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Illinois IGB

Alison Bell to Assume Leadership of IGB Research Theme

April 9, 2020
By: Alisa King

Professor of Evolution, Ecology and Behavior Alison Bell will be assuming leadership of the Gene Networks in Neural & Developmental Plasticity (GNDP) research theme at the IGB. Bell will succeed Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology Lisa Stubbs, who has accepted a position at Pacific Northwest Research Institute.

Professor of Evolution, Ecology and Behavior Alison Bell
Professor of Evolution, Ecology and Behavior Alison Bell

The GNDP theme broadly explores the origins of social behavior through understanding of structures of conserved regulatory networks, and how they can be modified to yield biological diversity both between and within species. 

Bell has made significant contributions to the field of animal behavior using the three-spined stickleback, a species of fish, as the model organism to investigate the consequences of individual differences in behavior. Bell is a recipient of the 2012 Young Investigator Award from the Animal Behavior Society, and a member of the International Society for Behavioral Ecology and the American Society of Naturalists. 

“Moving forward, we are poised to tackle the molecular underpinnings of individual variation in social behavior, and the ways in which the environment interacts with genes to produce phenotypes,” said Bell. “We take a comparative approach using multiple model organisms and bring the latest genomic technologies and computational methods to bear on fundamental questions about social behavior and the nervous system.”

The overall goal of the project, which is part of a larger theme grant, is to create a framework for linking genotypic to phenotypic variation. In order to integrate information on molecular mediators between genotype and phenotype, single cell sequencing technologies will be applied for precise data collection. 

“We propose to study natural variation in two different social behaviors – territorial aggression and care-giving behavior – in three different model organisms – stickleback fish, honey bees and mouse,” said Bell. “This approach will allow us to assess the generality of our findings across very different organisms and across two different forms of social behavior.”

Bell will continue to draw on the collective expertise within the GNDP theme to fuel research in her laboratory while embracing her new role.

“As theme leader, I see my role as facilitating interactions among a fabulous group of colleagues centered around a common mission,” said Bell. “Our theme provides a forum for them to share ideas, hatch plans and push boundaries in their research.”


April 9, 2020
By: Alisa King