Campus Spotlight

Thomas Meedel

From L-R: Students Stephanie Izzi, Zong Lee and Dr. Tom Meedel.

Imagine discovering something that no one else knows. You'd immediately want to tell the first person you can find about your discovery, and then as soon as possible, tell the rest of the world. Dr. Tom Meedel's studies of the Myogenic Regulatory Factor (MRF) have provided several of these instances.

Meedel has been teaching biology at RIC since 1992. His interest in evolutionary developmental biology has led to decades of research to understand the basic biology of the MRF of genes and how their functions have evolved. MRFs are found in animals as different as worms and humans, and play an important role in muscle development, repair, abnormalities and disease states. The application of Meedel's work to human health has been recognized with multiple research awards from the National Institutes of Health. He has collaborated with researchers and their students from the US, Canada and France, with RIC student researchers always playing an important role.

Dr. Meedel and his student researchers are now using embryos of Ciona intestinalis to test the muscle-building properties of different MRFs. Ciona is a member of the same phylum of animals as humans. Meedel notes, "In the grand scheme of life on earth, it is certainly one of our close relatives." His team's research is contributing to better comprehension of normal human muscle development and disease.

Love of research is something Meedel imparts to his students. He enjoys working with students on actual research activities, rather than just talking about them. In the lab, students gain greater appreciation for scientific discipline and can make a more accurate assessment of research as a career choice. Meedel believes his research activity also makes him a better teacher by keeping him current in the field, its technology and its applications. In his words, "As a biologist I have always been curious about how the living world that we are a part of came about. Ultimately I believe that the research I do is helping to solve that mystery and, in doing so, it enriches our lives."

Once, Dr. Meedel walked into his lab when one of his students, Stephanie Izzi (on left in the above photo), told him that after many failed attempts, she had finally been able to show that the Ciona MRF gene could cause muscle development when she activated it in the notochord. Her excitement about that discovery was palpable. For Dr. Meedel, sharing this finding with Stephanie was priceless, as was his joy for her and the pride he felt, as her teacher, in her success.

Page last updated: May 8, 2014