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U of I buildingWelcome to the Fuerst lab at the University of Idaho!

Research in our lab is conducted in the fields of developmental biology and neurobiology.  In particular, we are interested in how the nervous system develops in the embryonic and early postnatal period.

We study development and diseases of the nervous system using the mouse as a model.  We first identify mutations in genes that are required for normal development of the mouse nervous system.

For more information continue reading or select one of the links on the left.



Graduate student research opportunities- Click to apply to UI PhD program

Currently seeking a motivated hard working graduate student to study how gene and genome duplication has shaped evolution and how these contribute to human disorders such as autism.

Fish embryo


How research in our lab works in a few easy steps.

Step 1 the mice:


We use mutant and transgenic mouse models as a proxy for human development.  The mouse on the right has a mutation that disrupts a gene required for normal neural development.  The mutation was mapped to a specific lesion in the mouse's genetic code.  Mutant mice are often given nicknames that describe their phenotypes, such as the Scaredy cat mouse shown above.

Step 2 the gene:

DNA chromatogram

We sequence the DNA of mutant and control mice to try and identify if the phenotype we observed has a genetic cause.  Once we identify a genetic lesion we try to understand the function of the disrupted gene on a molecular and cellular level.  This helps us understand how the gene controls development of the organism.

Step 3 the mechanism:

Cells of the retina labeled with different fluorescent proteinsretinal ganglion cells

         Mouse retinal ganglion cells labeled with fluorescent proteins or antigen markers. 

Next we compare the phenotype of mutant and wild type mice to determine how our gene of interest controls development.  Much research is focused on how the neurons of the retina, such as the ganglion cells shown above, are produced and integrated into the functional circuitry of light detection.

Step 4 tying it all together:

mouse embryo

11.5 day old mouse embryo.  Growing axons are stained with an antibody to neurofilament.

Finally we synthesize what we have learned about the function of individual genes to the whole organism.  This helps us to learn how genes regulate development and about the origins of human diseases and disorders.

neuron from culture 

                                             Transfected Neuron in cell culture