User:Shannon K. Alford

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Shannon night fishing in Minnesota

Shannon K. Hughes, PhD.

  • Biological Engineering 20.109 Instructor & Research Scientist
  • Office: Bldg 56-389
  • Lab: Blgd 56-378
  • Office Phone: 617-258-9488
  • Email: skalford AT mit DOT edu
Butterstick, the office motivator

My Teaching Goals

Hands-on experience at the bench is useful for all engineers, experimentalists and theoreticians alike. In biological engineering, understanding how to experimentally perturb cell-based systems in a systematic and controlled manner is paramount to applying an engineering perspective across disciplines. My aim as an instructor of 20.109 is to provide practical, interesting, and motivating experiences that promote rewarding Aha! moments and drive novel insight and innovation. I believe that mentoring at the personal level, as well as the instructional level, is key to preparing the next generation of bioengineers for their careers tackling global technical health challenges. As such, I strive to provide opportunities for all students to improve and succeed in performing and communicating their science.

Fall 2012 was my first time teaching 20.109 and it was fun to share my love for bench science with the talented students in the class! I welcome any, and all, feedback from 20.109 students and encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about my research to stop by and chat. You can check out my 20.109 calendar below to confirm office hours -- if I'm not in the 20.109 lab, you can find me (or Butterstick) somewhere on the 3rd floor of bldg 56, in 16-429b or running around trying to keep up with my talented UROPs.

My Research Interests

A migrating MTLn3 breast adenocarcinoma cell. The protein Mena is shown in green, the actin cytoskeleton is in red.

In a broad sense, my research employs systems biology to study the intracellular signaling networks that control homeostasis and disease progression. I am currently (2014) very interested in the role that autocrine and paracrine signaling (cell-to-self or cell-to-cell) plays in normal development and disease. To initiate an autocrine or paracrine signaling cascade, a signal (often times a growth factor or cytokine) must be present in the extracellular environment. The active release of those signals is regulated by several intertwining intracellular signaling cascades. Like all biology, these signaling networks are complex and context dependent. My UROPs and I are currently studying (1) how these networks operate during normal epithelial differentiation and (2) how they are changed in the presence of extracellular glycoproteins that might sequester shed ligand and receptor.

Aberrant cell migration is a hallmark of several invasive diseases, such as metastatic cancer and systemic autoimmune disorders. During my postdoc I was particularly interested in the regulation of cell motility and the underlying intracellular signaling processes as modulated by interaction with the cytoskeleton. My current research combines biochemical, cell biological and systems engineering approaches to elucidate the intracellular signaling mechanism underlying increased breast cancer metastasis due to expression of an invasion-specific protein, MenaINV. For an overview of my cell migration-related research goals and obsessions, please see this 2012 review that was co-authored with Prof. Doug Lauffenburger. The pubmed link is here.

20.109 Lab Calendar

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