Laura Buttitta

Laura Buttitta

Please give a brief, lay-audience accessible description of your research.

We study how the cell cycle is regulated to speed up, slow down or stop cell proliferation at the right places and times during development. We primarily use the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster in our studies because they are easy to use and develop rapidly. Many fruit fly tissues also develop in a manner similar to our own human tissues, suggesting we can learn quite a bit about our own development, simply by studying development in tiny fruit flies.

What aspect of your research is more interesting to you? Think big picture.

Our is directly related to questions of regeneration and cancer. In some tissues, cells (such as neurons) lose the ability to divide and proliferate and therefore also lose the capacity to regenerate or cause cancer. While other cell types, such as stem cells do not lose this ability to divide and therefore can help tissues regenerate, but can also form tumors and lead to cancer. We are excited to investigate what are the signals and genes that control these differences in cell division ability between cell types.

What about your career path is most exciting to you and why? (Teaching, mentoring, research, writing grants etc)

I love both classroom teaching and mentoring. I cannot choose just one because to me they are complementary activities that strengthen each other. The more I learn from mentoring students in the lab, the better I am able to communicate scientific concepts in the classroom. Conversely the more I teach in the classroom - the better I am at communicating and discussing science and ideas in the lab.

What makes UM the best place for you to carry out your career goals?

My position in the MCDB department provides the opportunity to both teach and also mentor at the bench by combining an active research program with undergraduate and graduate classroom teaching.