Course content

We will use current literature to explore concepts in signal transduction and mechanics in the context of morphogenesis. This is an area of active research, so it can be argued that the best way to learn about it is to dive into the literature.

We will cover one paper per week, and will do so in some depth. This means we are choosing depth over breadth in the course. The hope is that the papers we do read serve as case studies for more general concepts. Thus, as you encounter new systems from the massive diversity of developmental biology, you can study them with the concepts we cover in class.

The course consists almost entirely of reading of current literature. The schedule for the readings and homework due dates, as well as all associated documents, are found on the schedule page on the class website.

Reading memos

We will have six readings for in-class discussion. You should read the papers well ahead of the class period designated for discussion. For each reading, you should prepare a "reading memo" containing the following.

While these documents you prepare while reading are not exactly reading memos as defined in this article by Edwin Taylor, we will call them reading memos anyway. They will prove very useful to you and to the rest of the class in our discussions.


Each paper will have a homework problem associated with it. The homework problem is due at the start of class on Wednesday the week after the paper discussion. There are no extensions for the homework unless you have a very good reason, such as a note from a health care provider or a dean.


In the middle and at the end of the course, each student will read and present a research paper to the class. These presentations are not just for the presenter. They comprise an essential part of the instruction for all of the students in the class. I will post suggested papers for these presentations. You are encouraged to use one of these papers for your presentation, but if you have another paper you would like to present, you may propose it to me for approval.


The necessary (but not sufficient) conditions for passing the course are

Provided you meet these minimal requirements, your final grade will be determined as follows.

Honor Code

Unless otherwise noted on a particular problem set, you may discuss homework, papers/reading memos, and your final project with other students in the course. The work should be substantially your own. It is a violation of the Honor Code to copy solutions from classmates or to refer to course materials from previous editions of the course.