Deborah Eastman is interested in the conversations that cells have during the process of development. In her research, Eastman uses molecular and genetic techniques to study how different cell types are determined. She is currently interested in the gene regulatory mechanisms that are involved in specifying particular cell types of the sensory organs in Drosophila.
As a post-doctoral researcher at Yale University and at the Institute for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology on Crete, Greece, she studied functions of the Notch signaling pathway during nervous system development in the fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster.
Her doctoral dissertation and resulting publications explored the inter-cellular signaling that occurs in the myxobacteria as they undergo fruiting body formation and sporulation.
Understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying this development is interesting on its own, but it also has a wider application to human health. The Notch pathway has been conserved from worms to humans and altered forms of Notch pathway proteins result in human diseases such as tumors, stroke and dementia (CADASIL), Alzheimer's Disease and Allagilles Syndrome. Dr. Eastman and other researchers in this field hope that possible cures may be found for these diseases by studying the function of this pathway in model organisms, such as fruitflies, that are amenable to molecular and genetic experimentation.
Published work from Eastman's post-doctoral fellowships focused on understanding how Notch is activated and how its activity affects the transcriptional regulation of target genes that are required for specifying cell types during development. She recently received a $126,853 Academic Research Enhancement Award from the National Institutes of Health to study transcriptional regulation of the Enhancer of split genes, which are downstream targets of the Notch pathway. This award will support collaborative research on this project with students at Connecticut College.
Professor Eastman fuses her passion for biology and expertise in research with her commitment to teaching and mentoring undergraduates within the liberal arts tradition. She has had experience teaching at a number of outstanding liberal arts colleges including Grinnell College, Southwestern University, Wesleyan University and now Connecticut College.
As a teacher she strives to accomplish a number of goals in her courses and in her guidance of undergraduate research: to motivate students to be conscious of the process of scientific reasoning while they study the "received wisdom" and the most recent research findings, to introduce students to research as an integral part of their coursework, to personally convey her enthusiasm for the study of biological processes by presenting the material she is teaching in a creative manner, and to promote students to think about the social issues involved within the fields of developmental biology and genetics.
She teaches Developmental Biology, Genetics and Cell Signaling courses.
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