Douglas Blackiston, Ph.D.
Tufts University Department of Biology
Wyss Institute at Harvard University
The overarching goal of my research program is to understand how developmental events coordinate organism-level behaviors, and how these interactions can inform both biomedical and ecological contexts. To this end, I study many aspects of developmental biology to learn about the molecular, genetic, and environmental signaling mechanisms driving behavioral phenotypes, and then use these mechanisms to exert control over form and function, sensory-motor integration, and regenerative outcomes.
My group spans both in vivo and in vitro approaches, with each system informing the other. By studying the ontogenetic pathways required to generate behavior in model species, my work provides new tools for understanding developmental disorders and organismal form and function. Likewise, by leveraging developmental techniques and biological design approaches in vitro, I have generated new tools to simulate, build, and evaluate structure-function relationships in the Petri dish, which in turn leads to a greater understanding of the organism in vivo.
I received my Ph.D. from Georgetown University where I worked under Dr. Martha Weiss and Dr. Elena Silva on brain remodeling in lepidopteran species. There I performed several innovative studies asking the question, can a larva (caterpillar) learn something a moth or butterfly can later remember? The results of those studies were the first to demonstrate trans-metamorphic memory in lepidoptera and piqued my interest in how an organism responds to organization/patterning changes across developmental time-space. This interest has remained central in my career and continues to drive all the projects in the lab.