Dr. Brewster joined UMBC in 2003. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and carried out postdoctoral research at the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at New York University and at the Carnegie Institute of Washington. The long term goal of her research is to understand how the central nervous system (CNS), which includes the brain and spinal cord, are assembled during embryonic development. The earliest stage of this assembly, known as neurulation, results in the formation of a neural tube, the precursor of the CNS. In humans, there is a high frequency of birth defects (1/1000) caused by abnormal neurulation, yet the underlying cellular and genetic abnormalities remain for the most part unknown. The first publications from the Brewster laboratory have contributed to our understanding of the mechanisms underlying neural tube formation, using the zebrafish as a model system. By tracking the behavior of single cells at high resolution, Dr Brewster’s laboratory has provided a model for the cellular basis of neurulation, that may explain how the neural tube forms in the caudal region of humans. More recent papers, published and in preparation, identify key molecules implicated in this process, including a gene called linguini required for microtubule stability and pard3, a gene that regulates cell polarity, in part by organizing the microtubule network. These findings increase our understanding of the complex gene networks orchestrating neurulation and establish the groundwork for exploring the etiology of human neural tube birth defects. Dr. Brewster is a members of UMBC’s 4th ADVANCE Leadership Cohort.