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Claire Thomas

Associate Professor of Biology and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Associate Department Head of Climate and Diversity
Head shot of Dr. Claire Thomas


Ph.D., University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, 1984

B.S., University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, 1980


Postdoctoral Training

Harvard University, 1988-1993

Washington University in St. Louis, 1984-1988


Research Interests

The Thomas lab is interested in the role of the cortical F-Actin cytoskeleton (aka the ‘membrane skeleton’) in the structure and function of epithelial cells. Since the membrane cytoskeleton is right beside the plasma membrane it has functions in cell shape, cell integrity, cell-cell adhesion, cell sheet morphogenesis, cell fusion, protein trafficking to and from the plasma membrane, and cell polarity (asymmetry). We are interested in how giant F-actin crosslinking proteins called ‘Spectrins’ act at this location. Spectrins are multifunctional molecular scaffolds that act in many of the processes listed above, as well as regulating cell growth via the Hippo[MST]/Warts[LATS] pathway (HWP), nuclear morphology and DNA repair. In short, Spectrins are a nexus where many of these activities are integrated to determine cell shape and behavior. To accomplish this Spectrins interact with many proteins, and we are particularly interested in a pathway that integrates cell polarity, membrane area, protein trafficking in endosomes, and the HWP. This project is currently funded by The National Science Foundation.

We pursue these interests using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, a model organism of unsurpassed flexibility, and wide relevance to human diseases including cancer. We use a truly multidisciplinary approach that will expose you to everything from classical and transgenic genetic approaches, through molecular biology and protein biochemistry, to advanced super-resolution microscopy and more. We are interested in finding enthusiastic participants for our research program, who are interested in working as part of a diverse and inclusive team. A complete bibliography can be found here.

Contact: Claire Thomas to find out about ongoing projects that are in preparation or unpublished