Cheikhouna (Che) Ka
I started my undergraduate studies at Auburn University in Mechanical Engineering and after a year in a half in the program, I decided to take a biology class as an ‘elective’. I soon after realized that biological sciences fascinated me more than anything I have come across up until then. I switched my major to Biology and having great professors led me to biology teaching and theories of learning in general. In my last year as an undergrad, I took a vertebrate development class, wherein I was exposed, for the first time, to the complex and deeply intriguing science of embryonic development. After deciding to continue on to graduate school, I was torn between biology education research or developmental biology. I met up with professors in both fields to learn more about their research topic, and in the end, I decided to continue my studies in development!
Now in a developmental biology laboratory, I use the sea urchin model system to study deeply held questions in the field – what are exact molecular and cellular processes that underlie the establishment of animal body axes. I am particularly interested in identifying the Wnt signaling components that interact in extracellular space, at the membrane level, and intracellularly to drive the transcriptional and cellular events to specify cell types along embryonic axes. Currently I am working on uncovering the functions of poorly defined Wnt receptors and extracellular modulator, Ror, Ryk, and Tiki in sea urchin embryogenesis and in Wnt signaling more generally.