The department includes over 110 graduate students and 90 postdoctoral fellows from all over the world. About half the graduate students are working in the area of molecular/cell biology/developmental biology/genetics. There are about thirty five graduate students in the area of plant biology with roughly comparable numbers working on molecular and ecological topics. In population and ecological biology there are 20 graduate students, and there are 15 students working in marine biology at the Hopkins Marine Station.
Major research interests of the Department can be roughly divided into the following areas:
Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Developmental Biology, & Genetics
Many of our faculty head research groups studying fundamental phenomena using the most modern tools of molecular biology, cell biology, genetics, and developmental biology. Among the systems being studied are axis formation of Drosophila embryo, the control of eye development, cellular and molecular organization in the nervous and immune systems, the biochemical changes triggered by fertilization, the response of plant cells to light and to plant hormones, the mechanisms controlling the complex processes of development in the cortex of the mammalian brain and in the formation of flowers and leaves in higher plants.
Additional topics under study include molecular analysis of development, gene amplification and transposition, protein structure and function, hormone formation and action, analysis of membrane proteins and ion transport, nitrogen fixation, and histocompatibility genes and their functions. Experimental organisms include bacteria and their viruses, yeast, Neurospora, Drosophila, plants and a variety of animals including man. The Department is superbly equipped for modern Molecular and Cell Biology research.
Graduate students in these areas generally take a common core of graduate courses covering genetics, cell biology, and biochemistry during their first year. These are frequently supplemented with graduate courses in areas of particular interest to individual students such as developmental biology, neurosciences, and immunology. During their first year, students explore different research areas and laboratories through lab rotations. In the spring of their first year students select a thesis laboratory and begin to work on their thesis project.
Exposure to research in these areas is enhanced by a variety of seminar series, journal clubs, inter lab research meetings and an annual retreat at which all labs present their research.
Our training program in plant biology serves as the focal point for graduate students interested in all aspects of botany. During the first year, plant biology students participate in appropriate disciplinary courses - genetics, developmental biology, cell biology, population genetics - as well as courses that focus on plants.
The plant biology faculty of the Department and the Carnegie Institution organize an annual one quarter course and a seminar that bridge the cell/molecular and ecological/evolutionary disciplines through a detailed consideration for the physiological, biochemical and genetic mechanisms that distinguish the growth, metabolism and reproductive strategies of plants.
While pursuing a thesis topic in depth, students are encouraged to maintain participation in the plant seminars and annual plant biology retreat, and to use these as opportunities to develop a working vocabulary in disciplines as diverse as global ecology and molecular biology.
The plant biology program benefits from excellent facilities including greenhouses and growth chambers at both Carnegie and in the Herrin/Gilbert laboratories as well as a four acre campus farm with a large greenhouse and laboratory complex. For additional information see "Plant Cell and Molecular Biology at Stanford"
Population and Evolutionary Biology and Ecology
Faculty in the area of population biology are interested in a broad range of conceptual and empirical issues - from population ecology, ecosystems ecology, the biochemistry/biophysics and physiology of adaptations and evolutionary genetics, floristic and systematic botany to systematic zoology. Research groups work with a diversity of plants, birds, insect, lizards, and marine invertebrates.
Approaches are varied, and include field behavioral observations, field ecological studies and population genetics, lab and field physiological measurements, biochemical studies of the mechanisms of adaptation, molecular phylogeny, computer simulations of population and community dynamics, analysis of complex population-genetic systems, the mathematical analysis of ecological models of population and community phenomena, models of the evolution of metabolic organization, and single- and multi-locus population-genetic models.
The research in this area has not only enriched our basic understanding of living systems, it has also provided insights relevant to a variety of problems of great practical importance, including strategies for the control of insect pests, the design of nature reserves and the prevention of species extinctions and habitat destruction.
Research in population, behavioral and ecosystem ecology benefits from proximity of the 1,300 acre Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve - the largest and most biologically diverse preserve on any American university campus. It is located five miles form the Herrin/Gilbert laboratories. For additional information see Eco-Evo group page.
Research at Hopkins addresses fundamental questions in biology with particular focus on marine organisms and the marine environment. Through its proximity to Monterey Bay (in the heart of the National Marine Sanctuary) on the site of the Hopkins Marine Life Refuge and because of the rich and diverse populations of local marine life it is an ideal location for biological research.
Both field and laboratory studies emphasize the unique adaptations of marine organisms in studies of basic molecular, cellular and physiological functions. The Station is a permanent home to nine faculty members, and approximately forty graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.
A wide range of disciplines is represented including Cell and Developmental Biology, Molecular Biology, Comparative Physiology, and Immunology. Graduate students are invited to do rotations at Hopkins and they may choose to complete their graduate work in one of the laboratories located there.