The Fitch Lab

The Fitch Lab
Department of Biology, New York University
100 Washington Square East, Greenwich Village
New York, NY 10003, USA

Click here to go to updated (but temporary) Fitch Lab web site: http://wormtails.bio.nyu.edu/ .

For a brief overview of what we do and who we are, click on a topic:

Our research objectives

Our longterm goals are to understand:

  1. How genes control form.
  2. How evolutionary changes produce diversity in form.

The models we use to approach these goals:

  1. As a model group of related species, we study Rhabditidae, a family of nematodes (roundworms) which comprises a large number (> 250) of small (1-2 mm), predominantly free-living worms found everywhere among the microflora of many different saprobic habitats.
    (Click here to see our partial phylogeny for Rhabditidae.)
    (Click here to go to WSRN, our Worm Systematics Resource Network.)
     
  2. As a model form, we study the male tail of these worms, a structure required for copulation which has an array of sensilla (rays) usually arranged in a lateral extension of the cuticle (fan).  Despite the small number of cells (ca. 100), these structures vary substantially in Rhabditidae.
    (Click here to see some rhabditid male tails.)
     
  3. As a model organism for isolating and understanding the functions of genes controlling male tail form, we use Caenorhabditis elegans, also a member of family Rhabditidae.  The male tail of C. elegans is rounded (PELODERAN) at the tip, a form that is due to a morphogenetic event in the last larval stage in which the tail tip cells fuse together and change shape.  This event does not occur in females, which have pointy tails.
    (Click here to see how the C. elegans male tail develops.)
    (Click here for a QuickTime movie showing how the 4 tail tip cells are put together.)
    (Click here for a QuickTime movie showing how these cells fuse and change shape.)

Current research projects include:

  1. Determination of the phylogenetic relationships of species in family Rhabditidae (funded by an NSF grant).  We are using molecular sequences as well as morphology to infer these relationships.
    (Click here to see more about our work on Rhabditidae systematics.)
     
  2. Reconstruction of the evolutionary changes in morphogenesis and patterning in the male tails of species in family Rhabditidae (funded by an HFSP grant).  Features of male tail development are used to assess character homologies.  By following the evolution of these features on the Rhabditidae phylogeny, we also hope to identify correlations between particular forms and behaviors.
    (Click here to see more about our work on Rhabditidae evolution.)
     
  3. Discovery of genes and mechanisms involved in morphogenesis of the male tail tip of C. elegans (funded previously by an NSF CAREER grant).  To identify the components and regulatory networks governing the developmental process of morphogenesis, we screen for mutations that fail in male tail tip morphogenesis.  These mutants result in pointy (LEPTODERAN) adult male tails.
    (Click here to see our Leptoderan mutant.)  (Click here to compare to the Peloderan wild type.)
    (Click here to see more about our work on mechanisms of C. elegans tail tip morphogenesis.)

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People currently in the lab

    David H. A. Fitch, Professor [e-mail] [departmental web page]

    Karin Kiontke, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Scientist [e-mail]

    Matthew D. Nelson, PhD Student [e-mail]

    R. Antonio Herrera, PhD Student [e-mail]

    Ji-Sup Yang, MS Student [e-mail]

    Undergraduates:
    Sam Ahn
    Khushbu Shah
    Daniel Martin
    Cody Scarborough

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Education overview

Primary courses taught or organized include:

  1. Evolution (V23.0058), Upper-level undergraduate, Fall terms
  2. Molecular Evolution Journal Club (G23.3018), Graduate, Fall terms
  3. Principles of Evolution (G23.1069), Graduate, Spring terms
  4. Foundations of Developmental Genetics I & II (G23.2130-2131), Graduate, Fall & Spring terms
    (Click here for more information about our Developmental Genetics PhD Track)

Lectures are also taught in Principles of Biology (V23.0011), Molecular and Cell Biology II (V23.0022), Molecular Genetics (G23.2127), and Cell Biology (G23.1051).

For more information about the Department of Biology at NYU, click here.
For information and application forms for our PhD program in the NYU Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, click here.

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Resources and data available

In the course of our research and teaching, we have developed or collected data, databases, software and other resources that we are freely available.  For example, we maintain a database of strains of different nematode species, the Worm Systematics Resource Network (WSRN).

Click here to go to the Resources page.

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Facilities we manage

One of the facilities we manage is an interdepartmental Genetics Analysis Facility (GAF) for DNA sequencing and other analyses (funded by NYU and a MRI award from NSF).

Click here to go to the Facilities page.

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Our sponsors

  • The National Science Foundation
  • The Fulbright Commission
  • New York University Whitehead Fellowship for Junior Faculty in the Biological Sciences
  • New York University Research Challenge Fund
  • New York University Curriculum Development Challenge Fund
  • Department of Biology, New York University

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Webmeister:
David Fitch
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