Werner Lab

The major focus of our lab is to understand the molecular mechanisms of phenotypic plasticity - the ability of a single genotype to produce multiple phenotypes.


  • Sam's virtual ACCESS symposium is live on April 22-24. Check out these outstanding new Scientists & Engineers: https://utah.instructure.com/courses/701737

  • Benjamin won the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) for summer 2021, a highly selective grant to fund his research in the lab, well done Ben!

  • February, 2021: Undergraduate Benjamin Natividad joins the lab, Welcome Benjamin!

  • January, 2021: Undergraduate and ACCESS student Sam Nestel joins the lab; Welcome Sam!

  • September 2020: Shelley Reich joins the lab as a PhD candidate in the Molecular, Cellular and Evolutionary Biology program!

  • (Fall 2020) The lab is starting on September 1st, 2020 at the University of Utah! We are recruiting personnel from all levels of experience and backgrounds. Contact michael.werner@utah.edu to apply.

  • (July 2020) Check out our new manuscript in Nature Protocols on how to discern quantitative differences in morphology of microscopic organisms!

Our Aim:

Different environments can elicit distinct phenotypes from a single genotype, referred to as phenotypic (developmental) plasticity (Stearns, 1989; West-Eberhard, 2003). Social insects have made use of this ability to establish elaborate caste systems, while other animals and plants can modify particular traits to match their environment; such as the microcrustacean Daphnia which develops structural ‘helmets’ in response to predator cues. Studies on these and other model systems have made significant contributions toward understanding the ecological and evolutionary implications of phenotypic plasticity. However, the proximate molecular mechanisms that transmit environmental information into physiological, behavioral, and morphological changes are still largely unknown. This is a key missing feature in our understanding of development, including many processes that affect human health and well-being, such as learning, adaptive immunity, and the effects of diet and exercise. We take an integrative approach to identify the epigenetic mechanisms that regulate phenotypic plasticity, and their potential roles in ecology, evolution and human health.

We are located in the Skaggs Biology Building, as part of the School of Biological Sciences at The University of Utah.