Paul Trainor


Research in the Trainor laboratory focuses on the role of neural crest cells in vertebrate development, evolution and disease. We seek to understand the mechanisms that regulate neural crest cell formation, migration, and differentiation and to apply this basic knowledge to better understand the etiology and pathogenesis of birth defects as well as develop therapeutic avenues for their prevention. We are particularly interested in craniofacial development and currently study neurocristopathies such as Treacher Collins syndrome, Acrofacial Dysostosis - Cincinnati type, cleft lip and palate, and Syngnathia. However we also study the roles of neural crest cells in congenital disorders of the heart and gastrointestinal tract, such as persistant truncus arteriosus and Hirschsprung disease respectively. We use mouse and zebrafish as our primary genetic models, but also utilize chameleons, chickens and lizards in our experimental studies.


William Munoz

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Neural crest cells form the neurons and glia of the sensory, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, smooth muscle cells, most craniofacial structures and contribute to various other tissues.  Given the contributions to such a variety of tissues, perturbations affecting the formation, migration or differentiation of neural crest cells have been shown to be involved in numerous diseases. My research focuses on the identification of novel genes necessary for proper mammalian neural crest cell development through the use of a forward genetic screen. Further, I will be investigating the mechanism(s) regulating the transition of neural stem cells into neural crest cells.

My research is focused on the characterization of novel gene mutations that effect proper vasculature development and craniofacial morphogenesis. My research background is in biochemistry and proteomics which I also use to support lab members’ developmental work.

Shawn Hall

Laboratory Manager I

My project involves using zebrafish and mice as model to study genes involved in craniofacial development, specifically Treacher-Collins syndrome and Acrofacial Dysostosis - Cincinnati type.

Kristin Watt

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Karla Terrazas

Predoctoral Researcher

Two years ago, I became fascinated by neural crest cells during a summer internship. Driven by my interest in this dynamic population of cells, I decided to join the Trainor lab. My interests lie not only in understanding the mechanisms of neural crest in general, but also applying that knowledge to understand and hopefully rescue diseases caused by anomalies in neural crest cells, such as Treacher Collins Syndrome (TCS).

Melissa Childers

Research Technician II

I have been the research technician for the Trainor Lab since September 2007.  I take care of all things mouse related for the lab including injections, gavage, breeding, weaning and a myriad of other tasks. In September of 2015 I joined the lab on a part-time basis where I now have the responsibility not only for taking care of all the mice but working on my own projects as well.



I first became interested in neural crest cells in learning how a mutation in a gene, such as Tcof1, can give rise to a complex phenotype like TreacherCollins. My project in the lab focuses on the role of neural crest cells in forming the enteric nervous system and in the pathogenesis of Hirschsprung disease.

Stephen Shannon

Predoctoral Researcher

Karin Zueckert-Gaudenz

Research Specialist I

I very much enjoy working in a collegial environment and using my molecular biology background to advance the lab’s research of neural crest cell development.

Soma Dash

Postdoctoral Research Associate

It is truly intriguing that basic cellular processes such as ribosome biogenesis are associated with tissue-specific defects such as ribosomopathies. This indicates that there must be cell or tissue-specific regulatory aspects of ribosome synthesis. I am driven to identify the nature and molecular mechanism of such regulatory factors and their relation to developmental defects.

Sharien Fitriasari

Predoctoral Researcher

I am interested in understanding the events that lead to tissue-specific cell death in neurocristopathies, such as defects in DNA damage responses.

Natasha Shylo

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Neural crest cells have been studied extensively across model organisms and several evolutionary clades. As we are starting to gain a better genetic and molecular understanding for the signaling that undergoes in different model organisms as neural crest lineage becomes established and cells start migrating, we are finding inconsistent phenotypic differences between the genetic studies done in different model systems. Furthermore, some of the key questions remain unanswered. How early do cells become committed to the neural crest linage? What genes are involved in that process? Thus, I am hoping to better understand the early molecular events that lead to the establishment of the neural crest cell lineage in mouse.

Ruonan Zhao

Predoctoral Researcher

I first became interested in neural crest cells because they share similar behaviors with cancer cells. Both cell types can undergo a process called epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), which gives them the mobility for migration. Currently, most of our knowledge about neural crest EMT came from studies in non-mammalian species. However, there has been differences in loss-of-function phenotypes between mouse and non-mammalian models indicating that there might be differences in the neural crest gene regulatory network between non-mammalian and mammalian species. By using several mouse models previously established in the lab, my goal is to better understand the neural crest EMT gene regulatory network in mammalian species.

Carolyn Randolph

Senior Administrative Assistant

I have been the senior administrative assistant in the Trainor Lab since May 2007. My responsibilities include the efficient operations of the lab on a daily basis.

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