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Who We Are

We are a group of evolutionary developmental biologists using marine invertebrate embryos to try to reconstruct the molecular genetic mechanisms that led to the evolution of gastrulation. In particular, we are interested in the role that the Wnt signaling pathways may have played in this process. The Wnt pathway is highly conserved and used extensively during development and homeostasis in all animals. In our research we are also using our invertebrate model systems to elucidate some of the poorly understood steps in the regulation of Wnt signaling. Read more about our work here.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Athula Wikramanayake is a Professor in the Department of Biology and the current Chair. He received his Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis and did his research at the Bodega Marine Laboratory. After doing postdoctoral work at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, he moved to the University of Hawaii at Manoa as an Assistant Professor. The lab moved to the University of Miami in 2007.

During the fall semester, Dr. Wikramanayake teaches an HHMI sponsored Introductory Biology Lab that involves first year students in active learning through individual research projects, using gametes and embryos of various marine invertebrates.

During the spring semester, he teaches Developmental Biology at the undergraduate and graduate level. He is also the Director of the Biology Honors Program, runs the undergraduate research colloquium for biology honors students, and teaches in the Graduate Core course.

Meet the Team

Lingyu Wang Ph.D. Candidate

Lingyu is interested in understanding how embryos establish the primary embryonic polarity, along the animal-vegetal axis. He hopes to reconstruct the molecular complex that specifies the primary egg axis in sea urchins by using a combination of biochemical techniques and next-generation sequencing.

    Wei Wu Ph.D. Candidate

    Wei is studying how the Disheveled protein in the Wnt pathway is selectively activated in vegetal cells in early sea urchin embryos. He is using Dsh Co-Immunoprecipitation followed by mass spectrometry as a strategy to identify novel Dsh interacting proteins from purified micromere lysates.

      Hongyan Sun Ph.D. Student

      Hongyan is studying the molecular similarities and differences in how beta-catenin is targeted for degradation in the canonical Wnt pathway in sea urchins and Nematostella.

        Julia Vanetten Undergrad (Biology and Marine Biology)

        Julia is working with Wei Wu to characterize the function of novel Dsh interacting proteins in sea urchins.

          Sureni Sumathipala Rotation Student

            Karen Bates, Ph.D. Assistant Scientist

              Sol Pose, Ph.D. Postdoc

                Claudia Cabrera MDC Undergraduate Student

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