Interdisciplinary Life Science - PULSe Great research is a matter of choice

David M. Umulis

David M. Umulis Profile Picture

Assistant Professor- Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering, University of Minnesota
B.S.E. in Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan

Contact Info:


Training Group(s):
Molecular Signaling and Cancer Biology

Current Research Interests:

The focus of our research is to investigate the regulation of signal transduction in development. Specifically, we are interested in elucidating mechanisms of robustness, cell fate decisions, and tissue patterning by morphogen gradients. Engineers and biologists with some math/physics background are particularly capable of addressing these questions because development in many contexts relies on fluid flow, mass transport, chemical reactions, process control, and thermodynamics. One major goal of our lab is to foster interdisciplinary research projects to tackle problems in biology using quantitative image analysis and systems biology approaches such as mathematical models and bioinformatics.

Much is known about the molecular components involved in signal transduction and gene expression in a number of model systems in developmental biology, and the focus is now shifting to understanding how these components are integrated into networks, and how these networks transduce the inputs they receive and produce the desired pattern of gene expression. The major question is how the correct genes are turned on at the correct point in space at the correct time in development to produce the numerous cell types present in an adult. While the problem is simply stated, delineating the mechanisms of development that impart the robust control requires sophisticated computational models. To study these problems, we focus on coupling advanced microscopy and image analysis with multi-dimensional finite-element models of biological patterning mechanisms: most recently BMP patterning of Drosophila embryos. The direct incorporation of experimental data into geometrically accurate computational models leads to significant new biological insights that cannot be gained by either approach indepenently.

Selected Publications:

Mohammad Shahriar Karim, Gregery T. Buzzard, and David M. Umulis Secreted, receptor-associated bone morphogenetic protein regulators reduce stochastic noise intrinsic to many extracellular morphogen distributionsJ. R. Soc. Interface published online before print October 19, 2011, doi:10.1098/rsif.2011.0547

Carolyn E. Peluso, David Umulis, Young-Jun Kim, Michael B. O'Connor, Mihaela Serpe, Shaping BMP Morphogen Gradients through Enzyme-Substrate Interactions, Developmental Cell, Volume 21, Issue 2, 16 August 2011, Pages 375-383, ISSN 1534-5807,10.1016/j.devcel.2011.06.025. (

Umulis DM, O. Shimmi, O’Connor MB*, Othmer HG*. Organism-scale modeling of early Drosophila patterning via bone morphogenetic proteins. Developmental Cell (2010). 18:260-274

Umulis DM*. Analysis of dynamic morphogen scale-invariance. Journal of the Royal Society: Interface (2009). 6:1179-1191 (doi:10.1098/rsif.2009.0015). Umulis DM, O'Connor MB, and Othmer HG. Robustness of embryonic spatial patterning in Drosophila melanogaster. Current Topics in Developmental Biology(2008) 81:65-111.

Umulis DM, Serpe M, O'Connor MB, and Othmer HG. Robust, bistable patterning of the dorsal surface of the Drosophila embryo. PNAS(2006) 103: 11613-11618.

O'Connor MB, Umulis DM, Othmer HG, and Blair SS. Shaping BMP morphogen gradients in the Drosophila embryo and pupal wing. Development(2006) 133:183-193.

Shimmi O, Umulis DM, Othmer HG, and O'Connor MB. Facilitated transport of a Dpp/Scw heterodimer by Sog/Tsg leads to robust patterning of the Drosophila blastoderm embryo. Cell(2005) 120:873-86.

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