Jennifer Kavran

Jennifer Kavran

Assistant Professor

Research Interests:  I am intrigued by how cells receive information from their environment and how they then process and respond to that information. This phenomenon, known as signaling, underlies numerous biological processes and allows cells to react to external cues such as nutrients, growth factors, or hormones. My laboratory aims to distill complex signaling pathways into their essential components and to define their activities on a molecular, biochemical, and structural level.  Such studies have the potential to illuminate the molecular mechanisms that regulate eukaryotic signaling pathways and provide a framework to interpret how small molecules influence a pathway or how mutations in pathway components can alter activity.  It is a particular pleasure when molecular insights are able to rationalize otherwise puzzling biological phenomena.

At this juncture, my laboratory is particularly interested in unraveling the inner workings of the Hippo pathway.   When is the correct time for a heart to stop growing or for a cell to stop dividing? Wrong answers have potentially dire consequences. During metazoan development, the interrelated decisions concerning cell fate, size and number are controlled by a few key signaling cascades.  By modulating the balance between cell division and cell death, the Hippo pathway ultimately controls organ size. Yet the molecular mechanisms governing such a fundamental cellular decision are not well understood and require further investigation.  Our aim is to understand how the components of this pathway interact on a molecular level and how these interactions modulate the activity of the pathway.

Quote:  I am excited to count myself part of the BMB family.  The department offers the perfect blend of cutting edge research, intellectual diversity, and talented graduate students.   It is the perfect scientific environment in which to establish my research program.