Using C elegans as a model organism, Matt Gill wants to know how basic mechanisms of aging work and how his research may impact humans. Gill joined the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development as an associate professor last summer. We recently caught up with Gill to learn more about his research efforts and his transition to the University of Minnesota.
Can you provide a brief overview of what you study?
My lab is interested in understanding basic mechanisms of development and aging in the nematode C. elegans with a view to identifying conserved pathways that may be targeted to slow human aging. We use a combination of genetic, chemical and biochemical approaches to discover novel signaling pathways. Current work is focused on the characterization of a novel truncated insulin receptor that arises via alternative splicing.
What drew you to the College of Biological Sciences?
I have spent most of my research career in relatively small, research-only institutes (Buck Institute for Research on Aging, The Scripps Research Institute). I was attracted by the opportunity to join a large teaching university and work within a diverse department with strengths not only in research but also in teaching.
What was it like stepping into your current role during the pandemic?
It really wasn’t that bad. By the time I moved in June we were well into the pandemic. My lab had adapted to working under Covid restrictions at my previous institution and I appreciated the considered approach that the University of Minnesota had implemented. It was also pre-Delta so it was during that brief period where masks were no longer mandatory and there was an air of optimism that things were getting better. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long.
What research efforts and questions do you hope to pursue moving forward?
I’m looking forward to continuing to work on projects related to insulin signaling in C. elegans. There are a number of long-standing questions related to insulin peptides in this organism and I think GCD and UMN provide the ideal environment to pursue them. I’m also excited to establish new collaborations, especially those where we can use the strength of genetic analysis in the worm to address questions relevant to mammalian physiology that would be difficult to do in other systems. Techniques like CRISPR / Cas9 gene editing make it much easier to generate “humanized” worm strains that can be leveraged in forward and reverse genetic screens to discover new players and pathways.