2017 June Symposium – Lab Grown Human Organs

Organized by students in the Developmental Biology Program, the symposium FOCUSED on recent advances in organoid tissue culture systems to model human disease. Registration...

Organogenesis & regeneration

The Stankunas laboratory investigates fundamental questions of how genes and proteins regulate organ development and regeneration. We study how cell signals interface with chromatin...

Evolution of larval development

Research in Maslakova lab at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology focuses on the evolution of embryonic and larval development in the understudied phylum...

Teleost development & evolution

The Cresko and Postlethwait labs are studying the evolution of duplicated genes and genomes, and their relationship to organismal diversity. Half of all vertebrate...

C. elegans cell division

The Bowerman lab uses genetics, molecular biology, and microscopy to study cytoskeletal regulation and function in the early Caenorhabditis elegans embryo. Many of the early...

Host-microbe interactions & organ development

All animals exist in intimate associations with communities of microorganisms that play important roles in the hosts’ normal development and physiology, and under certain...

Zebrafish bone development

How do the elements of the craniofacial skeleton arise, grow, and reshape? Zebrafish, with a sophisticated knowledge of its genetics and genomics, with favorable...

Drosophila neurogenesis

Drosophila neural stem cells (called neuroblasts) divide asymmetrically to generate neurons while maintaining their undifferentiated state, and thus they can be used as a...


The required curriculum was revised in 2014 to reflect changing training needs and to ensure that all students graduate with a strong, common background in developmental biology. Students with previous coursework in particular areas, with a grade of B+ or better, can petition for one course release.

1) BI 610 Advanced Genetics. Fall of the first year. This course teaches students the logic of genetic studies for understanding inheritance, development, and disease, exposes students to modern reverse and forward genetic approaches, and trains students in preparing research proposals based on genetics principles and methods.

2) BI 528 Developmental Genetics. Spring of the first or second year. This course seeks to educate students in the general principles that allow a single cell to develop into a remarkably complex organism. The course explores how different cell types establish unique gene expression programs through cell-cell communication and an array of gene regulatory mechanisms. The class emphasizes the scientific research process of pursuing interesting questions, proposing specific hypotheses, designing well-controlled experiments, and rigorously interpreting results into conclusions.

3) One of the following three courses, as recommended by the trainee’s Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC) and approved by the Executive Committee. The course selection is determined by a discussion between the trainee and his/her committee at the first DAC, with the goal of selecting the course(s) that would provide the most relevant material for the trainee’s thesis project. Winter or Spring of the second year.

• BI 580 Evolution of Development. Students learn about the interface between Developmental and Evolutionary Biology, providing them a unique perspective on how evolution of developmental mechanisms gives rise to phenotypic and functional diversity. The format of this course mimics what scientists do: study the literature, investigate hypotheses, conduct original research, write research papers, write grant proposals, and give talks at meetings to their peers.

• BI 566 Developmental Neurobiology. This course explores mechanisms underlying nervous system development and how these mechanisms fail in some neurodevelopmental disorders. The course is taught almost entirely from original research papers and reviews and emphasizes critical reading of the literature and critical thinking.

• BI 593 Genomic Approaches & Analysis. This course introduces students to methods for studying biological questions on a genome-wide level. Students examine approaches to measure changes in genomic DNA composition, transcript and protein levels, and molecular interactions as a function of history, genetics, or environment. Analytical methods for interpreting the large bodies of data generated by these methods of experimentation are discussed. These concepts are put into practice by a course project and presentation at the end of the term.

4) BI 610 Advanced Biological Statistics. Fall of the second year. This course aims to provide students with an understanding of the core concepts and approaches for the analysis of biological data, particularly large data sets. This foundational course for graduate students moves quickly, covering all major topics in univariate and multivariate data analysis and forming a foundation for subsequent learning. Students are assigned projects to analyze sequencing data sets using the R programming language.

5) BI 610 Ethics and Integrity in Biomedical Research. Winter of the second year. The course outline, schedule, background readings, preparatory exercises, a description of each class session, and other reference materials for each class session are at the course website, which is kept active as a reference source for trainees. The course draws on several online sources: primarily, materials from NIH Training in RCR, the DHHS Office of Research Integrity, and the National Academy of Science, and several RCR classes at colleagues’ institutions. It includes instruction on all of the Core Instructional Areas recommended by PHS Office of Research Integrity and by the NIH RCR instruction requirements listed in NOT-OD-10-019.

Cell and Developmental Biology Journal Club

The Developmental Biology training program oversees the Cell and Developmental Biology journal club (CDBJC), which is held every week during Fall, Winter and Spring quarters. DBP trainees are required to register and participate. Students, post docs, and faculty share in these lively presentations and discussions. Each week, one person (trainee or faculty) leads an interactive seminar and another person (trainee or faculty) is responsible for commenting on and critiquing the presentation after the session. Presenters select papers for discussion at least a week in advance that are posted in PDF format on a website providing password-protected downloads. All trainees must present at least once per year. This weekly meeting, currently drawing about 40 participants, provides important interactions among trainees to enrich their exposure to a broad range of developmental biology-related research.

Developmental Biology Interest Group

The program hosts a monthly lunch series where two UO speakers (grad students, postdocs, technicians, or faculty) present their research progress.  The talks engage a diverse group of DB-interested scientists in critical and creative discussion, including troubleshooting and brainstorming future directions.

Career Development Opportunities

Trainees are required to participate in an Individual Development Plan (IDP) process. The purpose of the IDP is to encourage introspection concerning career goals, and concrete action to tailor training to those goals. The IDP procedures are outlined in the IDP Year 2 and IDP Years 3-5 documents.

We encourage students who are considering careers outside of academia to consider doing an internship toward the end of their PhD training. Internship information and opportunities can be found here.

Additionally, the UO Graduate School annually hosts several career development panels of 2-3 professionals in one field. Students have the opportunity to interact with panelists in a casual environment. Planned panel topics include science policy, patent law, biotech start-ups, and nonprofits.

The Developmental Biology Symposia

A Developmental Biology symposium on a topic chosen by the DBP trainees is held each June. The symposium is a one or two-day affair located on campus. The students pick the topic, invite the speakers (usually five) and other participants, and host the event. Selected recent meeting topics have been “Lab Grown Human Organs” (2017), “Exploring Development using Non-Traditional Model Organisms” (2016), “Organogenesis: From Micro to Macro… and Back Again” (2013), “Development of Neural Circuits” (2010), “Developing Cellular Memory” (2008), and “Regenerating Stem Cells” (2007).

Oregon Program IN Developmental Biology – OHSU/UO Joint RetreatS

The inaugural retreat of the Oregon Program in Developmental Biology was hosted at Oregon Health & Science University on January 5-6, 2017. A reciprocal retreat at the University of Oregon was held on June 25-26, 2017 in conjunction with the annual symposium. These retreats familarize attendees with DB-related research conducted at UO and OHSU and enable the exploration of collaborative opportunities. Further, the 2017 retreats mark the launch of joint training and research funding opportunities between the two institutions.