Jia L. Song, Ph.D.


BISC 615 Developmental Biology

BISC 207 Introductory Biology

Research Interests

Sea urchins induced to shed gametes. Sperms are white and eggs are yellow.

The potential for forming a new organism begins at fertilization, when the sperm meets the egg. Across species from the worm to the human, development of the newly fertilized egg to a juvenile or an adult requires the careful regulation of cell growth, differentiation, and morphogenesis. Different cell types make different sets of proteins, even when their genomes are identical. What makes each cell type unique is a direct result of differential gene expressions mediated by transcription factors and signaling molecules in response to chemicals and proteins in the cell and the environment. Dysregulation of important genes involved in developmental decisions can lead to human diseases. Our research addresses one of the fundamental questions in developmental biology: How are genes regulated during early development?

My laboratory investigates the regulatory roles of microRNAs (miRNAs) in early development. miRNAs are a class of non-coding RNA molecules that have recently been discovered to repress gene expressions in animal cells. miRNAs are critical for many aspects of life, including the development of an organism and physiological functions of cells and tissues.

We established the use of the sea urchin embryo as an animal model to elucidate how miRNAs control gene regulatory networks (GRNs) and signaling transduction pathways that drive developmental programs, pattern formation, and cell motility in an embryo. The sea urchin model has an exceptionally well-studied GRN and most of its miRNA families consist of a single species, which makes it amenable to unique, powerful functional analysis. Integrating state-of-the-art proteomics, bioinformatics, and molecular analyses, my research has revealed the function of miRNAs as integrators of developmental pathways. Since miRNAs, GRNs, and signaling pathways are evolutionarily highly conserved, our research serves as a paradigm of understanding the general function of miRNAs as important integrators of GRNs and signaling pathways to power development in making a functional embryo.

Current Projects

Our research areas are:

  1. miRNAs modulate signaling transduction pathways to impact early development
  2. miRNAs suppress genes of cell motility to control embryonic organization
  3. miRNAs cross-regulate gene regulatory networks and signaling pathways

Current funding sources:

  • NSF CAREER Award # IOS-1553338
  • NIH 1P20GM10365301
  • Delaware Bioscience Center for Advanced technology

Research Group


  • Nadezda Stepicheva - Ph.D. student
  • Syed Aun Murtaza Zaidi- MS student
  •    Tyler McCann-Undergraduate Researcher
  • Michael Testa-Undergraduate Researcher


  • Priscilla Kobi - MS student 2016
  • Santiago Suarez - MS student 2015
  • Priya Nigam - MS student 2013
  • Archana Siddam -MS student 2012
  • Undergraduate researcher with Thesis: Lydia Bonar (2011), Megan Dumas (2013), Kelsie Landis (2014), Carissa McKinney (2014), Tyler McCann (2016)

Mentored Student Awards

Selected Publications

Education Outreach

Education outreach at the Delaware Children Museum.
(A) Graduate student Stepicheva shows child and parent our animals for developmental studies.
(B) A child checks out the animals.


Collaboration with Professor Gallo-Fox in Early Childhood Education.

Assistant Professor

Phone: (302) 831-2794

Fax: (302) 831-2281

Email: jsong@udel.edu

Office: 323 Wolf Hall

Lab: 018 Wolf Hall

Department of Biological Sciences
Wolf Hall
University of Delaware
Newark, DE 19716


  • B.S. - Cornell University
  • Ph.D. - University of Washington
  • Postdoctoral - Brown University