Alana Chin

Alana Chin



I study intestinal development using the mouse as a model. The intestine is responsible for absorbing nutrients in the food we eat. Lining the intestine are millions of finger-like projections called villi that greatly enhance the surface area of the intestine. But we don’t always have villi. During development, the embryonic intestine is a flat tube without villi. Then after a certain point of growth, the intestine gets bigger and the flat tube remodels and makes the villus projections. I study this process of villus formation because we don’t really know how this happens. I'm trying to figure out what genes are important for this process and how the cells move and grow in a way that makes villi.


I love thinking about developmental biology because it's amazing to think that just one gene can have a huge impact on a whole organism. In order for a body to grow and organize in the same exact way every time, where nothing goes wrong, a ton of complex processes have to happen correctly. And when one little thing is off, the whole thing could fail and not develop. I love my project because it is fascinating that messing up just one gene pathway can mess up the entire organ.


The thing that excites me the most is thinking about how a seemingly small or singular thing can have a huge impact on something greater. Just like how one gene can disrupt the development of a whole organ, one person can have a huge impact on a group or a society. And that's what I try to do. In some way, whether it’s through a small interaction with one person or through a big project with a team, I hope to make an impact on something larger.


UM was the best place for me to carry out my career goals because it allowed me to do what I wanted. I didn't know exactly what type of science or research I wanted to study, but because UM has a ridiculously huge amount of research, and all very very high quality research, I had the opportunity to explore anything I wanted. And when I found something super cool, the people were so supportive and excited too. I also really appreciate that UM has been incredibly supportive of me exploring my interests outside of research. In addition to playing with cool organs, I get to work with DFB, student organizations, and within the department and graduate school.