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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Studying development: The value of diversity, theory, and synthesis
by Sunderland, Mary Evelyn, Ph.D., Arizona State University, 2008, 229; 3334190
Abstract (Summary)

Today there is a set of assumptions about how best to study developmental biology. This is reflected in the way that science is funded. The National Institutes of Health in the United States, the Wellcome Trust in the United Kingdom, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research reward research that focuses on understanding a select few defined model organisms, especially at the genomic and proteomic (‘omics’) level. Research programs are increasingly centered on one model organism, and on generating mass amounts of ‘omics’ data for potential analysis. This dissertation makes the case that there is a historically consistent alternative to this approach, which is supported by the works of successful, mainstream biologists. This alternative approach emphasizes the importance of including theoretical grounding as well as data, knowledge of the diversity of organisms, and a synthetic orientation to biology.

This dissertation presents three case studies to demonstrate this alternative. An in depth examination of Thomas Hunt Morgan's Regeneration, John Tyler Bonner's Morphogenesis: An Essay on Development and Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado's contemporary research program offers three examples of synthetic approaches to development that relied strongly on studying a diversity of organisms and emphasized the fundamental importance of theory. Although at first glance these examples might seem like exemplars of the status quo, since Morgan, Bonner, and Sánchez Alvarado are each renowned for their pioneering work on a single model organism (the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, the cellular slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum and the freshwater planarian Schmidtea mediterranea , respectively), this dissertation shows that each articulated a fundamentally different alternative approach before later narrowing his focus. Spanning from 1901 to the present day, these examples present a historically consistent alternative to studying development, which raises questions about the assumptions that substantiate the status quo approach.

Indexing (document details)
School: Arizona State University
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-B 69/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Biology, Science history
Keywords: Alejandro Sanchez Alvarado, Developmental biology, Diversity, Embryology, John Tyler Bonner, Thomas Hunt Morgan
Publication Number: 3334190
ISBN: 978-0-549-87381-5
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