Neuron-Glia Interactions

Environment to Embryo

Zebrafish Facility




Research in Neurodevelopmental Biology: Our research is focused on understanding how the brain is formed.

  • How are new neurons created during embryonic development?
  • How do newly born neurons know where to make functional connections to wire up the brain?
  • How does the environment impact early central nervous system development?

The Barresi lab investigates the molecular and cellular mechanisms governing how the nervous system is built. Our research is divided into three separate projects to address how neurons are created, how the nervous system gets wired, and what sorts of environmental factors impact neural development. The Barresi Lab uses the Zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model system to address aspects of neural and glial cell development. We take a multifaceted approach utilizing molecular and genetic techniques combined with classical embryology and high resolution live embryo microscopy to reveal the role of specific genes in mediating precise cellular behaviors during brain development.



Smith College is a true “research college”, such that all the professors must create a competitive research program in their area of expertise and manage this program with significant undergraduate student participation. 80% of my lab’s research is done by undergraduate students. I am completely reliant upon undergraduates to carry out productive and publishable experiments. My research is externally funded through grants awarded based on the preliminary data obtained from undergraduate students. We have and will continue to publish research articles with undergraduate authors. I have been constantly amazed at the high level of maturity, intelligence, skill, and dependability of the Smith students working in my lab.

After spending a year in my laboratory students have developed the fundamental lab skills necessary to be productive in their later years at Smith as well as secure positions in premier laboratories and graduate programs. Most students will spend a minimum of 2 years but often 3 or even 4 years working in my lab. This could be in the form of volunteering, work study, STRIDE or AEMES early programs, special studies, or Honor Theses, and typically involves spending one-two full time summer research fellowships.

To date, all students have been able to attend at least one national scientific conference. As seen in the picture, Susy and Elizabeth created a poster about their research and presented it at the Society for Neuroscience Conference in Washington D.C. in Nov. of 2008. Anne Tanenhaus currently holds the record of attending 7 separate international or national scientific conferences during her tenure in my laboratory. See the About Us page for more information on Barresi lab members, past and present.