Dr. Katherine Willmore
Ph.D. University of Calgary
Office: 488 Medical Sciences Building
Much of my time is devoted to teaching human gross anatomy to graduate, dental and medical students. My area of focus is the clinical and developmental anatomy of the head and neck.
My research is focused on gaining a greater understanding of the evolution and development of the mammalian craniofacial complex. I address this broad topic through quantitative studies of both mouse and primate skulls to discover and explain patterns of phenotypic variation. From these patterns I attempt to determine the developmental processes that bias the amount and direction of the variation observed. The goal of such work is to inform our understanding of cranial evolution by uncovering the developmental determinants that either constrain or drive morphological change.
Much of my research is interdisciplinary, working with molecular and cellular biologists that study models of dysmorphology and disease. Interpretation of results at the molecular and cellular level is often complicated by concepts such as redundancy, pleiotropy and differences in norm of reaction. A straightforward change at the genetic level, such as a complete knockout, can have varied effects at the phenotypic level. Using geometric morphometrics (statistical analysis of shape), I can quantify subtle differences in shape and size that are missed through traditional phenotypic analyses. These subtle phenotypic characteristics help refine our understanding of the specific structures targeted by the genes of interest, and help to parse out the potential effects of redundancy, pleiotropy and norm of reaction. A greater understanding of the complex relationship between the genotype and phenotype is paramount in determining the specific etiology of most diseases, but it also holds the key to our understanding of morphological evolution.