About Me

I have a long standing interest in the formation of patterns in development and would like to know how genes act to achieve pattern through the interaction of cells. Drosophila is the experimental system of choice and a favourite technique has been genetic mosaics. These have been made in different ways, by nuclear transplantation and by somatic recombination induced either by mutations, ring chromosomes, X rays or yeast flipase. Problems of particular interest have been cell lineage, developmental compartments, homeotic genes, planar cell polarity, cell affinities, gradients and growth.

For the last twenty years or so, in collaboration with José Casal in Cambridge, Gary Struhl at the HHMI, Columbia University, NY and David Strutt in Sheffield, we have been investigating the development of the larval and adult abdomen. The abdomen has some special advantages for the experimentalist and our aim is to use it to understand the design and construction of epidermal patterns, particularly planar cell polarity and cell affinity, properties that remain largely mysterious.

I was a student of Sir V. B. Wigglesworth in the Zoology Department at the University of Cambridge from 1962-65. After a Harkness Fellowship held in 1966-67 in the USA, I returned to the Genetics Department. I was at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge from 1969-2006. In 2006 I reached 65 which meant (in the UK) I was supposed to give up research. Instead, I returned to the Zoology Department at the University of Cambridge in the autumn of 2006 where José Casal and I were funded continuously by the Wellcome Trust until the spring of 2022, and then until the end of 2022 by the Leverhulme Trust.

Our laboratory has been closed now but we retain an office. The plan is to write two books, one with Jeremy Garwood of Strasbourg, is about current practices and politics in science. The other, with Michael Levine, the renowned sage from Princeton University, is to rewrite The Making of a Fly (Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford). Time, events and chutzpah will determine whether either or both of these get written.