Scientists in other related fields

Professor David K. Ann
Dept. of Molecular Pharmacology & Toxicology
University of Southern California
received PhD in 1984, Purdue University


Dr. Ann has been focusing his work on gene expression and regulation of genes involved in cell growth and differentiation. One such molecule that interests him the most is high mobility group A2 (HMGA2) gene, encoding a non-histone architectural transcription factor. Numerous studies have demonstrated that HMGA2 is exclusively expressed in the nucleus of embryonic but not terminally differentiated cells, and aberrant expression of HMGA2 is associated with various cancers. However, little is known about the molecular roles played by ectopically expressed HMGA2 in regulating gene expression in vivo or during the process of tumorigenesis. To further investigate this, his lab generated transgenic mice with targeted HMGA2 expression. The expression pattern of over 34,000 genes was analyzed by microarray analyses for the association with HMGA2 expression in the transgenic mice. A cluster of overexpressed genes related to cytokine signaling, and a subset of down-regulated genes involved in fatty acid and lipid metabolism were identified and confirmed by real-time PCR. These findings indicate new targets for HMGA2-mediated gene regulation and identify potential novel therapeutic targets for pharmacological intervention against aberrant cytokine signaling and lipid metabolism associated with HMGA2 expression.

Dr. Ann’s attitude towards scientific pursuit has always been focused and persistent.


Cheng-Ming Chuong, MD, PhD
Professor, Department of Pathology
University of Southern California

Why doing science is fun?

Dr. Cheng Ming Chuong is an M.D., PhD who asks fundamental questions in bio-medical research. He works in the Department of Pathology. He has a research team of about 8 members funded by the National Institute of Health. He also directs the graduate program in the Department of Pathology.

The focus of his research is morphogenesis, i.e. how cells are assembled into functional organs. The picture shown is a book he edited (Chuong, 1998) that shows how ectoderm (skin, oral cavity, etc.) and endoderm (gut, etc) are topologically folded to form various organs with functional morphology. His laboratory is concerned with the principles that determine the specific number, size and shape of different organs. They try to find the molecular basis of these processes. These processes are important because in tissue engineering today we have a lot to learn about the principles that can guide stem cells to form specific tissues and organs required for medical treatment.

According to Dr. Chuong’s approach, the best way to understand morphogenesis is to ask Nature how she does it. Because of the distinctive forms of feathers and the interest in the evolution of flight, he has been using the feather as a Rosetta stone to decipher these principles. The study of feather development is highlighted in a paper published in Nature (Yu et al., 2002). The study of feather evolution enabled Dr. Chuong to travel to a remote part of China to dig fossils, to lead the team that published data on the fossil of the earliest wading bird (120 million year old) (Hou et al., 2004), and to edit the special issue of the Journal of Experimental Zoology that discusses feather dinosaurs and the definition of feathers.

Darwin was the first one to question why Galapagos finches form diverse beak shapes, a question which inspired his theory of evolution. The work on the Evo-Devo of avian integument leads Dr. Chuong to ask how the beak is shaped differently. Using chicken and duck beaks as their model, they find that small differences in the configuration of growth zones during development can lead to major morphological consequences later. This work was published in Science (Wu et al., 2004).

How feathers are arranged in exquisite patterns is another interesting and fundamental question. Is it a readout of molecular blue map or self-organization based on cell property? He has the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Wei Min Shen of USC Information Sciences Institute. Together they make the Digital Hormone Model that can explain the self organizing behavior of a group of robots as well as living cells (Shen et al., 2004).

Because the general public’s interest in birds and feathers, he also published a semi-coffee table book with paleontologist and artist on Mesozoic birds (Hou et al., 2003). It is like a bird atlas book of the Mesozoic time.

Now stem cells are the hot topic. Since feathers have robust regenerative ability, Chuong’s research team set out to hunt for feather stem cells . After finding them, they have shown some of their intriguing properties (Yue et al., Nature in press).

Therefore, you can see Dr. Chuong’s research life is very rich and interesting. From molecular biology work at the bench to field work in remote places, from in-depth discussion with experts in your own field to sparking with professionals of other disciplines, you can take your research project to a point you never dreamed was possible. Research life is full of challenges, but you can achieve something and still have a lot of fun.

Website –

Publications quoted:

Chuong, C.-M., editor. The Molecular Biology of Epithelial Appendage Morphogenesis. Landes Bioscience. 1998.

Chuong, C-M., and Homberger, D.G. 2003. Development and Evolution of the Amniote Integument: Current Landscape and Future Horizon. J Exp. Zool. 298B.

Hou L.-H., Chuong C.-M., Yang A., Zeng X., and Hou J., 2003. Chinese Fossil Birds. Yunnan Science and Technology Press, Kuming, China. (in both Chinese and English)
Hou, L., Chiappe, L.M., Zhang, F-C., and Chuong, C-M. 2004. New Early Cretacous
fossil from China documents a novel trophic specialization for Mesozoic birds.
Naturwissenschaften. 91: 22-25.

Shen, W.-M., P. Will, A. Galstyan, C.-M. Chuong, 2004. Hormone-inspired self-organization and distributed control of robotic swarms, Autonomous Robots, 17, 93-105.

Wu, P., Jiang, T.-X., Suksaweang, S, Wideltz, RB., Chuong, CM., 2004. Molecular
Shaping of the Beak. Science, 305:1465-1466.

Yu M., Wu P., Widlitz RB., and Chuong C-M. 2002. The Morphogenesis of Feathers. Nature. 420:308-312.

Yue, Z., Jiang, T.-X., Widelitz. R. B., and Chuong, CM. Mapping stem cell activities in the feather follicle. Nature, in press.


Richard F. Thompson
Keck Professor of Psychology and Biological Sciences, Psychology Department, Biological Sciences Department
University of Southern California

Research Topics
1. Brain Substrates of basic associative learning and memory.
2. Essential role of the cerebellum in classical conditioning of discrete responses.
3. Role of the hippocampus in basic processes of synaptic plasticity and memory.

Research Overview
Richard F. Thompson is Keck Professor of Psychology and Biological Sciences at the University of Southern California. For many years he was Director of the Neuroscience Program (Program in Neural, Informational and Behavioral Sciences) at the University of Southern California and is currently Senior Scientific Advisor to the Neuroscience Program. He received his B.A. degree at Reed College, his Ph.D. in Psychobiology at the University of Wisconsin, and did post-doctoral research in the Laboratory of Neurophysiology at the University of Wisconsin and Laboratory of Neurophysiology at the University of Goeteborg in Sweden.

His area of research and scholarly interest is the broad field of psychobiology with a focus on the neurobiological substrates of learning and memory. He discovered the essential role of the cerebellum in basic procedural memory and has localized the site of a memory trace. He has also characterized processes of synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus and its role in elementary forms of declarative memory.

He has an active and productive laboratory and is most fortunate to have had an outstanding group of postdoctoral fellows, visiting professors, research associates and graduate and undergraduate students working with him on basic neuronal mechanisms of learning and memory. His laboratory has had continuous Federal research grant support since 1959 and is currently funded through the year 2011.