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Associate Professor of Biology Alex Shingleton

On the heels of winning a $300,000 National Science Foundation grant to fund his work on genetics, Alexander Shingleton, a British native and the newest associate professor in the Department of Biology, was published in the spring 2014 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the United States of America. 

You’ve gotten some notice for your research lately. Tell us about it.

My research looks at how body and organ size are regulated in Drosophila (flies) and how body proportion is controlled developmentally. I believe we’ve made some significant steps in understanding how evolution acts on these control mechanisms to generate the diversity of body forms we see in different animals . Our research also has important implications for trying to understand congenital defects in body proportion in just about any organism, including humans.

Why work with flies?

It turns out flies are excellent for studying body size regulation. They are tractable and cheap, and they mature in a very short period of time. It means a student can collect a lot of data on a lot of flies, analyze the data, and write a paper in a reasonable timeframe. For me, that’s what student research is about–taking it from beginning to its conclusion.

What goes on in your lab?

I am currently working with a group of six students. They raise the flies on a high protein diet and then they measure and weigh each different body part to see how that diet affects the proportions of the body. My undergraduates are so enthusiastic about the work; they are enormously eager to learn. It’s infectious, really.

You came here from Michigan State, a large research university. What’s different about working at a small place like Lake Forest?

My job at MSU was almost entirely research-driven, with graduate students. Here, it’s much more about teaching, with students early in their careers. I come from the tutorial system in England, where we learned with a professor in groups of two or three, and they encouraged discussion and questions. With our small classes here, I am able to re-create that atmosphere. I know each student by name and am able to tailor the material to their individual needs.

You live in Chicago, right?

Yes. I love living in Chicago. It reminds me of London–a series of little villages or neighborhoods within a big city. Except the people here are ridiculously nice.

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My undergraduates are so enthusiastic about their research. They are enormously eager to learn. It’s infectious, really.

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Professor Shingleton and his students research genetics in fruit flies.

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On the heels of winning a $300,000 National Science Foundation grant to fund his work on genetics, Alexander Shingleton, a British native and the newest associate professor in the Department of Biology, was published in the spring 2014 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the United States of America. 

You’ve gotten some notice for your research lately. Tell us about it.

My research looks at how body and organ size are regulated in Drosophila (flies) and how body proportion is controlled developmentally. I believe we’ve made some significant steps in understanding how evolution acts on these control mechanisms to generate the diversity of body forms we see in different animals . Our research also has important implications for trying to understand congenital defects in body proportion in just about any organism, including humans.

Why work with flies?

It turns out flies are excellent for studying body size regulation. They are tractable and cheap, and they mature in a very short period of time. It means a student can collect a lot of data on a lot of flies, analyze the data, and write a paper in a reasonable timeframe. For me, that’s what student research is about–taking it from beginning to its conclusion.

What goes on in your lab?

I am currently working with a group of six students. They raise the flies on a high protein diet and then they measure and weigh each different body part to see how that diet affects the proportions of the body. My undergraduates are so enthusiastic about the work; they are enormously eager to learn. It’s infectious, really.

You came here from Michigan State, a large research university. What’s different about working at a small place like Lake Forest?

My job at MSU was almost entirely research-driven, with graduate students. Here, it’s much more about teaching, with students early in their careers. I come from the tutorial system in England, where we learned with a professor in groups of two or three, and they encouraged discussion and questions. With our small classes here, I am able to re-create that atmosphere. I know each student by name and am able to tailor the material to their individual needs.

You live in Chicago, right?

Yes. I love living in Chicago. It reminds me of London–a series of little villages or neighborhoods within a big city. Except the people here are ridiculously nice.