I am an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department at Reed College in Portland, OR. Prior to Reed, I was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Biology Department at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, NC.

I received my Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL in 2007 and received my B.S. in Biology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI in 2002.

The central goal of my research—To understand the regulation of the cytoskeleton.
Just as we have bones and muscles that give our bodies shape and allow us to move, cells have analogous structures known as the cytoskeleton. The cytoskeleton is composed of three filament networks, the actin, microtubule, and intermediate filament cytoskeletons. All three networks are composed of polymers that polymerize to form larger networks. It is these networks, that are dynamic and highly regulated, that give cells their shape and allow them to move. The cytoskeleton is therefore critical to the shape change or morphogenesis cells undergo during development, immune functions, the path finding that developing neurons undergo when establishing connections, and in cases where the cytoskeletal machinery works aberrantly, metastasis during tumorgenesis.

Why Drosophila (fruit flies) and Drosophila cells? My research uses both Drosophila derived cells and the flies themselves. Drosophila cells are easily cultured, amenable to high resolution imaging, and are exquisitely sensitive to RNAi depletion. The cells can be manipulated through the expression of exogenous proteins and by the use of pharmacological inhibitors to probe the function of the cytoskeleton in a variety of ways. My research also uses the developing Drosophila embryo, taking advantage of the powerful genetics this model organism represents to answer basic questions of how the cytoskeleton is regulated, and to study cell motility in the context of a developing organism.

Key questions my research is addressing...

How does class of molecules known as actin-microtubule cross-linkers function in regulating the cytoskeleton?

How is actomyosin contractility regulated during interphase?

How can we test current models of cytoskeletal regulation in developingDrosophila embryos?

Derek Applewhite


Reed College
3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
Portland, OR 97202

Phone: 503-517-5017
Office: B140
E-mail: applewhd@reed.edu