Daniela Drummond-Barbosa has been fascinated by genetics her entire life, but her biggest turning point in science came courtesy of the humble fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster.
Drummond-Barbosa will join the Morgridge Institute for Research and the Department of Genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on July 1, 2022. She comes to Wisconsin from Johns Hopkins University, where she has been a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology since 2009.
Drummond-Barbosa is an acknowledged leader in her field working to understand the metabolic and physiological factors that link the behavior of stem cell lineages to diet, stress, and other systemic inputs. The work has major implications for understanding the genetic drivers of stem cell disorders, obesity, infertility and a variety of diseases related to metabolism.
The backbone of Drummond-Barbosa’s research is the model organism Drosophila, but that wasn’t the case early in her academic career. She earned her PhD at Yale University in 1995 under the mentorship of renowned genetics professor Daniel Dimaio, who studies the links between human papillomavirus and cancer. While most of her work was using tissue culture to study bovine papillomavirus, she couldn’t help but be captivated by her fellow graduate students using the flies.
“In my lab, I was getting frustrated by doing research in cultured cells, because our results could differ greatly depending on the type of cell culture we were using,” she says. “And at the same time, I was watching the graduate students working on Drosophila who could make a mutation in a single gene, and suddenly something would change completely about the fly. So there was no question that what they were studying was important.”