Year of Honorary Fellowship, 2012
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 I have been funded by the Wellcome Trust and our current grant runs up until well into 2020.
In 1992 I published The Making of a Fly (Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford) and the plan is to write a new edition together with Michael Levine, the renowned sage from Princeton University in the near future.