Dr. Tucker currently teaches Biol 2510 Basic Genetics, Biol 2512 Cell Biology and Biol 5031 Biological Literature.
The overarching goal of Dr. Tucker's research is to reveal mechanisms involved in axon guidance using Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) as a model organism. C. elegans are great for student-centered research projects because they are safe and amenable to a variety of genetic, molecular, and cellular techniques. Their rapid life-cycle, hermaphroditic reproduction, and high fecundity are also ideal for students who must schedule time in the lab around classes.
During the development of the nervous system, neurons encounter and interpret signals that direct the outgrowth and connections of axons and/or dendrites to their appropriate targets. Both long and short-range cues can act as attractants or repellents for growing axons and guide them in a spatial-temporal manner to create complex neural networks. In humans, aberrant axon guidance is associated with multiple neurological disorders. Mutations in genes encoding axon guidance proteins and receptors can cause congenital axon guidance disorders, for example midline crossing disorders, or contribute to the etiology of multifactorial diseases such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, autism, and Parkinson’s disease.
Although we have identified some of the genes and molecules associated with complex neurological disorders, major gaps in our knowledge lie in understanding how neurons form networks. I am interested in identifying combinatorial sets of genetic interactions responsible for axon guidance. Mapping the genetic pathways involved in neural circuit formation is necessary to gain a more complete understanding of the pathology of these multifactorial diseases and could be key in diagnosing, managing, and/or treating complex neurological disorders.