- 2011. UC Berkeley. Ph.D.
- Most well characterized examples of cell fate specification depend on intrinsic and/or extrinsic signals that produce essentially hardwired, highly reproducible outcomes. One of the best-studied examples of an alternate strategy, where fate decisions are made stochastically, is the specification of photoreceptor subtypes critical for color vision in the Drosophila retina. We have recently identified a group of flies that instead make the same retinal fate decision in a deterministic, highly ordered way, producing alternating rows of photoreceptor subtypes. We are taking a comparative approach to studying this alternate strategy that will allow us to dissect its regulatory underpinnings and to answer fundamental questions about how and why stochastic or deterministic patterning is used. The discovery of two closely related but alternate systems provides an ideal opportunity to study the role of underlying "noise" in the expression of critical cell fate determinants and how it might be utilized – or limited.