.  See overview in our “Research”

  1. Aug 2. End of Summer Program already! Very nice presentation from Sowmya, and posters from Lazar, Deborah, Katherine and Safa

  1. Welcome to our summer undergraduate research students, Deborah, Katherine and Safa

  2. Congratulations to Lazar and Sowmya for getting summer scholarships from HHMI

  3. Our review in Genesis is out!

  4. April 3-6. Veronica is at the U. Arizona IGERT symposium on Deep Genomics in Tuscon.

  1. Great to have Chris Lowe out for a visit

  1. Our review on the Evolution of GRNs in Genesis is out. 

  1. Nice visit from 12 girls from the Carnegie Science Center “Tour Your Future” Program.See our blurb in our Outreach tab.

  1. We had a great visit from Julia Zeitlinger who came to give  seminar for the Computational Biology Seminar Series

  1. Feb 2014. Alys is at the Keystone Transcription Meeting in New Mexico.

  1. Jan 2014. We’re very happy to welcome our new postdoc Greg Cary to the lab.  And he looks happy to be here!

  1. Sept. 2013. Congratulations to Alys for winning  the department’s Graduate Student Teaching Award for 2013! See the story here

  1. Aug 2. 2013. End of Undergrad Summer HHMI summer program.  Great posters!

  1. Aug. 2013. Our Kaufman Grant will be funded!  Here’s a press release. We are looking for a postdoc to work on this.  A great collaboration potential between the Hinman, Minden, Armitage and Ly labs.

  1. May 28, 2013. Welcome back to Sowyma, Annette and Lazar for the summer HHMI SURP program.

  1. May 6, 2013. Kristen’s Paper is out in PNAS this week!  Congratulation to her and all the co-authors. 

  1. Nice presentation from Annette, Lazar, Sowyma at Meeting of the Minds.

  1. Congratulations to Alys for an honorable mention for her talk at the SDB regional meeting


Our group is broadly interested in how genomes control cell fate decisions during embryonic development and also later regeneration. We are also interested to understand how these processes have evolved and how the evolution of genomes leads to the evolution of morphology.  We especially focus our research on (i) how gene regulation has evolved (which includes transcriptional evolution of gene regulatory networks- GRNs), (ii) how proteins evolve biochemical differences in function, and (iii) the evolutionary basis of regeneration. 

News From the Lab