My laboratory is studying and helping further the zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model vertebrate to address major issues in human health and biology since training. This system has the potential for diverse genetic and behavioral studies typically restricted to the world of the fly or worm but conducted within the biological framework of a vertebrate. One arm of my laboratory has focused on technology development for the zebrafish for more than a decade, including the establishment of morpholino sequence-specific knockdown technology for this fish. In parallel, we engineered transposon tools for the zebrafish including protein trap gene-breaking vectors to generate a collection of molecularly characterized and revertible mutant zebrafish lines, an ongoing effort in the laboratory. Custom restriction endonucleases offer a third leg, targeted genetic modification. The successful HDR system for zebrafish we recently described offers the potential for a deeper level of genetic manipulation for both making knockout/knock-in animals as well as in vivo tracking of proteins such as receptors.
The Ekker lab is deeply committed to the broad vision that quality science education is imperative for generating qualified scientists, engineers and health care workers to address major concerns in the world. I also believe that a science-literate citizenry will also be essential for our future. To that end, I am committed to serving as a mentor for post-docs, graduate students, MD/PhD students, post-bacs, undergraduates and related scientists within my laboratory. I serve on NIH study panels to review training grants, and I’ve served as Associate Director of a T32 while I was a full-time faculty member at the University of Minnesota. I have also had the privilege of working alongside some amazing, similar-minded individuals who helped launch the Integrated Science Education Outreach (InSciEd Out) program to achieve science excellence in K-12 schools.