Dr. Rothman earned his B.S. from the University of California, Davis in 1978 and was Winemaster at Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma until 1983. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Oregon in 1988. As a Helen Hay Whitney fellow and an EMBO fellow at the Medical Research Council, Cambridge, England, he initiated genetic studies of embryonic development in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans; these studies continue to be a major focus of his laboratory. He was a faculty member in the Department of Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin, Madison from 1991-96 and moved to UCSB in 1996 to return to his native California. He is also a member of the Neuroscience Research Institute and the Biomolecular Sciences and Engineering Program. He is the recipient of a Searle Scholars Award, and a Shaw Scientists Award and serves on the editorial board of the journal Developmental Biology, the journal Current Biology, and the journal Developmental Dynamics. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara and a member of the International C. elegans Meeting Organizing Committee. From 2001-06, he was Co-director of the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory Embryology Course and has also served as the Chair of the NIH Molecular Genetics B (MGB) Study Section, as a member of the Faculty of 1000, and on the editorial board of the journal Apoptosis.
When a fertilized egg is transformed into a complex multicellular animal, how do cells learn when to divide, differentiate or die at the proper time and location? We are investigating the mechanisms that regulate these processes during embryonic development in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the only animal for which the lineage of every cell has been elucidated and the first for which the entire genomic sequence is known. By a combination of molecular genetic and cell biological approaches, RNA-mediated interference (RNAi), which allows one to "knock out" a gene in one day, and affinity purification coupled with mass spectrometric protein identification, we are identifying and characterizing the factors that regulate a number of developmental processes.